More than 15,000 people lined the Newcastle foreshores over the April 30/May 1 weekend as Australia’s fastest offshore racers converged to begin their quest for 2011 glory.
With all 2010 champions back to defend their hard won trophies, the spectators were primed for some spectacular racing and with ample wind and wave off the city they were not disappointed.
That word, ‘disappointment’, did sit squarely on the shoulders of Tom Barry-Cotter (driver) and Pal Virik Nilsen, the crew aboard the reigning Class 1 champion ‘Mustang’.
Chasing their fourth successive Class 1 crown, the pair was understandably confident after winning the pole position shootout, but as everyone who has ever been involved with engines knows, things don’t always go according to plan.
Shortly after the race start, ‘Mustang’ experienced power steering failure when a hose dislodged; a return to the pits to attend to the problem proved successful, but on a return to the circuit a ‘freak’ wave was awaiting the big catamaran.
‘Mustang’ hit the wave, partly submerged and had its engine hatch torn off and water flood into the cockpit, drenching the crew.
Although feeling sorry for their team mates, eventual Class 1 victors Luke Durman (driver) and Ross Willaton (throttles) aboard ‘Maritimo’ felt they had ‘Mustang’ at their mercy.
'We were running smoothly, with boat set up for 7600rpm and about 135mph (218km/hr) and I felt we had the measure of ‘Mustang’ anyway,' Luke said.
The opening round marked a successful comeback to racing for Durman, the 2005 Class 1 champion (also with Willaton on throttles); he missed almost the entire 2010 season due to the business pressure and the birth of his son, Oscar.
'A great way to make a return to the sport, and seeing ‘Maritimo’ at the head of the Class1 point score is a very satisfactory situation,' he added.
Unfortunately, the only other starter in Class 1, Tony Lowe’s Melbourne entry ‘Jaeger Group’ (Simon Isherwood, throttles and Colin Craven, driver) struck problems early in the race and recorded the dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish).
There was no shortage of exciting competition in the smaller classes, but as usual, it proved to be a tough affair for boats and engines with five boats failing to finish the race.
In Supercat Lite, it was the North Queensland team, ‘The Good Guys’, crewed by brothers Brendan and Christopher Frier which claimed the chequered flag.
Carl Mazlin (driver) and Scott Kittle (throttles) aboard ‘Mazlin Electrical’, another North Queensland entry, tried to ‘take it’ to ‘The Good Guys’, but a mechanical failure put paid to their efforts.
‘Global Racing’, the 2010 Supercat Lite champion boat, struck a rare double, breaking both drive units during the pole position shootout and ending any chance of Mike Beil (driver) and Steve Jellick (throttles) getting away to a good start in their title defence.
Another 2010 championship winner, ‘SUV Dodge Ram’, Cameron Davis (driver) and Brett Luhrmann (throttles) aboard also encountered the dreaded ‘gremlins’.
‘SUV Dodge Ram’ was leading the Supercat Outboard field when a fuel pump in the boat’s port engine ‘called it a day’
‘Saracen’, second in the 2010 Class championship, went on to win for Antony de Fina (driver) and Nigel Craven with ‘Kwozzy 2’, Jim Harris (driver) and Paul Fowlds (throttles) claiming second place.
Graham Fraser (driver) and Scott Gehrman (throttles) aboard ‘Berwicks’ achieved a promising start to the race, but half way through were beset by mechanical problems forcing their retirement.
‘Berwicks’ last year contested Supercat outboard Lite, with Fraser and Ian Harris aboard and finished second in the championship, but this year the boat has boosted its horsepower to 600hp and will campaign the season in Supercat Outboard.
The Supercat Lite, 400hp class, did well to battle the big seas and it was the 2010 victors, ‘FGI’, Mick Walker (driver) and Gary Smith (throttles) in the cockpit who have shown their intention to defend their championship.
Veteran racer Paul Gibbs.(driver) and throttleman Gryff Ethell (‘Hog’s Breath’)made a great race of it and finished a mere 25 seconds adrift.
Adam Gilbert, president of the Offshore Superboat Championships, said he could not have been happier with the overall conduct and staging of the race.
'We had a lot of help and with the event labelled ‘Fuelarama’ and backed up by concerts and on shore entertainment it proved to be a very special weekend.
'All appreciated the support shown by the people of Newcastle, the city’s council and the help we received from Maritime NSW.
'I feel we have set the stage for an exciting 2011 season and all the crews are looking forward to our next outing off Mackay, North Queensland, over the weekend of June 25 and 26,' he added.
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Tom Barry-Cotter and Pal Virik Nilsen (aboard ’Mustang’) went to Newcastle to begin the chase for their fourth successive Class 1 title, but it was not to be this time. 'We’ll be back, bet on it,' Tom declared. - Newcastle offshore - Reg Blunt?nid=83173 Click Here to view large photo