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Moving on up to a superboat

THE name Briant is set to return to the superboats cauldron for the next New Zealand jetsprinting season.

Gisborne driver Blake Briant confirmed to The Herald that he had “found a new home” for his current Group A class engine and had lined up a superboat engine in Melbourne.

“It’s very likely we (he and navigator Kate Hoogerbrug) will be stepping into a superboat,” Briant said.

That will move him a step closer to completing a cycle of emulation. Briant’s father and now key support crew member, Peter Briant, is a multiple world champion. The question of Blake following Peter’s footsteps into the superboat domain was a matter of when rather than if.

“It was really a timing thing,” Briant junior said.

“Our current engine is still considered relatively new but continuing to race that engine would only detract from it. It’s a good time to trade up to superboats . . . it’s really where we wanted to end up anyway.”

An unforgettable 2015-16 season ended two weekends ago with Briant and Hoogerbrug sealing second place overall in the Group A class won by Hamilton-Gisborne combination Sam Newdick and Glenn Mason.

The Gisborne couple’s season started with victories in the opening two rounds of the national series. But it took a dramatic twist in Round 2 of the UIM world champs with a crash that would surely rank as one the year’s most sensational crashes in motorsport in general, let alone jetsprinting. It wrecked their boat and bruised their confidence.

“I never thought we’d experience an accident of that magnitude in our racing lifetime,” Briant said.

“I hope we never experience it again.”

Back-on-the-horse approachThe pair took the back-on-the-horse approach and returned armed with a new boat for Round 3 of the six-round national series.

“I think when we turned up for that first sprint (since the crash), it was not until the end of the day that we thought about how satisfying it was to be back out there again.

“We took it one run at a time . . . the focus was getting back into that competitive headspace.

“Kate was determined she wanted to get back out there and we fed off each other . . . and all the support and direction from the old man (Peter) made the whole process that much more satisfying.”

A more conservative approach was an important part of their game plan from Round 3 on. With a handy lead, podium finishes were the focus. They knew they could win it without taking too many risks.

A few factors were to conspire against that strategy — a new boat that didn’t match up to the old one; a major driver error in the top-eight run-offs in Round 5 that saw them finish sixth on the day; and an outstanding series of performances from Newdick and Mason, who won the last four rounds.

FrustrationThe boat issue was frustrating.

“This new hull didn’t perform as well as the last one,” Briant said.

“We’d had a dream run since the previous boat first hit the water. Everything we did from there only complemented what we did when we started.”

With their new boat they didn’t make any “decent ground” until the last round.

They finished second to Newdick and Mason on a technical Featherston track, both combinations posting their best times in the title-deciding top-five run-offs.

“I think Sam wanted it a little more,” Briant said.

“He drove just that little bit harder. Glenn and Sam are an unbelievable team . . . and it was still a big buzz for us to finish second. I felt we finished on a positive note.”

Briant said he would “hate to think” how much workshop time he and his father put into the boats over the season.

He is “busy as hell” with work as operations manager for D W Briant at present so has had little time to think about next season, but jetsprinting is never too far from his thoughts.

“We’ll have a little time off and then get back into it.”

Glen Mason
REIGN SUPREME: The smiles tell the story after Gisborne’s Glenn Mason (left) and Hamilton’s Sam Newdick completed a Group A title three-peat in the New Zealand jetsprinting series. It was a sixth national crown for navigator Mason, who confirmed he would be back for another season. The pair won four of the six rounds and were also second in the two-round UIM world champs. Picture by Neil Jones/Inshot Photography