In a sport that seems to be growing in popularity, Powerboat racing has been attracting new fans throughout the national and international scene for years and years. In what has been described by many as one of the most entertaining forms of racing in the world, Powerboat races hit speeds well in the excess of 120mph in either the sea or on lakes and rivers. With various classes within the United Kingdom catering for different types of Powerboats, from F2 to F4 and GT15 to GT30, running costs are extremely managed, making Powerboat Racing affordable for everyone and creating a level playing field for professional and amateurs.
With the Powerboat GP governed by the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) they have created a safe and fair environment to race in, with a format that is easy to follow for all classes, over six rounds in a calendar year. The day starts with a twenty minute qualifying session that copies most forms of Motorsport with racers fighting for pole position on the starting grid for the first heat. Once on the grid for the heats, each racers has to have their engines off and wait for the 1:30 countdown to begin. When a set of lights go out to start the race, engines are then fired and the powerboats will be underway. One thing that has to happen before the first corner is no powerboat is allowed to block, meaning lane position has to be maintained until the first turn is completed. Over the course of a weekend, racers complete in multiple heats, with the overall winner declared on the most accumulated heat points. Each heat is managed effectively with weighing taking place immediately after and lastly technical inspections to powerboats engines after the final heat. In making Powerboat Racing attractive to the spectators at each meeting, general public can get up close and personal with the action, with open paddock areas and plenty of viewing areas around the water’s edge. Live commentary throughout the arena helps make the action easy to follow from wherever you’re standing, which is a great addition to the day.
With Round two of the 2015 RYA Powerboat GP British Championship arriving at the Oulton Broads in Lowestoft, Suffolk on the Sunday and Monday of the Spring Bank Holiday. As five classes were prepared for the Battle of the Broad at the Lowestoft GP, the level of competition and entertainment was expected to be high, from the junior categories, right up to the high speeds of the F2 catamarans. Some of the best from the national ranks of Powerboat Racing were prepared for a tough battle over the weekend and the addition of local talents from the Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club; this raised the level of difficulty and intensified the fight for championship points. Spotted out as one of the local lads on who was capable of victory on home waters was Bexley Nunn from Lowestoft, who was competing in the OSY 400 and GT30 classes. In the GT30 class for 450-500cc monohulls, Bexley secured podium honours at round one in Lancashire and was now looking to close the gap to championship leader Ben Jelf, with the gap at four points. In the smaller GT15 class for 350cc monohulls and the younger generation of Powerboat Racing, Lowestoft had plenty to shout about as thirteen year old Thomas Mantripp was defending his 2014 GT15 title in the best possible way on 21 points. Heading to his local waters, Thomas was favourite for victory but would have to be weary of round one podium finishers, Jonathan Brewer (Peters & May) and Elliott Fleet (Fleet Racing). In the catamarans classes of the 850cc F4s and 2000cc F2s, competition was extremely close at round one, with Mike Pillow leading the F4 class, whilst Matt Palfreyman leads the F2 class. In the F4s, the battle at Lowestoft would likely be between Pillow and Sam Whittle, after Sam impressed everyone in Lancashire, however it was Pillow who took a clean sweep of heats wins and pole position. The reigning champion in this class, Ben Morse had a disaster in Lancashire and would be looking to bounce back, as he lied sixth in the standings on ten points. In the F2 category, youngster Matt Palfreyman dominated on home waters, securing three heat wins ahead of fellow locals Steve Hoult and Paul Balfour to lead the class on twenty-one points. With a target on his back for round two, the other competitors were looking to end Palfreyman’s run of form this early in the season and regain control of the championship.
Trebles Dominate the Lowestoft GP
With only four crews taking to the water for the OSY400 category, the fight for the title in their opening round of the 2015 season would be between local racers. With Luke Hugman taking the first point of the season with the fastest time in qualifying, Hugman backed up his fine performance with three brilliant victories to secure the Lowestoft GP title. Whilst Hugman was unchallenged in mostly all the heats, the fight for second was always extremely close between James Bowman and commentator/racer Jason Mantripp. The second heat was one of the closest over the weekend, with both showing how hard they can push, in Hydroplanes that keep the racers as close to the water as possible. When the four for the OSY400 entered the water for their third and final heat, conditions had become a bit choppier, but this didn’t faze Hugman, as he broke away into a comfortable lead and was never challenged in completing the treble. Whilst second and third was hotly contested, a spin into the corner for Mantripp ruined his chances of a podium, leaving Bowman and Nunn free to break away in second and third. Moments later, Mantripp caused the biggest moment of the weekend for this category when he crashed into a turning buoy and effective ruled himself out of the running with the OSY400 craft coming to a halt and needing a tow back to the paddock. The DNF left Mantripp last in the overall standings with thirteen points, whilst Hugman had secured the maximum of 21, including the point for pole position. James Bowman holds second on seventeen points, whilst fifteen year old Bexley Nunn lies third with fifteen points to his name.
OSY400 Championship Standings:
- Luke Hugman (No.87 – Team 87) = 21 Pts.
- James Bowman (No.37 – JB Racing) = 17 Pts.
- Bexley Nunn (No.17 – Nunn Racing) = 15 Pts.
- Jason Mantripp (No.51 – Team 51) = 13 Pts.
Following on after each heat for the OSY400 category were the juniors in the GT15, with youngsters between the ages of nine and sixteen hitting speeds of 40mph in their Hydroplanes. With Thomas Mantripp the favourite on local waters, championship rival Jonathan Brewer hit back in qualifying, snatching the additional one point, even after a scary moment of going skywards due to cross winds. In the first of the weekend’s heats, Brewer backed up qualifying to take the victory, whilst Mantripp followed him home in second. For Monday’s heats to complete the meeting, Brewer continued from where he had left off, dominating the Lowestoft waters to secure a treble of wins in comfortable fashion. The best that Thomas Mantripp could do was second in both of Monday’s heat, but the dominance of Brewer had left the local lad trailing in the championship standings by two points, heading for the next round in July. Whilst Brewer and Mantripp looked the best in class, the best of the rest was Harvey Smith, who tried to take the fight to the leading two in all heats, but unfortunately came up short. Harvey secured the final podium spot for the meeting and therefore climbed to fourth in the championship standings, four points behind Elliott Fleet and only one ahead of lady racer, Tiegan Goodfellow, who produced a fine display in the water by fighting for a top five position in every heat.
GT15 Championship Standings – Top Five:
- Jonathan Brewer (No.6 – Peters & May / Jelf Racing) = 39 Pts.
- Thomas Mantripp (No.12 – Mantripp Racing) = 37 Pts.
- Elliot Fleet (No.11 – Fleet Racing) = 28 Pts.
- Harvey Smith (No.9 – F1 Atlantic UK) = 24 Pts.
- Tiegan Goodfellow (No.8 – GB Racing) = 23 Pts.
Once the juniors had completed their course of the Oulton Broad, the layout was extended for the first of three heats for the fastest catamarans, in the shape of the F4s, with five crews competing for the title of the Lowestoft GP. With class leader Mike Pillow looking to continue on his unbeaten streak from the Lancashire GP, the MP Racing racer took pole position in the times, before progressing through to completing a second treble of the season. With Sam Whittle predicted to be his strongest contender of the weekend, he did exactly that, pulling out two seconds and a third place finish over the weekend. Whilst Pillow looked comfortable out front, the surprise showings came from the No.18 F4 of Rob Veares and the lady racer, Natalie Craddock, who both challenged for podium spots in each of the heats. Veares had run well in heat one and two to follow Whittle home but in the third heat, made the most of a brilliant start to lead on the opening lap. As Whittle got away slowly, this left him fourth before Craddock spun and retired shortly afterwards. It didn’t take long for Pillow to regain the lead and break clear, which created a great finish between Whittle and Veares. Veares was able to hold on and broke Whittle’s run of second places finishes at the GP. Bringing home the rear in this category was Jordan Muckles, who finished all three heats for TopCat Racing and has closed in on Natalie Craddock in the championship standings.
F4 Championship Standings – Top Five:
- Mick Pillow (No.42 – MP Racing) = 42 Pts.
- Sam Whittle (No.30 – Powertech Marine) = 34 Pts.
- Rob Veares (No.18 – V Racing Team) = 28 Pts.
- Natalie Craddock (No.88 – Team 88) = 26 Pts.
- Jordan Muckles (No.9 – TopCat Racing) = 24 Pts.
The final hydroplane category which split the catamarans on the water was the GT30 class, with five crews fighting for the Lowestoft GP title, with European & British Champion Ben Jelf the favourite for victory. Jelf looked very controlled in all three heats to claim another hat trick of victories and extend his championship lead, whilst title rival Jamie Norris faced competition from OSY400 front runner Luke Hugman and Matt Wood. These three produced great racing for the final podium spots in each heat, with drivers having to fight conditions on Monday, when the water got choppy and caused the Hydroplanes to lift higher and tilt sideways. With Norris doing enough to secure second overall, he was nearly gifted victory in the final heat on Monday afternoon, as front runner Ben Jelf hit a wave entering a corner, which throw his powerboat into a spin. Jelf recovered to pull clear, but this reduced the margin between him and Norris, creating a tense final few laps. The overall final step on the podium went to Luke Hughman in his first meeting in the class, after missing the opening round.
GT30 Championship Standings – Top Five:
- Ben Jelf (No.4 – Peters & May / Jelf Racing) = 42 Pts.
- Jamie Norris (No.27 – JN Racing) = 32 Pts.
- Bexley Nunn (No.17 – Nunn Racing) = 30 Pts.
- Luke Hugman (No.8 – Team 87) = 15 Pts.
- Matt Palfreyman (No.30 – F1 Atlantic UK) = 13 Pts.
With the F4s bring the first taste of catamarans action to Lowestoft, each section of the event was ended by the popular F2s, with each Powerboat breaking out well over 100mph along the straights and turning the corners at lightning fast speeds. With seven crews in the class, water space would be extremely tight along the course, as racers would be looking for the cleaner water in order to gain position and close on rivals in front. In tackling fifteen laps, the most of the weekend, races would becoming more challenging as they went on, as conditions would become choppier with spray from other crafts creating more waves and less smoother lines.
With Matthew Palfreyman the leading man in the series and looking to continue on his fine form from round one, the surprise came from former World Champion Colin Jelf, who took the pole position point for Peters & May / Jelf Racing, in his brightly coloured Powerboat. However all Colin’s experience and strong showing from qualifying was lost in heat one, when a poor start left Jelf in the mid pack, struggling for space to move forward. Whilst most expected Palfreyman to be the front runner, the opening heat saw former F1 Powerboat racer Alan Marshall out front, who broke clear from the championship front runners, Hoult and Palfreyman to secure the opening heat victory. In the second heat on Monday afternoon, Steve Hoult was the fast starter when the lights went green, challenged by championship leader Matt Palfreyman. Whilst Palfreyman looked to have the quicker F2 around the corners, the speed of Hoult down the straights kept him out front and on course for victory. With two different winners, this set up a thrilling third heat for the final podium spots. Steve Hoult once again broke away quickest, with Colin Jelf being his main rival into turn one. With Hoult being able to break away, Jelf and Palfreyman kept the heat two winner in their sights and nearly lost the race on lap six, when conditions caught him out and the F2 flew clear of the water. Luckily for everyone, disaster was avoided and the F2 recovered and continued. Hoult went on to secure the honours, with Jelf second, ahead of Palfreyman. The overall honours went to Steve Hoult with twenty points to his name, whilst Matt Palfreyman took second, to remain on top in the championship standings. Alan Marshall completed the overall podium, to climb to third in the championship standings with twenty-eight points, with Paul Balfour and Colin Jelf only a stone’s throw away and closing on a top three finish in the category.
F2 Championship Standings – Top Five:
- Matt Palfreyman (No.77 – F1 Atlantic UK) = 38 Pts.
- Steve Hoult (No.40 – RM Racing) = 37 Pts.
- Alan Marshall (No.34 – Marshall Powerboat Racing) = 28 Pts.
- Paul Balfour (No.29 – Rosewood Truck Racing) = 26 Pts.
- Colin Jelf (No.4 – Peters & May / Jelf Racing) = 25 Pts.
With two rounds of the RYA Powerboat GP British Championship completed for 2015, the championship will resume on the 11th and 12th July with the Kingsbury GP, hosted by the Midlands Powerboat Racing Club. Located at Kingsbury Water, Warwickshire B76 0DY, fans will see round three for the GT15, GT30, F4 and OSY400 classes, with the addition of O/Hydro and T850 classes. Whilst the F2 category is missing until the 18th and 19th July at the Chasewater Country Park for the Cannock GP, you can expect to see close, competitive racing along the water edge. If you would like to take a look at the RYA Powerboat GP British Championship over the course of 2015, the rest of the calendar looked as follows, whilst you can visit: www.powerboatgp.co.uk.
Round 3 = 11 & 12 July – Kingsbury GP
Round 4 = 18 & 19 July – Cannock GP
Round 5 = 01 & 02 August – Bedford Sprint Championship
Round 6 = 29 & 30 August – Nottingham GP World F4, OSY400 & GT30 Championships / British F2
Round 7 = 12 & 13 September – Bedford GP (Finals)
For extra photos of the action from Oulton Broads on the 25 May 2015, please check out our Flickr Album here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs