One-hundredth of a second was all that separated Carterton neighbours Bryce Baron and Sam Gray in the first round of the national jetsprint championships in Hastings earlier this month.
On that occasion, Baron took the chequered flag and the early lead in the Class B championship, winning by the narrowest of margins, and he is anticipating more fireworks when the pair clash in the second round at Tauherenikau on Sunday.
“He [Sam] will be gunning to get the win back, and it’s good that he’s my neighbour — it couldn’t be any better scripted, really,” Baron said.
“We did buy our first boat together and entered the sport together, so it’s pretty cool to be battling with him.”
Baron and Gray also spend a lot of their time helping maintain the track on the inside of the Tauherenikau race course, and Baron believes that probably gives the pair some home advantage.
“We know all the shelves and shapes of the track, so we know it pretty well, and it will be a little bit of an advantage, I would imagine and also having the hometown support.”
Baron added that the competitors only find out the rotation of the course, which includes 27 corners, and that is where the navigators, his wife Kylie, and Gray’s co-driver Mike Allen earn their keep.
“It’s not only about who can squeeze the throttle the most, it’s remembering the course and setting up for the corners, and there’s quite a bit to it,” he said.
Baron is confident, though, that he can go back to back on his home track.
“I’m going in with the attitude to win it, but it’s just a matter of getting all our ducks in a row and not making any mistakes and just enjoying it.
“If you put too much pressure on yourself, you start over-driving, so I’m just going in there relaxed and have a good crack at it.”
The biggest thrills and spills are likely to come in the premier Superboat class, which has attracted a field of 13, featuring reigning national champions Sam Newdick and Shama Putaranui, who started their title defence with victory at Hastings, and former world champion Blake Briant and navigator Cassandra Norman.
The supercharged boats can reach speeds of 140-150kph on the tight, twisting courses and can hit 130kmh in two seconds, pulling G-Forces of four to five.
“Just the calibre of the boats. They are all getting ready for the world championships next year, so there will be some good boats on display on Sunday and some good drivers.”
Group A and the new LS class complete the programme for the day.
Qualifying in all four classes starts at 11am on Sunday, with the top nine in each class progressing to the knockout rounds. That is whittled down to the top six for the semifinals, with the top three to battle it out in the final.
Unlike other forms of motorsport, spectators can see the complete circuit, and Baron is urging people to go along and enjoy some top-class racing from some of the best in the world.