New Zealand Offshore Powerboat Championship eighth and final round was hosted by Tauranga Yacht and Powerboat Club on Saturday 12th May 2012. Tauranga turned on a beautiful day, the weather co-operating with plenty of morning sunshine and only clouding over as the race progressed. The final race of the season is always exciting as it not only decides the champions for the season, but provides a final opportunity for drivers and boats to perform at their limits with plenty of time to recover over the winter months.
Red Steel wins eight from eight at Tauranga to take out the Superboat Lite - NZ Offshore Powerboat Championship 2012
In true racing form, even those who looked to safely have the title for the season wrapped up were not about to throttle back. The winning instinct is strong in these guys, and even though talk before the race may imply they are going to take it easy, it's almost as if a switch is pressed the minute the race begins. Today was no exception.
Fairview and Fujitsu Better Heat Raced neck and neck in Tauranga - NZ Offshore Powerboat Championship 2012
'Fairview' driven by Warren Lewis and Andrew Koolen had only to finish the race to ensure their position as champions for the second year in a row in the Superboat Class, and yet as soon as the flag dropped they were off like a rocket racing both 'Schick Hydro' and 'Fujitsu Better Heat' to the first mark. Schick Hydro driven by Scott Lewis and Murray Tuffin were in top form, crossing the start line milliseconds ahead, and beating the two champion boats to the first turn. Determined to stamp their mark 'Fairview' pushed even harder and were leading the field at the end of the first lap. 'Fujitsu Better Heat' driven by Tony Coleman and Chris Hanley were not about to let Fairview get another win under their belt, and while unable to take away the title, were pretty keen to remind the Fairview boys of what they would be facing in the next season. These two boats have had a hard fought season this year and had Fujitsu won at Auckland, would have been in a position to tie the lead for the season.
As expected the racing was fast and furious and Tony Coleman later described it as being like a rubber band. Every time Fujitsu got right up with Fairview, Fairview would take off again and extend their lead. As these two boats passed the lap timers on the beach at the end of each lap they were clocked at no more than three seconds apart. That is until lap eight when Fujitsu jumped off a big wave and landed badly on one side. Tony explained that they were forced to withdraw when the steering went floppy, and he and Chris realized they had sustained damage to the steering.
Fairview went on to win the 100 mile race and establish themselves as the top team for the 2012 season. No doubt pressure will be on for them to not only return in 2013 to defend their title, but attempt the as yet unachieved hat-trick, by winning three seasons back to back. Day entries today included 'Doosan' winner of the 2010 Superboat title. They took third place today behind 'Fairview' and 'Schick Hydro' driven by Scott Lewis and Murray Tuffin, who will be elated to take second place in today's race after a challenging season.
In the Superboat Lite Class Tony Carson and Brooke Faulknor confirmed their place at the top of the table for the season with an incredible eight wins from eight races.
Konica Minolta won today to claim the Sports 60 Restricted title for 2012 - NZ Offshore Powerboat Championship 2012
In the 60 mile race there was also plenty of action to watch as the boats sped round the course, keen to make the most of their final outing for the season. Several of the boats found the Mt Maunganui end of the circuit challenging and there were plenty of dramatic leaps and splash-downs as the drivers contended with the rougher water in this part of the course. The win today, and championship title went to Mikey Smith in 'Konica Minolta'. He has raced brilliantly this season and has won the Sports 60 Restricted Class for 2012 with a consistent effort of four wins, three seconds and a third place over the eight races.
Mikey Knight however was also in top form today, and while out of the running for the top spot this season, put on a spectacular performance to remind onlookers of his skill and ability. Mike had two DNFs early this season and has struggled to make up lost points and has had to settle for second place, not only in today's race but for the overall season.
'Total Oil's fourth place in today's race sees James Taylor complete the podium places for the season with third overall.
Bob and Alex Smith were forced to retire early when their boat 'Triple Trouble' lost steering at the start of the race. Jono Hanley also ran into trouble when he landed badly and put a split in the hull of his boat 'Energizer'. Jono has had a difficult season this year contending with numerous engine and electrical problems so was not about to let a small leak get in the way of finishing the race. He bravely carried on and completed the required laps, knowing that the winter lay ahead with plenty of time to get things in top condition for the next season.
The racing today was made all the more exciting by the inclusion of several day licenses, including championship boats from past seasons. The 60 mile race overall was won by Fish City, winner of the Classic Class in 2011. Gull Force 10 also racing in the Classic Class came second in the 60 mile overall today.
Mike Gerbic was driving the Batboat 'Espresso Engineers' today, with his brother Steve as co-driver. Steve had never raced before, and with the season title in the Super 60 Class secured at the Auckland race, Mike was under no pressure to perform. Finishing well down the field today he will not be pleased to have a further ten minutes added to his time as a result of missing a mark during the race. Another day entry, and in fact fellow Batboat 'Outboard Pro' had a great race today finishing third overall in the 60 mile race and winning the Super 60 class. This is only the second race for this boat so they will no doubt be keen to return next season and gain more experience.
The NZOPA acknowledge the support of Phil's Place, associated sponsors Tauranga Bridge Marina, Marineworkz, Marine Paramedics, Fusion, Acceleration on Water Ltd, and Kingfisher Boats and Powercats.
New Zealand Offshore Powerboating Association website