30th May 2009, 10:30PM AEST
By Glen Laundy. Photo's by MediaSPEC
The wait is over. Today at Mildura crowds were witness to over 30 races of high octane action that were anything but un-eventful.
In the morning chill the 1.6lt Oz Lites opened up the account, and it was 4 cylinder hydroplanes tearing up the course in a close battle with RKM taking the honours in the only cell boat.
Race 2 was the 5.2lt displacement warm up, and it was the immaculate Everingham in Hostage taking the honours early. So easily was the win it looked to be in a class of its own, very similar to Jimbo in Race 3 who looked the goods in his warm up.
Race 4 consisted of the formula future lads and it was Lil' Agent Orange in good form early taking the chequered flag in a field of 6.
The first of the unlimited races was up next and during the warm up it was Chris Palmer in Outlaw turning heads for all the wrong reasons- the only capsule Childsplay in the country unfortunately caught fire. Both driver and boat were relatively unharmed despite the incident.
The next race included our hometown hero Tony Walsh in The Real Thing who's distinctive launch from the pit area could be heard from miles away. The start of the race was an absolute blockbuster with old rivals Walsh and McCosker at it again. The Real Thing appeared to have the edge on Liberty and after marginally leading down the starting straight it was all Walsh after Brian retired before hitting the first corner. Walsh was also an early retirement on lap 2, obviously utilising this race as a practice run after Bruce Jordan kept the boat on the trailer yesterday.
By the time Race 5 was re run Truly Wicked was on a warm up lap at the opposite end of the course when the flag was dropped, resulting in the first of many 2 boat races. Nonetheless it was Crossy all on his own followed by Rythum.
Race 7 was the first of the outboard class and these guys were most impressive. Close racing and fast turning saw A.G.W Fitouts take first closely ahead of Shoestring, which lead for some of the race but was out cornered in the end. Bud Light rounded out third while the two mono hulls numbers 62 & 26 made up the rest of the field.
Race 8 was set to run before Craig Bailey fell short of starting his first race- an engine problem saw him spectating from within a fallen tree on the south bank of the course. Byron Bay Premium Ale took the honours ahead of the mono hull Air Borne in the second two boat race for the day.
Race 9 saw a 3 boat field take to the course and it was all blown alcohol - Tuff'e'Nuff, Lunatic and Unleashed hit it out in their warm up races and it was the unlikely favourite from Tasmania finishing ahead of hometown hero Dave Clark in the blue Evercraft. Brett Sheppard's boat broke down momentarily on lap 1 and despite getting it going again could not make up enough ground to trouble the front runners.
Race 10 was another of the big hitters with Agent Orange going toe to toe with Madness, and despite some sensational driving Troy Marland was unable to get ahead of Trevor Stanley who managed to take the hole shot, surprising more than a few on lookers. The twin turbo machine Truly Wicked looked to be quite a bit off the pace this year and finished third.
After lunch race 11 saw the first of the 6 litre battles, and the warm up again produced some hair raising moments with Wild Child spinning out rather violently. After regathering his thoughts he managed third, closely behind Craig Lewis in Image and True Blue in first. Local hero Brian Jeffery managed fourth despite hitting the buoy on lap 2 and spinning out on lap 3.
Race 12 was certainly impressive with the 6 litre carby boys showing us how far their class has come, reaching speeds well over 100MPH. Hi Flya was the standout showing some amazing speed while taking out first place ahead of Sacrifice and South Australian team Bite Me, closely followed by another of our advocates from Goolwa Balls n All, and last of all Enforcer.
Race 13 saw the 1.6 lt hydro trophy race taken out by Grant Harrison in Times R Tuff, closely in front of RKM.
Race 14 consisted of the formula future class again and they never failed to excite the crowd- an overturned boat in Lil' Ripper at the bridge end turn had onlookers worried momentarily. South Australian Aaron Dennis was fortunately OK after the incident.
Race 15 was the final for the 5.2 ltr title and it was again Hostage out classing the rest of the field. Prime Mover broke down putting the black team out of contention for the trophy, while the non qualifyer race saw South Australian Chris Wellington in JAC Racing take 2nd ahead of Evil and closely behind Kwiktrip.
The next title up for grabs was for 6 litre in the Albert Corn Trophy, and with In Excess on the trailer it was left to the carby boys to show how it's done and Hi Flya raced closely with Sacrifice at the head of the field while Craig Lewis in Image tried desperately to make up ground lost from the start, finishing in third. Fourth was Wild Child while Tom Barnhard spun in a corner, pushing him back to 5th place.
Race 18 saw the beginning of the main event - heat 1 of the Marjorie Watson contested by The Real Thing, Lunatic, Tuff'e'Nuff & Agent Orange. Despite Stanley's form in the warm up race he found himself putting on a fantastic show for third place with fellow South Australian Dave Clark, whilst Tasmanian team Lunatic gave a perfect example of how useable power and reliability will get you at the top of the field. Walsh was simply untouchable and the green machine was looking better than ever in position 1.
Heat 2 was another blockbuster between the big guns Cross and Marland- the two rivals were neck and neck heading in to turn one. Cross in pole 1 out cornered the yellow cell boat and hit the lead for two laps before breaking down putting team Rival out of contention for another year. Madness appeared to be losing power after moving into first place and had Wayne Hodgson in Rythum closing the gap. A problem on board Madness became apparent on the final straight when it burst into a rather intense fire, meanwhile Rythum moved up on the inside to take 1st. Surprisingly, neither of these boats would make the final.
Heat 3 was somewhat of a non event and was the third race made up of just two boats. McCosker in Liberty had the course to himself to produce his qualifying time while Lewis in Image also managed to find a large amount of clean water and looked fast. Heat 4 followed soon after and also consisted of just two boats - Childsplays Unleashed and Kryptonite. Both of these boats also qualified for a finals berth.
Race 24 was another display from the outboards and it was Rhys Coles in scintillating form at the head of the pack, cornering perfectly time after time. Hopefully we'll see a duel between Byron Bay Premium Ale and Craig Bailey's Don Morton Marine.
The final of the Marjorie Watson trophy packed a couple of surprises. Without a cell boat in sight, Walsh again looked the fastest out of the hole and was closely flanked by Sheppard. Despite nearly matching these speeds McCosker seemed disoriented and almost collided with Gleeson in the first corner. Shortly after Liberty came to a halt in the middle of the course and drifted onto the back straight. Dean Gleeson in Kryptonite needed to take evasive action after leaving turn 2 and in doing so diced with death- hitting an unexpected wave after turning right to avoid McCosker resulted in an accidental full throttle burst and his boat completed 2 360 degree spins before landing back in the water. Very lucky to stay in the seat. At this point officials red flagged the race due to Liberty sitting directly on the course.
The re run saw the field reduced to 3 and it was once again arch rivals Walsh and Sheppard neck and neck to the first turn. With Unleashed in pole 1 it was always going to be difficult for The Real Thing to gain the lead, and despite resembling how Loose Cannon used to look on course the green team had to settle for second place while Brett Sheppard made it back to back Marj Watson trophies. No third place this year - Gleeson was unable to complete his laps and will have to wait for another year.
Well done to Brett Sheppard and his team Unleashed. Looks like the guys have cemented their position as a serious contender at any major race meeting.