For the second round of the RYA British Powerboat GP Championship, around 40 competitors from across the country made the journey to battle it out in six championship classes.
Ben Jelf in action
In powerboat racing there’s one thing you can never guarantee in the UK and obviously that’s the weather hopes had been high following the brief spell of summer sunshine leading up to the event but it was short lived and conditions became wet and windy for the weekends action, however whatever the weather the racers were there to compete and to put on a fantastic show for the crowds that lined the banks of the Dam.
Each of the six classes would compete in a pole position qualifying session before battling it out over three heats throughout the weekend.
First up was the GT15 Class; youngsters aged from 9 – 15 racing at speeds in excess of 35mph. Championship leader Ben Jelf racing in his new Peters & May Racing colours got off to a flying start qualifying with the fastest lap time of the six young competitors. But following a fantastic race at the first round of the championship local racer Tiegen Goodfellow was looking to apply as much pressure as possible on the championship leader as she could.
Ben managed to hold on to his lead and win all three heat wins to secure the Grand Prix title, whilst Tiegen did battle with Thomas Mantripp of Lowestoft and Oulton Broad for second and third place with them completing the podium respectively.
The largest fleet of the weekend was in the GT30 class. A class designed as a natural progression from the GT15 class at the age of 14 for young powerboat racers but with no upper age restriction on the class. During the first round of the championship JPL Racer Kevin Hill showed that his winter training had pulled off as he walked away with third overall in the Oulton Broad Grand Prix but knew he was still capable of putting more pressure on the championship leaders and this weekend was out to prove it.
Ben Jelf during Coniston Powerboat Records Week 2011
In qualifying he secured pole with over a half a second faster than his closest rivals. Two first places and a fourth finish in the heats saw Kevin take his first ever Grand Prix win with Former F4 World Champion Mark Williams taking silver in his first time in the class and youngster Thomas Yallop taking the bronze medal position.
Next to take to the water was a depleted fleet of OSY400’s in which the competitors battled over four heats for the best three results count but despite the disappointing number of entrants the racing and action remained high octane and exhilarating. Continuing his 2011 championship winning form Lowestoft and Oulton Broads Luke Hugman took pole position then went on to win three of four heats to win the Lancashire Grand Prix and maintain his lead in the championship . Jamie Marr pushed every inch of the way and took the win in the fourth heat to take silver podium place whilst Jason Mantripp took a break from entertaining the crowds commentating on the other racers to secure third place in the grand prix.
The T850 class was joined by the local team of 'Last of the Summer Wine Racing' Bill Owen and Dave James looking to use their home waters to their advantage to get the lead of reigning T850 champion and championship leader Mark Williams from Norwich. Bill Owen from St Helens; chased Mark down in all three heats but couldn’t quite get close enough to pass him. So had to settle for second, whilst Mike Pillow took third and Dave James battled with the wake and waves caused by the other racers at the back of the field to be awarded fourth place.
2011 British RYA T850 Champion - Mark Williams
Reigning F4 World Champion Scott Curtis seemed to have put the gremlins that plagued him at the first round of the National championship behind him as he got back off to a storming start to take pole position in the Lancashire Grand Prix. His form continued enabling him to take a hat trick of heat wins despite pressure from the rest of the fleet.
Local racer Matt Palfreyman looked set to take second position for the weekend until in the second heat he pushed his boat a little too hard and barrel rolled out of the race, uninjured and with minor damage he managed to make it out for the final race of the day but it had been a costly move that meant he had to settle for a fourth place finish, with Paul Veares taking the silver medal podium place and Ray Read taking bronze to complete the line-up.
It was action all the way in the F2 Championship round from start to finish. In his inaugural race of the season veteran racer and last year’s runner up in the F2 championship Paul Balfour came out all guns blazing setting the fastest lap time in qualifying to secure Pole position. With reigning champion Malcolm Goodman qualifying in second and it looked like the problems he’d suffered in the final race of the first national were behind him, until on the first lap of the first heat he was disqualified as he took out a turn mark and the race had to be stopped for safety reasons.
The race restarted but without Goodman, Paul took full advantage of pole position on the starting grid to take control of the weekends racing from the very first turn buoy. He then led from start to finish in every one of the three dramatic races that took place over the weekend and left all the other drivers to battle it for the lower positions behind him. Championship leader Alan Marshall took second place overall while JPL Racing Teams’ Ian Andrews took third place to complete the line-up. Alan Marshall retains the lead in the Championship standings for the 2012 overall title but with a long way to go and a high standard of racing amongst all the classes the games still open to anyone.
The next round of the championship sees the competition head to Wales for the Cardiff Bay Powerboat Grand Prix over the 23rd and 24th June where the battle will continue as the competitors continue to fight for glory.