Defending champion Peter Caughey extended his lead in the MouthFRESH SuperBoat class at the Altherm Window Systems championship at Whanganui on April 1 – despite spinning out of the final top-five round, held under lights.
Caughey was christening a new, much bigger and more powerful motor – the 600ci (9.8-litre) unit delivering over 1100hp, to give it faster acceleration than an F1 car.
Given a tight and technical track, with three laps completed in 50 seconds and racing a 500kg Sprintec craft without brakes, great handling and fine throttle control is vital – as is a reliable motor.
“We had a series of fiascos at Whanganui,” Caughey said afterwards, “Some of them mechanical, some of them driver related.”
“Taking a wrong turn in the first qualifier isn’t the end of the world, and I corrected it. But in the second qualifier the motor had a pushrod issue, so I cut the engine as fast as I could, and minimal damage was done.”
By the time his crew had towed the boat back to the ENZED pit, fellow competitor Sam Newdick was awaiting them, with an offer to share his boat, “An outstanding bit of sportsmanship, which we appreciated.”
That meant Caughey could complete the third qualifier and learn the track, while his crew and the TrackSport engineer got to work.
“We built Sam’s boat last year, and it’s set up to suit him. He’s long in the arm and leg, so I struggled for the reach to find full throttle but the main point was I needed seat time to get a good grasp of the track.”
That’s doubly important with the sun setting and the elimination rounds planned after dark, under lights.
“You have to be able to visualise the islands, their shapes, the channels and the right lines as once the lights come on the definition changes,” Caughey said.
The round still wasn’t plain sailing for the ENZED crew, as an ignition issue followed. “It’s just gremlins, it’s like having a new child in the house, having a new motor in the boat. You have to work out what it likes, find issues and deal with them, and my ENZED team did a stellar job – everyone was thoroughly spent by the time we got through to the final.”
Caughey’s a consummate professional. He races to win – but he knows that consistency is the key to a successful season. “Our focus was very much on the championship, on getting as far through the event as we could, to rack up as many points as we could.”
He said it was a big relief to get into the final five. “I figured I could chance my hand, as I couldn’t finish lower than fifth, so we had a fair crack at trying to win.”
He wasn’t kidding – the ENZED boat shot out of the gate, and clocked the fastest split times of the event until in a hundredth of a second it was all over, and his Sprintec craft was off the track.
This was a fast and flowing circuit, but it had what Caughey calls “an agitator section” near the end, where crossing wakes can flick these racing missiles off line.
“Racing at night at Whanganui, you tend to feel the wakes at the same time as you see them, and it was one of those things that in daylight we would have dealt with better, but that’s how it goes. You have to chance your hand. We were in the final five, we were there to race, and we gave it the jandal, and really pushed it.”
There was a huge crowd holding on for that final race, and they’d already seen a number of navigational errors, a number of exciting ‘moments’ at the hairpin – and a few crashes, not least Garry Stevens, who went almost the length of the track, straight over islands and across channels, before his boat came to a halt, luckily with neither occupant injured.
Glen Head’s run in the final was spectacular, and he had a well deserved win after definitely showing some form. “And Rob Coley will be pleased with his run, after the most consistent event he’s had all season.”
“To come away with third as a home-town favourite, I am sure he’d have been pleased with that.”
Caughey says the main thing is he still tops the points table, heading into Easter’s final round, at Wanaka. “Consistency is king, it is a very cut-throat points system, and we can go home reasonably content with extending our overall lead.”
Better yet, “We’ve found what the new motor needs with this tune, and we’ve found a few little gremlins to tidy up before the next event.”
His crew also has to check there was no damage from their relatively soft crash landing. “We’re not expecting too many uglies, though you never know, these craft aren’t built super strong as we want them light and nimble.”
Agility is especially important at Wanaka. “It’s a technical track. It’s been extended with an extra island, but we expect it to remain technical – which usually favours the ENZED boat.”
It’s a quick turnaround, with just two weeks between events, but the ENZED team has only a short drive from their south island base, “A half day to Wanaka instead of a full day or more, heading north on the ferry,” Caughey says.
“I won’t miss that inland road through Murchison, I’m well over that!”
He says, “I’m looking forward to the final. The motor was going great, those last two runs it was really making some wally, and we didn’t get to try the new impellers — we’ll do some testing with those before Wanaka, and expect that combo will give us more performance heading into an exciting final round.”
Provisional Top 5 after five rounds of the Altherm Jetsprint champs
MouthFRESH SuperBoat class
1 Peter Caughey 135.5
2 Sam Newdick 129.5
3= Nick Berryman 120.5
3 = Rob Coley 120.5
5 Glen Head 119.5