Hart aims to put horror crash memories aside
Raymond Hart admits he will still have butterflies in his stomach but is focussed on retaining New Zealand's most prestigious hydroplane prize, The Masport Cup.
Tomorrow will see the 89th running of the event on Lake Ruataniwha, hosted by the New Brighton Powerboat Club.
Former St Andrews farmer Hart piloted "The Boss" to victory in a hard-fought battle 11 months ago on Lake Karapiro, which allowed Christchurch boat owner Peter Knight to decide where to defend it.
In December however, Hart had a close shave when he crashed spectacularly at 260kph on Lake Dunstan at Cromwell.
Hart then spent six minutes trapped in the pod, similar to an F-16 fighter pilot, but emerged unhurt and unbowed after rescue divers pulled him from his submerged vessel.
An accident of that magnitude was a first for the sport in this country.
"I'm not going to lie, the first 30 seconds or so underwater were pretty scary, but once I knew the breathing apparatus was functioning, everything was OK."
Hart said the boat went from 80kmh to more than 220kmh "in under three seconds" but, for some reason, it could not maintain the speed and got caught in the wind.
Hart is confident both he and his craft are back to their best.
The addition of new aerofoils on the front of the boat is expected to help.
"I guess it's like getting back up on the horse, a few nerves but you have got to do it," he said.
Hart will not have it all his own way on the lake with several North Island competitors heading south. In fact he is expecting the competition to be hot with up to eight Grand Prix boats expected to start.
"I think that will be the most ever on Ruataniwha."
Some new boats are expected to take to the water, including Warwick and Jack Lupton's GP57, imported from Canada.
David Alexander will race his boat The Steeler, also newly imported from Canada, after debuting at Lake Karapiro last month.
The man to beat is likely to be Ken Lupton in Cheetah after the Waverley driver lifted the new Joe Robinson Trophy on Lake Karapiro earlier this month.
The Masport Cup will be contested over two races on Saturday afternoon. The driver with the most points takes home what is believed to be New Zealand's oldest national motorsport trophy.
If two or more drivers tie the cup goes to the fastest time, which Hart found himself in last year but have driven 14 seconds quicker than Ken Lupton, he nabbed the silverware.
Hart got into the driver's seat through his father-in-law, who built engines for Knight.
- The Timaru Herald