Briant crew ‘stoked’ with runner-up spot

Gisborne’s Blake Briant could not have asked for much more of his new and improved Harvest Transport No.52 boat.

Gisborne’s Blake Briant could not have asked for much more of his new and improved Harvest Transport No.52 boat.

Blake Briant and Kate Hoogerbrug

DIDN’T crash. Tick.

Made the podium. Tick.

Still top of the leaderboard. Tick.

Gisborne’s Blake Briant could not have asked for much more of his new and improved Harvest Transport No.52 boat as the New Zealand jetsprinting national championship resumed in Waitara at the weekend.

Briant and navigator Kate Hoogerbrug were second in the group A class on the brand-new Methanex Aquatrack completed just in time for round 3 of the six-round series.

Gisborne competitors filled the top two placings. Hamilton driver Sam Newdick and Gisborne navigator Glenn Mason put the impetus back into their campaign with an impressive victory, sending a clear warning they won’t be relinquishing their crown without a fight.

The combination, who suffered a major blow in round 1 when their jet unit failed and they had to settle for fifth, mastered the tight rotation to win the top-five final with a fastest time of the day for their class.

Briant had set a FOTD of 35.556 in his top-five run, significantly reducing his previous best, but Newdick responded superbly with 35.017. Both times were faster than the second-placed boat in the superboats division won by Peter Caughey.

“It’s been a long time between drinks,” said Mason, referring to the last time the defending NZ champs had tasted victory. “We haven’t exactly had a dream run (this season), so it was quite satisfying.

“It was a pretty challenging track for the drivers and navigational-wise for some as well. She’s a driver’s track, not a wide open drag-strip, which was certainly an advantage for us.”

Despite having to concede defeat to their major rivals, Briant and Hoogerbrug were “stoked” with being runners-up in their boat’s first competitive hit-out.

Winners of the opening two rounds, they went into round 3 on the back of a dramatic crash in round 2 of the world championships at Baypark.

Not only did Briant have to replace the Stinger hull and put the package back together again, there was also the matter of restoring confidence that can be severely dented in such life-threatening circumstances.

Briant and Hoogerbrug walked away relatively unscathed but both knew it could have been worse.

Hoogerbrug said winning wasn’t the priority heading into the round.

“We were there to get our confidence back.”

Qualifying runs

It took a couple of qualifying runs to get back into the flow on the tight and technical track.

“It’s definitely a driver’s track over a horsepower track,” she said.

They upped the intensity after the third qualifier although nearly came unstuck in the top eight run-offs when they “rubbed” across a few tyres on one of the trickier sections.

“We had enough speed to run across . . . but it slowed us right down. It was shaping up to be a really good run,” said Hoogerbrug, adding that the incident had her “edging forward” in her seat.

Their final run of the day capped their comeback and, equally importantly, consolidated their overall lead.

They are sitting on 89 out of a possible 90 points, with Newdick second on 84 and Ric Burke, fourth at the weekend, third on 81.

“We’ve got a five-point buffer but all it takes is a mechanical failure or a brain fade,” said Hoogerbrug. “It’s going to be a battle over the next three rounds — it’s still anyone’s game.”

Mason said “it’s not over till the fat lady singeth” but he could hear her warming up.

To have any chance of retaining the title he believed they would have to win the remaining rounds and Briant would have to suffer a disaster.

Not that he’s wishing one on them.

“You have to take your hat off to them. After the crash they regathered themselves and produced a fantastic package. The preparation they have put in and with the knowledge they have, it would be a cruel blow if they were to lose from here.

“But anything can happen . . . we’ll be doing our damnedest but I think to take out the top spot from here is a big ask.”

Hoogerburg echoed the praise of many for the Waitara event, which attracted a crowd of around 4000.

“They only had a few months to put that track together . . . so hats off to them,” she said of track owner and event organiser Leighton Minnell and his support team.

She also could not speak highly enough of the contribution of Blake’s father and former world superboats champion Peter Briant to their campaign.

“We could not have done it without him. He’s been at our place almost every day helping Blake and getting stuck in even when Blake is tied up somewhere else.”

The focus now shifts to round 4 at the Riverside track in Hastings, which holds fond memories for Briant and Hoogerbrug. They won on this track in the 2015 series.

DIDN’T crash. Tick.

Made the podium. Tick.

Still top of the leaderboard. Tick.

Gisborne’s Blake Briant could not have asked for much more of his new and improved Harvest Transport No.52 boat as the New Zealand jetsprinting national championship resumed in Waitara at the weekend.

Briant and navigator Kate Hoogerbrug were second in the group A class on the brand-new Methanex Aquatrack completed just in time for round 3 of the six-round series.

Gisborne competitors filled the top two placings. Hamilton driver Sam Newdick and Gisborne navigator Glenn Mason put the impetus back into their campaign with an impressive victory, sending a clear warning they won’t be relinquishing their crown without a fight.

The combination, who suffered a major blow in round 1 when their jet unit failed and they had to settle for fifth, mastered the tight rotation to win the top-five final with a fastest time of the day for their class.

Briant had set a FOTD of 35.556 in his top-five run, significantly reducing his previous best, but Newdick responded superbly with 35.017. Both times were faster than the second-placed boat in the superboats division won by Peter Caughey.

“It’s been a long time between drinks,” said Mason, referring to the last time the defending NZ champs had tasted victory. “We haven’t exactly had a dream run (this season), so it was quite satisfying.

“It was a pretty challenging track for the drivers and navigational-wise for some as well. She’s a driver’s track, not a wide open drag-strip, which was certainly an advantage for us.”

Despite having to concede defeat to their major rivals, Briant and Hoogerbrug were “stoked” with being runners-up in their boat’s first competitive hit-out.

Winners of the opening two rounds, they went into round 3 on the back of a dramatic crash in round 2 of the world championships at Baypark.

Not only did Briant have to replace the Stinger hull and put the package back together again, there was also the matter of restoring confidence that can be severely dented in such life-threatening circumstances.

Briant and Hoogerbrug walked away relatively unscathed but both knew it could have been worse.

Hoogerbrug said winning wasn’t the priority heading into the round.

“We were there to get our confidence back.”

Qualifying runs

It took a couple of qualifying runs to get back into the flow on the tight and technical track.

“It’s definitely a driver’s track over a horsepower track,” she said.

They upped the intensity after the third qualifier although nearly came unstuck in the top eight run-offs when they “rubbed” across a few tyres on one of the trickier sections.

“We had enough speed to run across . . . but it slowed us right down. It was shaping up to be a really good run,” said Hoogerbrug, adding that the incident had her “edging forward” in her seat.

Their final run of the day capped their comeback and, equally importantly, consolidated their overall lead.

They are sitting on 89 out of a possible 90 points, with Newdick second on 84 and Ric Burke, fourth at the weekend, third on 81.

“We’ve got a five-point buffer but all it takes is a mechanical failure or a brain fade,” said Hoogerbrug. “It’s going to be a battle over the next three rounds — it’s still anyone’s game.”

Mason said “it’s not over till the fat lady singeth” but he could hear her warming up.

To have any chance of retaining the title he believed they would have to win the remaining rounds and Briant would have to suffer a disaster.

Not that he’s wishing one on them.

“You have to take your hat off to them. After the crash they regathered themselves and produced a fantastic package. The preparation they have put in and with the knowledge they have, it would be a cruel blow if they were to lose from here.

“But anything can happen . . . we’ll be doing our damnedest but I think to take out the top spot from here is a big ask.”

Hoogerburg echoed the praise of many for the Waitara event, which attracted a crowd of around 4000.

“They only had a few months to put that track together . . . so hats off to them,” she said of track owner and event organiser Leighton Minnell and his support team.

She also could not speak highly enough of the contribution of Blake’s father and former world superboats champion Peter Briant to their campaign.

“We could not have done it without him. He’s been at our place almost every day helping Blake and getting stuck in even when Blake is tied up somewhere else.”

The focus now shifts to round 4 at the Riverside track in Hastings, which holds fond memories for Briant and Hoogerbrug. They won on this track in the 2015 series.

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