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Wet and wild: Jetsprint madness at Meremere

25 January 2016

How would you like to drive a 1500hp machine flat out, without any brakes? That’s a reality for a handful of the top-end competitors at the Enzed UIM World Jetsprint Championships, which took place at Meremere on January 24.

Even if you’re not into boats, Jetsprints — especially events of this level — are well worth attending for any horsepower enthusiast. And from how full the banks were at Meremere Sprint Bowl, there’s plenty of enthusiasts around.

The venue itself is just over the hill from the well-known Meremere Dragway — and, just like the drag way, the location offers plenty of vantage points, even with a big crowd. 

The man-made lake is walled off with tyres, and is, at most points, below knee height. The only exception being the loading ramp where the boats are dropped into the water and warmed up whilst still attached to their trailers.

The Enzed UIM World Jetsprint Championships is a two-round series; the first round being the January 24 event at Meremere, followed by round two at ASB Stadium, Baypark on January 29–30.

The series sees two teams from Canada, two from America, and eight from Australia going head-to-head with the best that New Zealand has to offer. The international teams were excited about the opportunity to compete abroad in their off season.

Competitors are entered into one of three classes: the Biolytix Group B (where boats have engines under 412ci and create around 500hp), Altherm Group A (which has the same capacity restrictions, yet the machines on average create around 650–700hp), and the big boys — the Suzuki Superboats. The Superboats class lives up to its name, with what is essentially an ‘anything goes’ set of rules, and the average horsepower figure features four digits.

What makes the Superboats class interesting are the different approaches that the teams take in order to create that horsepower. Engines are almost every combination imaginable — as long as it makes power, chances are a team’s running one.

From traditional blown V8 engines, like this methanol-drinking supercharged 440ci Ford, which makes a solid 1500hp in the machine driven by Whanganui’s Richard Murray.

Through to a more modern approach, like the 500ci EFI small block in Aaron Hansen’s machine.

If you think that’s some serious capacity for a small block, you’re not wrong — but the 572ci small block of current world champion Peter Caughey and co-driver Shama Putaranui is on a whole different level.

Speaking of mechanical insanity; after photos of Richard Burt’s 1500hp twin-turbo Nissan VK56 blew up the internet a few months back, it was great to check out the combo up close. The odd-looking plenum design clearly works, as this thing was stupid fast! In fact, the g-force it produces has been causing the team issues, as the head restraints, which are built into the seats, have been bending under the pressure, requiring re-welding between practice and competition …

Also going for forced induction — this time a Whipple supercharger atop a 410ci small block Chev — was Rotorua’s Nick and Ella Berryman.

In fact, regardless of where you walked within the pit area, the more you looked, the more cool combos there were to find — even if the pit layout did make it a bit confusing to know what was what for the uninitiated, such as us. 

Did someone say supercharged LSA engine? This crew from Napier were only too happy to talk to spectators and other teams alike.

Photo by: Ian Thornton

In fact, all drivers, co-drivers, and crew members were more than happy to talk. Shama Putaranui went into plenty of detail about the issues that the Enzed team were facing with their fuel pump. This meant that they were well down on power, yet, come crunch time, still managed to work their way through the top 16 and into the finals.

When asked if the drivers knew the route as well as the co-drivers, she confirmed that they needed to, but that two minds (driver and co-driver) together were better than one, especially on a confusing course such as this.

Over the course of the day there was plenty of action, including an early-morning out-of-water excursion by Australian team Daryl Hutton and Mick Parry.

As would happen at a circuit-race event, the boat (assuming it still floats) was towed back to the loading ramp, much to the delight of kids in the audience who loved seeing ‘the tow truck’ come out.

The Australian team weren’t the only ones to be on land before lunch though, with Invercargill’s ‘Devil’s Advocate’ team also hitting the bank — hard.

Of course, the worst thing is the landing — with no suspension you know it’s going to hurt!

Thanks to the Mackcraft’s thick aluminium body, the team were soon out with a portable hydraulic ram, pushing the crumpled metal back into shape. 

They weren’t the only ones to need a few repairs, as the whole day was action-packed. Even the slower (albeit it fractionally) Group A boats were still ridiculously quick and entertaining to watch, with current champion Sam Newdick proving why he’s the best in the class.

With each run lasting less than a minute, it was only for a few seconds of each run that the throttle on most boats wasn’t wide open, providing a beautiful V8 melody to the crowd. 

One of the best-sounding of all the boats was the ‘Liquid Gold’ team’s 1000hp Nissan twin turbo–powered Sprintec. You could hear the turbos inhaling air, as the driver fearlessly kept his foot flat through the entire course.

If you can get to ASB Stadium, Baypark, Mount Maunganui for the weekend of January 29–30, we’d highly recommend it. It’s not until you’ve witnessed these wild machines in action that you can start to comprehend their insanity. Keep in mind that they’ve got no brakes, and can only turn corners under acceleration … Back off the throttle and chances are you’re headed for disaster. Impressive to watch? You betcha!