After first taking the F2 crown way back in 2003, Paul Balfour further extended his record by taking the RYA Powerboat GP 2014 British Championship title for a fifth time after he dominated proceedings at the Bedford Grand Prix. “It couldn’t have gone any better” he said as he climbed from his Tod Lamb built American sprint hull. “To win against the three times UIM F2 World Champion Colin Jelf proves I must be doing something right.”
Balfour, who had lead every lap of all three heats didn’t put a foot wrong, even though he had a huge advantage coming into the last round of the series, some fourteen points ahead of his closet rival Jelf. “With all the new Optimax engines there’s not much between each of us these days, which makes it more exciting for those watching from the shore. The only real issue I have had this season has been the race starts but we made a huge step forward at Chaswater where we redistributed the weight in the boat and it transformed my starts. All being well I will be back next year to defend the title.”
One driver who will once again try and stand in his way will be Colin Jelf. His final race weekend had been decimated by electrical issues. “I really thought we had a chance after getting pole position for the first heat” he said, “but a battery then alternator problem blighted my weekend. Then to top that off the steering started to play up in the final heat. To win this title you have to be consistent and Balfour got it right making no mistakes at all. He’s had a really good season, where his boat is suited to the smooth, tight twisting courses that we have run this year, then once he got some decent propellers he was really hard to catch.”
Ben Morse was another driver who was very hard to catch. Missing out on getting pole position at the opening round at the Lowestoft Grand Prix was the only point he had dropped in his all conquering season. “I’m made up with this result today” he said “it’s a hell of a lot gustier out there on the course than it looks, so to put a lap in two seconds quicker than anyone else out there was awesome and I couldn’t be happier.”
With conditions on the course becoming less predictable Morse had opted to put some more weight into his Molgaard hull just prior to the final heat and it certainly paid dividends as once again he stormed off into the lead. Coming home in second place in the third and final heat was Natalie Craddock, which gave her third overall on the day and a well deserved second place in the national championship. “Not bad for the first year” said Craddock. “It has been a good season and with different people on the podium it certainly mixed it up. I’m learning new things about the boat at every race meeting. Today we adjusted the steering and it felt like the boat was on rails when I put it into the turns. What a great way to end the season, getting second place through my own ability really matters.”
Third in the F4S Championship went to the vastly experienced Mike Pillow. “After my season was ruined with me finishing in eighth place at the Kingsbury Grand Prix I’m satisfied with third overall” said Pillow. “Big congratulations to Natalie, she, like Ben, finished well in every race throughout the season, so she thoroughly deservers it.”
In the OSY400 class it took the officials to count back through all the heat results to work out who had taken the top prize. In the end it went to James Bowman, even though it was Luke Hugman that had one on the day. “It’s been a long season for all those OSY competitors” said Bowman. We’ve been to the Worlds in Poland and the European’s in Nottingham. The international competition is very strong, plus we have had some technical problems along the way. At times it’s been very frustrating, so to win the national championship goes some way to making up for all of that. Next year I’m getting married plus we’re expecting our first child, so my priorities will be else where so I’m not sure whether I will be back to defend the title.” For Hugman it was a tough call. “It all came down to that second heat where I couldn’t get it off the start line” said Hugman. “I tried really hard to close the gap but only made it up to third which just wasn’t enough. I’m not that disappointed because I came here to prove a point and that was just how quick my boat is, two seconds a lap was beyond my wildest dreams.”
Thomas Mantripp knew all he had to do all weekend was to follow in the wake of Ben Jelf if he was to win his first ever GT15 British Championship title and that’s precisely what he did. Throughout the season Mantripp had held the advantage he gained at the Lowestoft Grand Prix and knew exactly how to play a tactical game. “I can’t put it into words” said the young man from the Oulton Broad club. “I just had to keep it the right way up and finish on the podium, sounds easy but with some of the opposition getting faster through the year it certainly wasn’t. I had to keep an eye on Smith because he had got quicker all weekend, he’s been working hard on his set up and it showed. As to whether he will be a threat next ‘Jelf free’ season I’m not so sure.” For Jelf it certainly had been a season of high’s and lows but he was happy with the result. “I wasn’t going to make it easy for him” said Jelf “Fair play to Mantripp if I was in his shoes I would have dome the same, I just hope he looks after my title.”
Third place in the GT15 Championship went to Jessica Beaumont, like Jelf, a perfect way to finish her GT15 career on a high note. “It was all about fighting for third place this season and I couldn’t have asked for more. Mantripp has worked hard for it and he deserves it. As to my future, I’m thinking of taking a year out of powerboat racing to start working with B.S.Motorsport because I really would like to become an motorsport engineer, then perhaps when I’m a little older I might look to race in the F4S Championship.”
Going a long way in making up for loosing his GT15 title to Mantripp was collecting the GT30 one instead, said Ben Jelf, although he wasn’t expecting to win it in his first season. “Three different boats in one year is a really tough way to do things” said Jelf. “We haven’t really had much time to test them either, but I have a great deal of faith in our team, after all they have been doing it a long while now.”
Wayne Turner collected the trophy for the O/Hydro class with local Stewartby club member Nigel Edwards taking second place in the national championship.
In the T850 class Bill Owen finally, after nearly thirty years to trying, won the national championship title. “To say I’m a bit emotional is an understatement” said Owen. “To win it by count back was just incredible, because after the engine dropped to two cylinders in the final heat I thought I had blown my title chances.” He would eventually finish the day in fourth place which meant that once again the race officials had to delve into the records book to come up with a result. That meant that Matt Wood who was victorious on the day would take the runner up spot in the title hunt.
“I never would have thought I’d finish in second place, especially in my first year of trying” said Wood. “I wanted to win here to show that Chasewater wasn’t a fluke and now the season has ended on a fabulous note, not just for me but all the competitors racing in the RYA Powerboat GP British Championship, bring on 2015, I can’t wait.”