This afternoon, four V8 Supercar drivers tackledvehicles of a different kind – and it wasn’t on land.
In the lead up to the weekend’s Chill Perth 360at Barbagallo Raceway, Rick and Todd Kelly, Dean Fiore and Jonathon Webb spent some time at Baldivis Jet Sprint Park to see who could master thebeasts, described as the wildestmotor sport action that happens on water.
Coached by current V8 Utes driver Nathan Pretty– who has raced with both Todd and Rick at Bathurst and won Jet Sprinttitles racing on water – the boys were in good hands. Pretty spoke the languageto the drivers, who were excited, but seemed slightly anxious about takingcontrol of the boats.
All four first went escorted, before jumping inthe driver’s side.
The track was about 22 turns – and while thedrivers were meant to run a shortened course, once they were out there, the boatsdidn’t stick to the route. The water was just 120mm deep and 3.5m wide, sothere wasn’t much room to move.
The boats could pull around four to five Gs withan average speed between 125 and 145 kilometres, from the Group A 400 cubicinch engine.
At the end of the twisty circuit, the boys hadto run a big loop, which sprayed spectators, to wash off the speed – the boatshad no brakes.
No brakes, no gears, 600 revs and just forwardand reverse – who would tame the beast?
Tekno Autosports’ Jonathon Webb was first outand didn’t have the run he would have hoped. Midway into his drive, the boatwas on the bank – it was a DNF (did not finish) as park staff waded through thewater to collect the boat.
“I had a blast!” Webb said afterwards. “That’snot quite what I wanted to do, put it on the bank, but I think it was a goodhead start just to feel my way around…
“It’s massively different (to a V8 Supercar intothe corners). I followed what was, I guess, the race line a little bit – likewe do in the Supercars – and that’s definitely different. And the fact that youwant throttle to turn – our cars are completely different, you have to come offthe throttle and get them rotated.
“Couldn’t get too much different from a V8Supercar if you tried!”
Next upwas Jack Daniel's Racing's Rick Kelly – neither he nor brother Todd seemed to want to be the firstof the pair to drive the boat – but Kelly, despite messing up the course,managed a reasonable run and time.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Rick said. “It’s differentto any other boat I’ve driven, very direct in the steering so it takes a fewcorners to get used to the steering and the throttle. But it’s a lot of fun.
“Like any driver, as soon as you have one go,you want to go out and go faster and faster until eventually you becomeunstuck. I’d go again!"
Todd followed and also made it throughreasonably well.
“It’s certainly different,” he said after therun. “What you need to do to drive these boats is the opposite to what you’dnaturally want to do. The faster you go with them, the easier they are todrive.
“Being so foreign, it’s not so easy to tellyourself to go faster, but I really enjoyed it.
“It’s good to challengeyourself and learn something different. And it’s good to see how all the otherdrivers get their heads around it as well, so I’m enjoying it.”
It was up to West Australian Dean Fiore of Dodo Insurance Racing to takethe prize, and he hopped in the driver's side with a huge smile on his face.
“Crazy – just crazy!” he said after areasonable run. But was he going quick enough?
“I don’t think so. Nate (Pretty) said, ifeverything’s a bit too heavy, you sit too low in the water.”
Sure enough, Rick Kelly was victorious, followed by Todd, Fiore and Webb.
Webb had gone out for another try and, despitewanting to finish the day on a higher note, ended up stopping on the course thesecond time around.
Better luck for Barbagallo Raceway this weekend,boys.
Tickets are still available for the Chill Perth360 starting Friday, from Ticketek.