The Kent based Powerboat Racing Team of Jelf Racing kicked the 2016 Powerboat GP British RYA Championship off to a flying start with the father and son duo of Colin and Ben Jelf taking the lead in two of the five championship classes.
Ben Jelf (15) took a well earned break from studying for his GCSEs this weekend to launch his campaign in search of his 12th British Championship crown. Competing in both the GT30 class and the F4 catamaran class Ben was going to busy all weekend competing and pit crewing for father Colin and team mates Jonathan Brewer and George Elmore.
The reigning British GT30 Champion got his campaign off to a strong start securing pole position in qualifying the youngster was determined to hold his lead into the first heat.
Ben got the best start in the first heat of the weekend and held his lead from start to finish ahead of lady racer Tiegen Goodfellow. Another two clear heat wins for Ben saw him claim his first Grand Prix win of the season despite a strong challenge from Goodfellow and the following pack.
In the F4 class however Ben was still getting to grips with his new class despite qualifying in second position just half a second behind reigning champion Sam Whittle, Ben was going to have to pay the patient game in the F4 campaign. Issues on the start saw Ben not get the starts he was expecting and despite some really strong racing he was forced to settle with 4th in the Lowestoft Grand Prix.
“To get the opening Grand Prix win under my belt in the GT30 class was great there’s some strong racers in both of my classes this year so it looks like it’s going to be a fantastic season!” Commented the youngster
“Tiegen pushed me every step of the way in the GT30s she’s a really strong driver so whilst I had the lead one small mistake and she’d have made her move. The F4 class is also going to provide some interesting racing. I was disappointed not to get some better starts but we’ll look into the problem before the next round and see if we can improve it for the next round Whittle and Veares both drove really well to take 1st and 2nd and I know Matt Wood won’t be content with third, Leon King gave me a run for 4th so I reckon the next round at Lancashire will be even closer and pretty exciting to compete in.”
Meanwhile former 3 time World F2 Champion Colin Jelf was focussed on producing a master class in the F2 class and with a superb line up of various former champions in the fleet of 9 he was going to need to produce his ace card to take the lead.
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 weekends 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 lad 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 the 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.
“Once again it’s been a busy weekend for the team. We all put a lot of hard work into getting the results we do.” Commented Colin
“It’s great to get the first Grand Prix win of the season under your belt however it’s a long season and in Powerboat Racing anything can happen so we won’t be resting on our laurels. Preparations have already begun for the Lancashire Grand Prix as its only 4 weeks away, on behalf of the team I’d like to thank everyone involved with the team and our sponsors Peters & May Racing, Your Print Partner and Castlemaine Accountancy. Also thanks to Powerboat GP, Lowestoft & Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club, all the officials, safety crews and volunteers that are invaluable to our sport and to us being able to race.”
The Junior Jelf Racers Jonathan Brewer and George Elmore both put in strong performances in the GT15 class finishing in 3rd and 4th places respectively and in a comfortable position to contend for the championship lead at the next round in Lancashire 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.