New Zealand Offshore Powerboat Championship eighth and final round is being hosted by Tauranga Yacht and Powerboat Club on Saturday 12th May 2012.
The final is always exciting as the teams know they can push themselves and their boats to the limit with plenty of time for rest and recovery over the winter months. While the seventh race in Auckland saw many of the titles decided for the season, spectators should be in for another action packed experience, with plenty of roaring engines, close racing and flying spray.
In the Superboat Class Fairview, driven by Warren Lewis and Andrew Koolen look set to take out the title, but must complete the last race to confirm their spot at the top of the table. While unlikely, everyone who participates in this thrilling sport knows that it takes very little to upset the results, with a number of factors playing their part in the success of a team. Engine problems are a major factor with these finely tuned boats, as are the conditions on the day where the sea state and propeller choice need to be compatible. The crew of 'Fujitsu Better Heat' driven by Tony Coleman and Chris Hanley are well aware of this after their experience in Auckland, where they had a good chance to challenge for the title, but faced adverse conditions, which hindered their ability to perform. Each of these boats perform best in particular conditions, and the conditions on the day, particularly the sea state plays a large part in deciding the finish order at any one race. The fact is that anything can happen and all go out as best prepared as possible. One thing however is certain, the race will be fantastic to watch, and even those assured of their place for the season will be out to prove their worth.
'Red Steel' have wrapped up the season in the Superboat Lite Class with seven straight wins so far and will be out to complete the season in top spot with a perfect score of eight from eight. They too know only too well the challenges of racing, having lost two of their competition to dramatic events, which left both boats too badly damaged to complete the season.
Mike Gerbic and Alan Branch of Espresso Engineers know all about this, having damaged their Superboat Lite at Napier after a particularly bad landing which left a gaping hole in the side of the boat. Not to be deterred, Mike rolled out his Batboat and changed to the Super 60 class, which he won for the second year in a row with his win in Auckland. This week sees a change of crew with Alan Branch co-driving Doosan, one of the Superboats, with Cary Gleeson. Doosan came out to compete as a day entry at Auckland and put on a spectacular performance, winning the race by leading from the first lap. This week Mike is joined in the Batboat by his brother Steve. A regular at all the powerboat races, this will be the first time Steve has donned the helmet and raced with his brother so while the pressure isn't on to win, it will be interesting to see how the siblings fare as a team.
Possibly the most exciting class at Tauranga will be the Sports 60 Restricted class. These boys have raced against each other for many seasons and while great mates on land, are ardent rivals on the racecourse. Mike Smith in 'Konica Minolta' has taken the top slot this season but despite this, will no doubt be keen on stamping his mark on the race at Tauranga. Auckland District Collections driven by Mike Knight is in second place and James Taylor in Total Oil in third. The season positions may be all but decided, but this is still a race of its own and several of the drivers have been angling for a win all season, Look out for plenty of action from this class as drivers like Jono Hanley give it all they have in 'Energizer' in an attempt to get that elusive win.
Racing starts at 12.00pm on Saturday, and the event usually takes an hour to be completed. Two races are run at the same time with the Superboats and Superboat Lites completing a 100 mile race and the other classes completing a 60 mile race.
The teams will be based at the Marina Beach, Sulphur Point in front of the Tauranga Yacht and Powerboat Club, and this will be the best vantage point to view the race.
Boats will be on display at the Tauranga Bridge Marina on Friday 11th from 2pm onwards.
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