by Bob Wonders
Redcliffe, north east of the State Capital, Brisbane, was one of Queensland’s earliest settlements and could even have become the capital; in its early days it was little more than a quiet fishing village.
'B.B.C. Digital, Graham Fraser and Scott Gehrmann at the controls, bound for a double victory off Mackay and a solid Supercat Outboard Lite lead. - Redcliffe Offshore Race
Come the weekend of September 17/18, ‘quiet’ will not be a word associated with what is now a thriving suburb on the shores of Moreton Bay; on this weekend, Australia’s offshore powerboat racers descend on Redcliffe for the Offshore Superboats Championships’ fourth round.
Up to 17 boats and crews will contest the event, spread over four engine classes, Class 1, Supercat Lite, Supercat Outboard and Supercat Outboard Lite.
The Redcliffe Offshore Grand Prix is the final event of the championships staged in Queensland, following on from Mackay and Townsville championship rounds.
Following Redcliffe, crews set their sights on Victoria for the final two rounds.
In Class 1, featuring big catamarans capable of astonishing speeds in the region of 150mph (240km/hr) thanks to their massive engines delivering nearly 2000 horsepower, only two boats remain in contention for the title.
Tom Barry-Cotter (driver) and Pal Virik Nilsen (throttles) aboard ‘Mustang’ are the defending champions having won the prestigious championship in 2008, ’09 and ’10.
They began the 2011 season hoping to achieve a quite incredible four-in-a-row, but things have not been in their favour.
Mechanical problems knocked them out of the first round in Newcastle and prevented them from making it to the start line in the first race off Mackay.
They overcame their problems for race two (Mackay and Townsville events comprised two-race format events; Newcastle only one race format) off Mackay with a solid second place to team mate ‘Maritimo’ and then ‘hit their straps’ off Townsville when they delegated ‘Maritimo’ to second with two well-earned victories.
‘Maritimo’ crew Luke Durman (driver) and Ross Willaton (throttles) stand poised to add to their 2005 championship and would seem to ‘have the wood’ on ‘Mustang’.
If ‘Mustang’; were to cruise to victory in every remaining race, ‘Maritimo’ need only take second to garner sufficient points to claim the championship crown.
In other words, ‘Mustang’ needs ‘Maritimo’ to suffer mechanical problems and fail to finish in at least one race for Barry-Cotter and Virik Nilsen to stake a claim for title honours.
And being responsible for the engines of both boats, that’s something Maritimo Crew Chief Peter McGrath and engine builder Kurt Davies don’t see happening.
One thing spectators can count on – neither crew will offer quarter to the other, and the end result will be some exciting Class 1 racing.
Although five races remain on the calendar, it already looks like some of the other class results will go down to the wire.
In Supercat Lite, featuring catamarans with slightly lesser horsepower than the Class 1 boats, ‘The Good Guys’, with brothers Brendan (driver) and Christopher (throttles) Frier on board, hold a solid 450 point lead over second-placed ‘Team 3’.
‘The Good Guys’ has posted reliable performances to date, winning four of their five races.
‘Team 3’, a new boat formerly raced by the Dubai team, missed the Newcastle event, but has since shown it will be a force to be reckoned with in lodging one victory, two seconds and a third from its four starts.
Driver Steve Nugent and throttleman Travis Thompson have the necessary experience to give the title a shake.
‘Global Racing’, Mike Beil (driver) and Steve Jellick (throttles) aboard, was tipped to be a contender for the title, but mechanical problems to date has led to two failures to start; in its three outings, ‘Global Racing’; has notched two seconds and a third to at least stay in touch with the leaders.
It would take a brave man to bet against ‘B.B.C. Digital’ and its crew of Graham Fraser (driver) and Scott Gehrman (throttles) winning the Supercat Outboard championship.
With its outboard engines 'purring', ‘B.B.C.Digital’ has claimed the chequered flag in its last three starts and has totalled 2475 points, a clear lead over second placed ‘Saracen’ on 1825 points.
Antony De Fina (driver) and Nigel Craven (throttles) could have had ‘Saracen’ in a much more threatening position only for two failures to start at Mackay.
They won at Newcastle and took two seconds at Townsville.
Only 100 points astern of them, Cameron Davis (driver) and Brett Luhrmann (throttles) aboard ‘SUV Dodge Ram’ will be determined to make a race of the class.
Defending champions Mick Walker (driver) and Gary Smith (throttles) aboard ‘FGI’, won Supercat Outboard Lite last year due mainly to incredible reliability from their dual outboard engines.
It looks like they’re bound for a similar performance in 2011 with three wins and two seconds from five starts.
They hold a handy 400 point lead over ‘Hogs Breath’, Paul Gibbs (driver) and Gryff Ethell (throttles) aboard, the only other entry likely to exert pressure.
Spectators will be able to get a close up look at the quite spectacular race boats from Friday (Sept.16) in the dry pit area at Scarborough Boat Harbour.
The action gets underway on Saturday morning with scrutineering at 10am and the often exciting Pole Position Shootout at 2pm (Supercat Outboard and Supercat Outboard Lite) and 2.35pm (Class 1 and Supercat Lite).
On Sunday (Sept.18) the Redcliffe Offshore Superboat Grand Prix begins with Race 1 at 11.30am and Race 2 at 1.30pm.
Presentations to the winners will be at 3.30pm in the dry pit area.
The Redcliffe event is a winner for spectators with ample points allowing for clear viewing of the racing action.
If past events can be taken as a guide, several thousand fans are likely to flock to the shores of Moreton Bay.