Last weekend (1st & 2nd May) British competitors from the length and breadth of Britain headed to Oulton broad for the first Grand Prix of the 2016 Powerboat GP RYA British Championships as they competed in the Lowestoft GP for an action packed weekend.
Local racer Thomas Mantripp got his season off to the best possible start in the junior GT15 class proving to the rest of the fleet that he was once more going to be a formidable adversary taking a clean sweep of heat wins.
Pushing him every step of the way was Harvey Smith who secured pole position for the weekend and the Lowestoft GP second place a head of Jonathan Brewer who was chasing down his wake every inch of the course but was forced to settle for third.
Some fantastic racing from all of our young racers that continue to perform and develop with every race watching them battle out on the water it’s easy to forget that they are all under the age of 16 and certainly names to watch for the future.
Four of last year’s junior racers made the move up to the GT30 class. Tiegen Goodfellow, the only female racer in the series this year, joined the GT30 class along with Jack Pickles in addition to Thomas Mantripp and Elliot Fleet who have decided to compete in both the GT15 and GT30 classes.
As qualifying results came in reigning British and former European Champion Ben Jelf had the pole position and looked to control the proceedings from the front of the pack. Thomas Mantripp secured second on the grid but as Ben led the way in the first heat it was our girl racer Tiegen Goodfellow that was hot on his wake.
Ben Jelf once more took three clean heat wins to win the Lowestoft GP and Tiegen followed him into the silver medal spot with 3 strong second place finishes in the heats.
Meanwhile, the battle for third place ensued with Mantripp, Fleet , Jack Pickles and Tony Judge all vying for the final podium spot. An incident between Mantripp and Pickles saw both racers disqualified and with 3 clean races Elliot Fleet claimed the bronze medal position.
If the racing this weekend is anything to go by the GT30 class is really going to hot up this season!
A favourite class for the venue, OSY400 saw the regular line up of reigning British Champion Luke Hugman, Jamie Marr and Jason Mantripp took to the water but we’re also joined by Hydroplane racers Wayne Turner and Paul Jillings to really mix up proceedings.
Hugman took Pole position in qualifying but with a poor start in heat 1 Jamie Marr capitalised to take the lead leaving Hugman with lots of work to do but managing to claw back positions to second to hold him in good stead for the second heat.
With the bit between his teeth Hugman ensured he got strong starts in both the final class heats to take clean wins from start to finish and see him claim the Lowestoft GP OSY400 title.
Jamie Marr battled Jason Mantripp for the silver spot and after hitting a turn buoy in the final heat Mantripp was forced to take Bronze. Turner and Jillings both getting used to the setup of the boats used this first round as warm up sessions but as they get to grips with a different style of racing promise for some really close action in the the 2016 OSY400 campaign.
In the F4 Catamarans another reigning British Champion in the form of Sam Whittle was laying down the gauntlet to the rest of the fleet and with less than 1.5 seconds separating the fleet in the qualifying session it looks like it could be another hotly contested competition for this season.
Sam sailed away with the Lowestoft GP F4 title getting a fantastic start in the first heat it wasn’t long before the champion pulled away from the following pack to take the first heat win. Another two heat wins to follow saw Sam get a perfect start to his season.
Rob Veares took 3 clean second place performances to secure the silver podium place whilst Matt Wood, Ben Jelf and newcomer Leon King battled for the Bronze podium place.
Two strong finishes in third for Matt Wood saw him claim the final podium place despite a mishap in the final heat that saw him miss a turn buoy and nearly miss the first podium of the season.
The final class to take to the water was the hotly contested F2 Catamarans with a fleet of 9 highly experienced racers taking to water all eyes were on every turn to see who would make the first move towards the British Title.
In qualifying a mere second separated the top 5 boats so the start and making it cleanly round the first turn buoy would be a vital move in winning the race.
Former F2 British Champion Paul Balfour took pole position from Colin Jelf with 0.36 of a second separating the two. Meanwhile disaster struck for reigning champion Steve Hoult as whilst heading up to the top turn he got caught by the wind and flipped a full 360 degrees, smashing a sponson and seeing his boat beyond repair for the rest of the weekend’s proceedings.
Heading into the first race everyone was on the edge of their seats to see who would get the best start.
As the lights went out Jelf got the jump on the rest of the fleet and with the clean water made the most of his lead to take the first win of the season with local driver Scott Curtis making a popular come back to racing to steal second place from Paul Balfour.
Heat 2 saw Balfour get the better start but confident in the handling of his boat on this tight two pin course Jelf saw a slight gap in the turn and slipped past to take another heat win.
The finale of a fantastic opening round to the season was once more left to the final race in the F2 competition as a the fleet awaited eagerly for the start lights to come on Young gun Matt Palfreyman early started and left himself in an impossible position ahead of the fleet but a lap behind.
Balfour and Jelf headed up he straight neck and neck but Jelf made full advantage of the inside line to secure the 2016 Powerboat GP Lowestoft GP F2 title and get his season off too flying start.
Balfour secured the silver medal podium position whilst local lad Scott Curtis claimed Bronze. It wasn’t all disaster for Steve Hoult who in a great show of sportsmanship from Gordon Cook, was lent Cook’s F2 to ensure that the reigning champion himself could claim at least some all-important championship points.
Powerboat GP Promoter Jason Brewer had this to say on a fantastic first event for the season “It’s been a brilliant opener to the season and with the racing we’ve seen this weekend it’s going to be a long road before the 2016 Powerboat GP Champions are crowned. There has been some fantastic battles in every class and we look set for some of the most thrilling racing we’ve seen to date as a championship.”
“A huge congratulations to all the Lowestoft Grand Prix winners but also to all the racers that competed this weekend. I also have to thank the Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club, all the officials and safety crew’s and all the team crews for a fantastic start to the season.”
Attentions now turn to the Lancashire Grand Prix at Carr Mill in St Helens on the 28th & 29th May.
Nikki is the Sponsorship and PR Manager for the Jelf Racing Powerboat Team.
She was a Powerboat Racing Senior Administrator at the Royal Yachting Association for 6 years.
Nikki reports on the Jelf Racing Team and international F4 racing.