Power put to the test

With names like ‘The Boss’, ‘Annihilator’ and ‘Rat Attack’ you could think you have stumbled on nicknames of roller coasters or jet pilots in a Top Gun movie spinoff.

The scenic and generally placid Lake Maraetai in Mangakino plays  host to Hydro Thunder, a group of stunningly powerful hydro plane boats that shatter the silence and make waves of their own at breakneck speeds. Here in New Zealand, Grand Prix (GP) is a class of boats featuring big-block V8 piston engines producing as much as 1500 horsepower. The 23- to 26-foot craft routinely approach speeds in excess of 270 km/h in  a straight line.

The comparison to fighter jets is no co-incidence, with these craft well equipped with literal cockpits for the pilots – yes, they are called pilots - to navigate their machines across the water in the quickest way possible, which, for viewers is a breath-taking sight. One such example is a boat called ‘The Boss’, which has a 24-foot hull configuration, literally built around a F16 fighter jet cockpit!

Pilot Jack Lupton of the GP57 Penrite Repco boat explains his love for propelling himself across the water against other like-minded individuals in his 510 cubic-inch V8 powered craft.    

“It’s heaps of fun, he says.

“We don’t have any attitudes among the crews either, which is great. We’re all really supportive of each other. It’s a great community to be a part of.”

The four round series kicks off in early 2020, with championship events offering different conditions between two locations each for the North and South Islands. The field is shaping up to be the largest we’ve ever seen, with over 10 boats vying for national supremacy.

Finding the best of the best within our shores is only one part of the story, with the team happy to announce that all comers from around the globe will converge on New Zealand in 2021 to compete for world bragging rights. This comes in the form of the UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique) World Grand Prix Hydroplane Championship, which is planned at this stage to be a 3-round series – with Lake Taupo, Lake Karapiro and Tauranga suggested as possible locations for racing.

Secretary of Hydro Thunder Denise Preece is excited about the event coming to New Zealand.

“The scene here is growing, and to get international competition to pit ourselves against is fantastic, she says.

“We’re looking forward to racing some greats of the sport.”

The UIM is based in Europe, so international competition is expected, with the best of the best coming Downunder to vie for the title, something Jack is also enthused about.

“We’re going to get some fantastic racing during the World’s.

“When we all hit Turn 1…its going to be crazy…”


2020 Hydro Thunder GP Hydroplane Series
Round 1: Lake Taupo, January 25-26
Round 2: Lake Karapiro, February 8-9
Round 3: Lake Rotoiti, Nelson, February 29 – March 1
Round 4: Lake Dunstan, Cromwell, March 7-8


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