Scorching Sprint Championship Success
As the pits at Stewartby Watersports Club filled up last Friday (3rd August) it soon became clear that despite the first National Championship round having been over two months earlier, everyone was still in good spirits and excited at the prospect of another successful event.
The weekend’s schedule was a busy one, with seven classes each of which required a qualifying and four heats, so as soon as Saturday’s driver briefing was over the first boats were launched and sessions got underway. First on the water were the GT30’s, with the usual suspect of Jonny Brewer, Elliot Fleet, Tony Judge, Astra London and Steve Olney joined by returning driver and 2017 British and Sprint champion, Thomas Mantripp, and Outboard Hydro driver Nigel Stopforth. Qualifying showed that despite putting a lot of time and effort into preparing Thomas’s new F-125 Hydro boat, his ability in a GT30 hasn’t dwindled and he took pole by almost half a second from Jonny Brewer. Elliot Fleet put in a strong performance to secure third spot just 0.72s behind Mantripp’s pole, but then went on to roll his boat in the final turn bringing Rapid Rescue’s weekend to a start during the very first heat of the weekend. Fourth spot was occupied by Tony Judge, with Astra London, Steve Olney and Nigel Stopforth ending the session in fifth, sixth and seventh, separated by 0.44s.
The T850’s were next to take to the water and, continuing his recent run of form it was Mark Williams who started as he meant to go on by securing pole position. Steve Cash managed to read the water right and put in a lap at the right time to beat Bill Owen to second place, and Nigel Edwards, who’s boat was fresh from an engine rebuild and required a bit of attention to get it set up right, qualified fourth.
Following her eye-opening rookie GT15 performance at Round 1 in May, Scottish youngster Oban Duncan and her family took the opportunity to purchase Harvey Smith’s title-winning Povvat outfit. On Friday evening though, Oban and her mum were still unsure which boat her dad would be bringing down having travelled from opposite ends of the country. Her old boat they knew would continue her on a more steady learning curve, but had suffered some mechanical issues in testing at Carr Mill the week before. The new boat would offer a more aggressive approach to the weekend as it is proven to be considerably quicker, but would that be the right approach in only her second race? As dad pulled into the pits towing their newly acquired red, covered trailer, he still teased Oban by suggesting he had put the old boat inside. Soon enough though the trailer was opened up to reveal the familiar sight of the Povvat’s red hull and pearlescent deck. As qualifying got underway though, reigning Sprint Champion George Elmore was keen to prove he wouldn’t give up without a fight and set a time 1.41s quicker than Oban, with Aiden Fleet echoing his older brother’s performance to take third, but without the early bath. Jamie Atlee ended the session fourth, a fraction over half a second back, followed by Joseph and Jessica Haylock.
The F2 class may be low on numbers this year, but that doesn’t stem their enthusiasm and the pace is as quick if not quicker than it’s ever been. Steve Hoult was feeling confident heading into qualifying, and he pulled out a stellar lap to take his first pole with his latest Molgaard boat - 0.8s ahead of Colin Jelf - leaving new-to-F2 but experienced in other powerboat classes, Ian Blacker, to take the third spot on the jetty.
The Outboard Hydro qualifying session was in reality a practice session for Thomas Mantripp in his first national outing in the class. Paul Jillings suffered with mechanical issues and unfortunately wasn’t able to have his boat ready in time, and due to other commitments Wayne Turner was not able to arrive until Sunday morning. Pole position therefore went to Thomas as the only driver who set a time, but as the three drivers were running three different engine classes (F-125, F-250 and F-350 respectively) it would be interesting to see how the staggered starts would affect the outcome of the races.
The F4 class has had an injection of new blood this year, with Sam Coleman and now Jonny Brewer joining established drivers a Ben Jelf, Leon King and Mike Pillow. Ben Jelf has been a dominant force this year, and took qualifying as a chance to make his intentions clear, taking pole position by 1.39s from Jonny Brewer. New to the formula this year, Jonny has quickly proved himself to be at home in his F4, and no-one was more aware of his arrival than Mike Pillow who despite his experience in the class couldn’t find the 2 seconds needed to close the gap. However impressive though, Jonny’s time was immaterial as being new to the class he must make his first five starts from the back of the field, and so Mike would line up second, with Leon King third and former P1 driver Sam in fourth
The turnout in the OSY400 class was high with eight drivers out to try to claim this year’s Sprint Championship. Buoyed by his podium at the recent European Championships at Oulton Broad, James Marr set his fastest lap on just his second lap of the session and despite their best efforts, no-one could challenge him. Daniel Drake and Wayne a Moyse came the closest, with just 0.14s between them, but they were still over a second down on Marr. Tony Knights did enough to secure fourth ahead of David Smith and Brian Shulver, with Brad Holman and Sean Woods finishing the session in seventh and eighth respectively.
The format for the Sprints weekend is such that over the two days, drivers compete in four heats and the three best results are used to determine their overall position. This means that should a driver have a poor heat with a bad start or a hook for example, it won’t be too detrimental to their title challenge. This year though there was additional pressure to make all four heats count as it was decided that the point awarded for all heats would count towards the National Championship series.
The heats were kicked off by the GT30’s, who yet again provided an eventful race in their first heat. Jonny Brewer was forced to retire when the weights added to his boat came loose inside the hull and Nigel Stopforth blew his boat over coming out of the first turn as he crossed the wash of the boat ahead of him. With Thomas Mantripp out in the lead, it fell to Astra London and Elliot Fleet to fight for second place. Elliot tried to put a move up the inside into the middle turn, but Astra with her nose ahead turned in and Elliot ended up cutting inside the turn buoy, incurring a 1 lap penalty which relegated him to the back when the results were published. Steve Olney put in a solid drive to finish third ahead of Tony Judge. Heat 2 was a more straight forward affair and went off without incident, although Nigel was unable to make the start following his earlier dip. Thomas led from pole and Astra tried her best to capitalise on her start position behind him, but with his boat now sorted, Jonny had the bit firmly between his teeth and charged through the field to finish second. Elliot managed to even the score to finish third ahead of Astra, Steve and Tony. Sunday morning’s third heat saw Nigel return to the grid, and once the lights went out despite his best efforts, Jonny couldn’t find a way past Thomas at the front. Elliot once again led Astra over the line, and Nigel split Steve and Tony as the trio finished fifth, sixth and seventh. As the drivers lined up for their final heat, Thomas knew that he’d already done what he needed with his three previous wins to take the title, but the rest of the podium was still up for grabs. Thomas was again untouchable, consolidating his performance with yet another win and Jonny took his another second place to claim his podium spot. Elliot and Astra continued their weekend-long scrap, to finish again ahead of Steve, Nigel and Tony. Tied on points, the pair’s overall positions were worked out based on highest finishing positions, giving Astra the final podium spot thanks to her second place in heat 1. Speaking to a Thomas after prize giving he gave this reaction:
“After Saturday’s pole position and winning both heats I felt confident going into Sunday. I knew I needed to just do what I had already done and that I had the speed to do it. After this weekend I am feeling confident for the World Championships in Rother Valley, I have already raced on this track last year so know what to do to be fast, this year we have made a lot of changes to the boat over the closed season to find the speed needed. After seeing the results from the EC in Tallinn from time trials I know how I will compare to the other drivers and I feel really confident I have the speed and ability to win the WC. I see no threat from any UK drivers as I know it will be rough water with double figures of boats going round and I know I can be the fastest in these conditions out of all UK drivers.”
As the T850’s took to the start jetty, Nigel Edwards still wasn’t completely happy with his boat following it’s recent engine rebuild and as the race unfolded it became apparent that his concerns were justified. Mark Williams led from pole and dominated the race as he would go on to do in the three subsequent heats also. The three behind would chop and change though and heat one would see Steve Cash cross the line second, 5s ahead of Bill Owen. Nigel, knowing he had work to do, finished fourth. Following some minor tweaks, heat 2 went much better for Nigel and he managed to finish second ahead of Bill. Steve’s challenge was halted when a fuel line issue forced his retirement, and his woes continued into heat 3 as he finished 3 laps down, behind Nigel and Bill in a carbon copy of heat 2’s result. By the time heat 4 came around, Cashy was optimistic his issues were behind him, and even more so when Mark got a poor start. Despite this, Mark was untouchable and he was soon back at the front of the pack and leading Steve over the line, with Bill a close third and Nigelin fourth. Mark has had a hugely successful career in racing, but as far as titles are concerned his Sprints result has brought an end to something of a dry spell.
“I came to Stewartby hoping everything would be good as I’ve just spent 6 weeks completely painting and refitting boat. Qualifying went well but the times were close, and I managed to win first 3 races but then my finger slipped off starter button in last heat! I managed to work my way through to win that heat too and win my first championship for 4 years.”
George Elmore arrived at Stewartby determined to retain his 2017 GT15 Sprint title, and with 2017 National Champion Harvey Smith’s efforts now concentrated on learning the F4 class there was one less contender for him to worry about, but it would be foolish to write off the threat posed by Oban Duncan after her remarkable debut national race in May. Being over a second down in qualifying didn’t dent Oban’s confidence, and off the line in the first heat she immediately set about challenging George for the lead and it was clear at this point that these two were in for a weekend long fight. Coming out of the first turn, Oban was ahead and despite his best efforts George couldn’t find a way past. By the end of the race the pair were almost 30s ahead of the rest of the pack. Aiden Fleet drove a solid race to third ahead of Jamie Atlee, and Joseph and Jessica Haylock. Heat 2 saw Oban line up on pole for the first time, but she held her nerve and drove a clean race, resisting the pressure from George and made it two wins out of two. Jamie managed to turn the tables on Aiden and leave the pair with a third and fourth each, whilst Joseph led older sister Jessica home in fifth and sixth again. On Sunday morning, George knew it was now or never - he had to win both of the day’s heats which would then combine with his pole position to retain his title. From second on the jetty, with the bit firmly between his teeth he did to Oban what she had done in heat 1, and by the end of the first lap he was in front. Oban accepted the challenge and tried everything she could but George’s determination was enough to get him across the line ahead. The rest of the pack replicated their positions from heat two, which meant the entire podium was still undecided going into the final race. This time it was Oban’s turn to start second with it all to play for. If she won, she would be champion. If George won, he would retain. As the boats left the jetty, George and Oban powered away and Jamie Atlee got away badly, leaving Aiden and the Haylock to chase down the lead pair. To and around the first turn, George managed to keep his pole advantage but in the drag to the final corner Oban managed to draw level and as they appeared on the start straight she was inching ahead. George fought hard. His turns were tight and quick and on the straights he was clearly hanging everything out on the line, but on this day it wasn’t quite enough and greeted by cheering from the bank, Oban crossed the line just a fraction of a second ahead, claiming the title ahead of George and Aiden, who was able to capitalise on Jamie’s poor start to finish third, ahead of Jessica, Jamie and Joseph. After a dowsing of alcohol-free bubbly, Oban was confident about the remainder of the season.
“The driving from everyone was amazing and it was not an easy win, but I am so pleased and happy that I came out of it with a first place. I loved every second of it and I am now looking to keep the winning streak going.”
Saturday saw a sole Outboard Hydro heat run without Wayne Turner, to allow him to compete in three heats after his arrival on Sunday. Thomas Mantripp made full use of this staggered start advantage and managed to beat Paul Jillings, but he knew that in Sunday’s heats both of his opponents would be more difficult to beat with the added pressure of racing against each other’s well as himself. Heat 2 proved Thomas right and Paul took the win, but despite setting fastest lap, Wayne wasn’t quit able to make up his time deficit and finished third behind Thomas. The third heat was a closer affair, and after over six minutes the three drivers were separated by just 9 seconds, but none had been able to catch the boat ahead and Thomas led the trio home. One more win would give a Thomas the title, but very soon into the final heat it became clear that it wasn’t his time yet, as his boat ground to a halt at the far end of the course. Paul was able to stay ahead of Wayne to take his second win, and taking other results into account, the Sprint Championship.
Steve Hoult is no stranger to pole positions, but it isn’t somewhere he’s been since acquiring his latest Molgaard F2 boat. As they lined up on the jetty, he knew Colin Jelf was a threat he couldn’t write off and the pressure was on. His race was going well, until he clipped a marker buoy with his sponson which then dislodged a turn buoy. The resulting penalty was for him to be docked one lap, meaning Colin would take the win and Ian Blacker second place. In the second heat, Steve pushed Colin hard, lap after lap. Their fastest laps during the heat were just 0.01s apart, but he couldn’t find a way past and Colin led Steve over the line by two seconds. Heat 3 was a similar story, with Steve trying everything he could to pass Colin but to no avail, and so Colin took his third heat win and the Sprint Championship was his. Heat 4 was another close race, but with the title already decided the result would only count towards the National Championship series, and saw Colin lead Steve and Ian past the flag. Despite how easy it may have looked from the bank, Colin explained that his race wasn’t without it’s own dramas.
“It was a great honour to be able to lift the F2 sprint championship on the last time that the Lamba family are all behind the event - it has always been a very difficult championship to win due the fact that is a single championship that you have to get every heat right to win - which is were Steve virtually handed me the trophy during the first heat by taking the 2 turn buoys out. I did have my own issues to deal with - currently having Lyme disease I’m very low on energy at the moment, and combined with power steering that would stop working half way through every heat it was a real battle from inside the cockpit just to finish. Added to that the intense heat, I was really happy to battle through all of the obstacles and still take the chequered flag, winning the sprints and also extending my lead in the overall championship.”
Colin’s son Ben has really been making his mark in international F4 this year and off the back of his most recent triumphant weekend in Germany he came into the Sprints weekend brimming with confidence. From pole position, he led all four heats from lights to flag, but behind him the hard-charging Jonny Brewer was out to prove a point. Forced to make his first five starts in the class from the back, regardless of qualifying positions or previous heat results, Jonny kept himself out of trouble and carefully picked off the drivers in front of him one by one to finish second in each and every heat, ahead of Mike Pillow. Leon King and Sam Coleman swapped and changed for fourth and fifth, ending with two of each a piece. Catching up with Ben after the weekend, it was clear that his hunger for winning isn’t going to go away any time soon.
“It’s been a great weekend for me and my team, we work hard together and I am always trying new things to get that bit faster, I would like to congratulate all of the other sprint champions and my fellow competitors on their positions and I can’t wait until the next race!
The final class to take their heats were the OSY400’s and as they waited on the jetty there were a lot of drivers with high hopes. The lights went out and heat 1 was soon interrupted when Wayne Moyse and David Smith had a coming-together which resulted in a minor injury for David and a restart of the race. The restart went off without a hitch, and it was a lights to flag victory for James Marr ahead of Wayne and Tony Knights. Heat two ran uninterrupted, and Daniel Drake was storming through the pack to make his way up to second, but then an issue with fuel levels led to the result being counted back a lap, relegating Daniel to third behind winner James and Wayne. Tony Knights, Brian Shulver, Brad Holman and Sean Woods completed the field. From here on in, the theme was set and despite Wayne giving it everything he had, James continued his run of dominance and finished heats three and four ahead of Wayne and Daniel.
“I’m pleased to take the sprint title from a good field of OSY drivers, and being pushed by Wayne and Danny kept me on my toes. It was a good weekend and pleased to be back at Stewartby.”
So after a thrilling weekend’s racing we now look to the GT30 and F4 World Championship event at Rother Valley on 1st & 2nd September, before returning to Stewartby two weeks later for the next National Championship round. There are some drivers out there who are sitting pretty, and some who know they have some work to do if they want to reach the end of the season at the top. One thing’s for sure though, no-one will be resting on their laurels yet. We have plenty of great racing to come over the rest of 2018!