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Newcomers Join The Party

For me, the Lancashire GP was a brilliant way to kick off the season. The racing was great, it was fantastic to see OSY’s racing round Carr Mill again, and the overall atmosphere of the event was exactly what you want for the first race of the year. The biggest and nicest surprise for me though, came in the form of the number of new or returning drivers that were taking part.

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The GT15 fleet was boosted by the arrival of Jessica Haylock and Caleb Jelf, both of whom certainly proved their worth over the course of the weekend, and the GT30 field was increased even more as Ralph White, Jayme Speller and Andy Cousins entered the mix. Newcomer to the series, Brad Holman complimented the OSY field, and the F4 field was the largest we’ve seen in recent years thanks to the arrivals of Martin Wood, John Donnelly, Ray Read, and the return of Mike Pillow.

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One thing that was obvious during the races was that everyone, regardless of their experience competing at national level, gave their all out on the water. The action was fast, sometimes frantic and occasionally frenzied, and the spectators on the banks and up at the clubhouse were treated to a brilliant display by all six classes.

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From a personal perspective, I took the opportunity to try out some new equipment, with varying results, but sometimes you have no alternative but to try things out “in the field” as it were. As I’m sure all the drivers will agree, you can test all you like but there’s no real substitute for getting out there in the thick of it to put your equipment through it’s paces.

So our attention turns now to the Lowestoft GP which will be wrapping up a week from now. Lowestoft & Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club (or LOBMBC, the world’s oldest motorboat racing venue) has seen bumper fields this season for their regular Thursday night race meetings, and with their large spectator area and great location this coming weekend has everything set to provide two great days of racing and family entertainment.

The action takes place on Sunday and Monday at LOBMBC, Nicholas Everitt Park in Lowestoft. If you haven’t done so before, come down and see what we’re all about – and feel free to say hello if you see me about!

Bryan

Powerboat GP Photographer

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Focus On… Team WNT F2 – Almost Ready to Test…

This evening Simon from Team WNT F2 sent me this image showing the extent of work that has had to be carried out on their boat following the Lowestoft GP weekend. You can clearly see where the right sponson became detatched from the hull, the split that ran along the deck towards the cell and the damage that was sustained to the canopy above the screen.

It’s great to see the work coming along and to to know that the repair has gone smoothly so far.

Remember, all this effort they are going to is building up to what promises to be a great weekend of racing at Carr Mill Dam, near St. Helens, on 28th & 29th May. If you’ve not been to one of our events before, why not pop down and see what we are all about?

Bryan

My ‘Not a Race Report’

I don’t think I could write a race report. Not in my current role anyway. In my understanding, writing a race report requires you to focus your attention on as many aspects of the race as it develops as possible. Sure, in some cases it might be possible to look back over lap charts from race control to ensure accuracy of reporting, but you also need to watch the race as a whole. What I see during a race is almost completely through my viewfinder. Framed, almost like watching it on TV. That said, I’ve just spent two days watching for things that might be about to develop.

The Lowestoft Grand Prix provided entertainment across all the classes. One of the first things that struck me was how quick Scott Curtis looked in qualifying. Considering how recently he had got his hands on the boat he was showing blistering pace. Watching the attitude of the boat on the water you could see that he was on it. I watched him round the top turn and head towards the club house, then the gasp from the crowd caught my attention. It happened so quickly. In a fraction of a second, Steve Hoult was going skyward. Looking up I saw his boat, pointing very much in the wrong direction. I pointed my camera and caught from the moment his Molgaard touched down and barrel rolled to a rest. I then did what I always do when I catch an accident – I watched to see that the driver was safely out of the boat. Seeing him standing on the Osprey Rescue boat, I let out a sigh of relief. The boat had suffered extensive damage. The right sponson had been completely removed, the deck split, screen and other body panels cracked, and of course the engine had been submerged. All fixable, but not in time to race.

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With what turned out to be the only major incident of the weekend behind us, my focus returned to the racing; and what a display of racing it was. The level of maturity and standard of racecraft demonstrated by the young GT15 drivers was outstanding. F1 Atlantic GB’s Harvey Smith, putting his new Povvat hull through it’s paces, pulled out a great lap in qualifying to take pole for Race 1, but Thomas Mantripp’s race start was enough to see him lead as they passed the crowd on the bank for the first time. The grit and determination shone through though, as each and every driver did what they could to maintain their position or make their way through the pack.

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The GT30 class was equally entertaining over the weekend. In qualifying, Ben Jelf picked up where he left off last year, at the front, and Thomas Mantripp showed promising form in his first National outing in the class by taking second. Tiegen Goodfellow impressed with a great drive to third on the grid, but it was with her starts that Tiegen really made her presence felt. Rocketing away from the start pontoon, Tiegen established herself firmly in second place after the first turn; a position she would claim as her own in all the races of the event. With Thomas Mantripp now down in third, he found himself beginning a weekend long battle with Jack Pickles. Race 1 had to be restarted after Jack hooked in front of Thomas in the Wherry Turn and the two boats collided, becoming locked together in a slow spin. Neither driver were injured in the incident, but their emotions were clear out on the water. I saw the two drivers after their first race, shaking hands and checking each were ok. It was great to see. From here on in, the rest of their weekend seemed to be spent chasing each other round the course, both displaying great driving skill and putting on a really good show.

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The OSY400 class, made up of three regular drivers and two who switched from Hydro’s, was a display of spectacular driving. Luke Hugman and his new boat set the pace from the off, and it was great to see Jason Mantripp settling into his new boat so well. For anyone who isn’t familiar with OSY’s, the driver lies on their front in these boats, controlling the throttle with their left hand and steering with their right, and they are stunning to watch.

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The F4 class saw three newcomers, Leon King, Matt Wood (switching from T850’s) and Ben Jelf, taking on established racers Rob Veares and Sam Whittle. Again it was reigning champion Sam who dominated the weekend, but from my viewpoint the closest racing was that between Ben and Leon. The determination of these two drivers was clear for all to see.

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Returning to the F2’s, Scott Curtis continued his qualifying form, driving a blinding Race 1 to finish second. Colin Jelf dominated the weekend, with Paul Balfour following a close second. From my point of view, these boats photograph best when right on the edge. Don’t get me wrong, in the flesh they’re impressive no matter how high out of the water they are, but a photograph needs to make a statement. Matt Palfreyman’s Moore boat is yet to have it’s livery applied for this year. Apart from one small sticker it’s plain white. It’s a beautiful boat, but not that exciting to look at. Until Matt gets it going. Lap after lap, Matt would exit the turns and stand the boat up, accelerating hard down the straights, crossing the prop wash of boats in front trying to give himself the best line, at times literally flying the boat.

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All in all, the Lowestoft Grand Prix was a great weekend. On display was great racing, great sportsmanship and great entertainment, and in a little over three weeks Powerboat GP heads north to Carr Mill to do it again. I for one can’t wait.

Bryan
Powerboat GP Photographer

Focus On… Team WNT F2

Set up for Team WNT F2 is a slick process. Like a well oiled machine, each team mamber has their part to play in preparing the boat.

Yesterday’s qualifying session should have been a straight forward affair, however as the session drew closer the wind began to pick up and gusty conditions can make things very unpredictable for the drivers. Steve went out and was setting good lap times which would have been enough to place him 3rd on the start grid.

Unfortunately though, the session was cut short for Steve when his boat caught a gust of wind and blew over backwards.The boat came down on it’s nose, breaking the right sponson and splitting the deck, and proceeded to barrel roll, coming to rest the right way up. Steve was able to get out of the boat and onto the Osprey Rescue boat, and his stricken craft was towed back to Coleman’s Dyke for the damage to be fully assessed.

Talking to the team afterwards it was clear that the boat could not be repaired overnight, but Steve has been loaned a boat, been scrutineered, and will be out racing today. His boat will be going in for repair tomorrow and the team are extremely hopeful that it will be ready in time for Round 2 of the championships at Carr Mill in three weeks time. In the meantime, Steve and the rest of the team will be taking their engine home with them for a complete service, ready to give everything they can in defense of their National F2 Championship.

Focus On… Team WNT F2

Following a cold start and a long drive, Team WNT F2 spent the rest of the day making sure their boat and pit area were in order before heading to their hotel. At 12pm tomorrow they will begin their defense of the British National F2 Championship.

The Curtain Raiser…

Camera bag packed. Car ready. Tomorrow I leave for Lowestoft. This will be my third visit to Nicholas Everitt Park with Powerboat GP and I am still learning how best to use the venue to my advantage. I have already established from previous years that following the boats up to the top buoy means you are shooting into the light and as with every race I go to this will play a part in shaping my itinerary for the weekend.

When I arrive the dry pits will already be set up, and most, if not all competitors will be in situ, preparing their boats for Sunday’s first timed session. I always enjoy the first walk around the pits, especially at the first race of the year. The teams are a close-knit bunch, but with their bases spread far and wide around the UK it is possible that some people in the pits haven’t seen each other since last year’s finale at Stewartby. This time gives me a great opportunity to get some candid portrait shots. For me, posed photo’s are great when they are shot for a purpose, but raw emotion or concentration are difficult to force.

Next on my agenda is a scout of the area. Quite often, not a lot changes from one year to the next, but sometimes something does and I always like to familiarise myself with the site before any boats take to the water. It is also possible that having only been twice before, there may be something that I have missed in the past that I could use to my advantage. I always try to give my shots something that makes them stand out from the rest. This could be making use of something in the background or foreground, using elevation to get a different angle on the boats, or simply finding places where there are no other photographers.

This of course isn’t always possible, and sometimes you will find me standing not too far away from other snappers at the water’s edge. But never for long. I get what I can and move on, find somewhere else. As much as anything else it makes the processing job at the end of the day a lot less dull. I can take upwards of 1200 shots in a day. Even if I shoot from 3 locations this gives me three lots of 400 photo’s with near-identical backgrounds to sift through. That can get tedious.

I always try to make a point of introducing myself to other photographers at a race. No-one knows an area like a local, and of course I am more than happily return the favour at my local venue, Carr Mill, where Round 2 will be played out at the end of May.

I am looking forward to this weekend. I know that the drivers, teams and officials are looking forward to it too. 7 months is a long time with no racing. 12pm Sunday can’t come soon enough.

Bryan
Powerboat GP Photographer

Last year we witnessed some superb racing. This year we welcome some new faces and with one week to go are looking forward to getting our season off to a great start!

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