Championship titles at stake in jet sprint series   17 Apr 2012



Three teams are in line for New Zealand titles this weekend at the sixth and final round of the 2012 Jetpro Jetsprint Championship being held Wairarapa’s Tauherenikau J & S Aquatrack on Saturday 21 April.

Wanganui husband and wife pairing Leighton and Kellie Minnell have a 20 point lead in the Suzuki Superboat category; Taupo’s Reg and Julie Smith have a paltry one point advantage in the Whitepointer Boats Group A standings with Whangarei pairing Denis and Steve Crene ahead by ten in the Jetpro Lites class.

However, each has rival competitors to first surpass in their high horsepower water-jet propelled boats around the 22-turn course. The second time the national series has visited the Wairarapa this year, a change to the numbered rotation around the multi-channel water track will bring a fresh challenge to finalise the standings for the 38 teams entered.

In a season that also included the UIM World Series, Minnell and Smith are respectively looking to wrap their season with back-to-back New Zealand titles on top of their new international crowns. And while Minnell has the Suzuki Superboat title all but secured, Smith has been in a tit-for-tat battle with Hamilton’s Sam Newdick. Needing to finish second or better in the elimination shoot-out heats, Smith says his last season competing has come with life-long highlights:

“We’ll go as hard as we can because we’d obviously like finish with the two championships and a world title, but to be honest I’m very content with what we’ve done so far and we’d be going out on a high regardless,” says the Taupo businessman. “To even be in the top-three of this series is significant. In some ways it would be good to see Sam get something out for all the effort he and his team have put in as well, along with Richard Murray (Wanganui) who has pushed us all season. But also Shane Wood (Lower Hutt) or young Blake Briant (Gisborne), they could pull one out, same too for Bevin Muir (Thames) or Baden Gray (Auckland) – it’s not just a three-horse race.”

The Smith’s need to finish second or better to secure the title, based on round count-back ranking.
For the Minnell’s, they have another goal than just securing their second New Zealand title to go with the freshly etched world trophy. Needing to only start the event to collect enough points for victory, they are eying an opportunity to win the day outright and write a new record for successive round victories in a season.

“Obviously we want to finish the season being unbeatable – that’s our new goal. We’re rapt we’ve basically got the trophies in the cabinet and want to finish the year on a new high and reset that record book,” says Minnell.

“The guys are coming pretty hard behind us so I’m sure the final will be the toughest of the season. Rumour is former champion Richard Burt from Palmerston North will be there. He’s always a good hard charger to have in the mix and along with Steve Bron (Wanganui), Ray Ferguson (Lower Hutt) or Pat Dillon (Wanganui) – it is going to be a hell of a show and an interesting day.”

Also with a nearly insurmountable lead, Whangarei marine electrician Denis Crene and brother Steve got a ten-point break on title rivals Brett Thompson and Megan Brodie from Piopio at the recent night round held near Wanganui. Having taken the lead in the Jetpro Lites entry-level category early in the season, Crene says the long drive from Whangarei to the Wairarapa will be one he’s looking forward to given the likelihood they will return with a New Zealand title. Holding two round wins and two second places, they have a preferential ranking should any of their rivals manage to tie on overall points and need to start in the top-eight elimination to secure enough points for the title.

“I think just staying focussed enough and not letting that get to me is the biggest hurdle I face this weekend,” says Crene. “Every race you’re going hard to get on the podium so this one should be no different. Obviously the bonus will be the championship, and if we make the podium we’ve definitely got the championship.
“I think it is going to be very tight right until the end. There is Gerry Linklater (Wanganui), Brett Thompson, Ray Thompson (Whangamata) is up there and even Paul Gaston (Australia), when he keeps going the right way – he can be a threat as well. So the top-five is going to be very interesting.”

Starting the day with four qualifying runs to affirm drivers and navigators direction around the course, teams enter a series of elimination heats start with a top-twelve at around 2pm. The eight fastest move to the next round, which will get cut to five and then three for the final to decide the podium. Laying it all on the line in each heat, teams’ occasionally catch a lucky break when a rival self-eliminates through either mechanical failure or driver error.

Each of the New Zealand titles will be presented in the evening following post-event technical scrutineering.

Spectator entry opens at 11am, tickets are $20 for adults, children 5-15 years $10, under five years are free and a family pass $50. The Tauherinikau race course is sign posted for spectator entry and is located 4.5 kilometres north of Featherston on SH2.


Whangarei’s Denis and Steve Crene are almost certain to return home from Saturday 21 April’s sixth and final round of the Jetpro jet sprint championship with a New Zealand title in the Jetpro Lites category being contested near Featherston. Photo: Ian Thornton.

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