This Bank Holiday weekend (04-05 May) sees the start of the 2014 Powerboat GP series with the opening event taking place at the oldest motorboat racing circuit in the world, the Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club.
The Club will play host to the Lowestoft Grand Prix, the first round in the RYA British Championship and for many of the drivers 2014 will be a transitional season as several of them get to grips with their new raceboat, none more so than local racer Mark Williams.
This season sees the former T850 British Sprint Champion move up to the F2 class. 'I was going to race F2 last year but at the time it just didn’t feel right. Even when I was asked by the JPL Racing team they had to ask twice but now I have had some time in the boat, I now know I’ve made the right move', commented Williams.
Williams will be using the ex-Malcolm Goodman DAC hull, one that the former F1H2O driver put to good effect when he won both the British Sprint title and overall F2 British Championship title last year.
Not renowned as the most user-friendly hull to jump straight into, Williams has told the team that ‘'first I’m going to learn to drive it, and then I’m going to learn to race it'. With a racing pedigree that has seen him collect F4 World Championship titles in the past the Lowestoft based driver is realistic in his plans. 'I’m not going to blitz it this weekend, yes it would be great to finish on the podium at my home Grand Prix but I have to look at the long term goal one which I hope will see me finish in the top three in this year’s championship.'
One man that Williams will need to share some podium time with if he is to achieve his goal will be Colin Jelf, who most people have down as their favourite to win the F2 Championship title.
Having won three UIM F2 World Championship titles in the past Colin has been very quick in pre-season testing, although he has been plagued with propeller issues. 'Yes, I might have some prop problems but we know how to fix them' he said with an air of confidence. 'At the end of the day I’ve realised that I will have to adapt my driving style just slightly if I’m going to get the maximum out of the equipment.'
Another of the Jelf Racing Team who will also have to adapt his driving style if he’s to retain the title he’s held for the past two season’s is Ben Jelf. Having dominated the GT15 class both nationally and internationally in recent times he’s another driver who will be looking to a possible switch later on in the season. Jelf, who turns fourteen in a couple of weeks has been carrying out some testing in the GT30 class, but will start the season racing in his more familiar GT15 hull.
So who is likely to topple Ben Jelf if he does move up a class? The answer could be another local Lowestoft driver, Thomas Mantripp. Two years younger than Jelf, Mantripp was crowned LOBMBC Club Champion last year and became the 2013 RYA British Sprint Champion. Not content with that he went on to finish a highly creditable second at last year’s UIM GT15 World Champion in a very hard fought event consisting of twenty competitors from around the world, including Jelf amongst their ranks.
'We have always done things differently' said his father Pete, who himself is a former British Championship tile holder. 'We didn’t take the conventional route into racing GT15; instead we opted to race an Estonian built hull, a boat that came second, third and fourth place in the European Championship.' This gamble soon paid off and throughout the 2013 season Mantripp finished runner up to Jelf in all bar one event.
For the 2014 season Mantripp plans to race one of the latest designs in the world, built by Henry & Üllar Põvvat of Põvvat Racing Boats in Estonia from carbon fibre and kevlar, this makes the boat very strong but remaining extremely light. The boat will be shorter and wider than their other boat, which should give more lift and speed. A Tohatsu 15hp 4 stroke engine will initially be used but a Suzuki 15hp four stroke will be tested later in the year as Mantripp plans to beat the unbeatable.
In the increasing popular F4S class 2013 British Champion Ben Morse, who this season will be contesting the F4S World Championship series starting in Epinay near Paris in just over a month’s time, will face a stiff challenge from last seasons GT30 Champion Jordon Muckles from Sunderland. The Tyne and Wear driver began his association with boats back in 2007 where he achieved excellent results in the Honda Youth Rib Challenge and represented the UK in the UIM Formula Future World Championships, where he won three Gold medals.
The OSY 400 class will see James Bowman, Luke Hugman and Jason Freeman all trying their hardest to beat the current Champion Jamie Marr and veteran Tony Knights. Freeman, Bowman and Hugman recently posted 50 second laps around the two pin Oulton Broad circuit during a Thursdays night practice session, where the likes of Williams and Mantripp can also be found honing the race technique.
It certainly promises to be a fascinating year for Powerboat GP and Jeni Jelf, who was recently appointed to the role of RYA Powerboat Racing Manager, commented that the RYA were absolutely delighted by the continued commitment and dedication being shown by Affinity Partnerships without whose support circuit racing in the UK would be in reduced circumstances. She also wished all the competitors a safe and successful racing season and looked forward to crowning the 2014 RYA Powerboat Racing Champions.
Official practice for the Lowestoft Grand Prix gets under way at noon on both Sunday 04 and Monday 05 May.
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