AUSTRALIA and New Zealand’s most exciting speed boats will gather at Lake Eppalock on Sunday for this year’s Griffiths Cup.

The fleet of 25 boats will include the New Zealand entry Air New Zealand, which is also the Australasian record-holder. Seldom have so many powerful machines gathered in one place for a race. Of the 25 entries at least 14 are Capable of exceeding 100 mph and five of these should better 130 mph down the straights. The Air New Zealand hydroplane was a failure in last year’s Grifflths Cup. But, as it is a well-prepared machine with a long list of triumphs to its credit, we are unlikely to see a repeat of that poor performance.

Air New Zealand holds the record for its class over a measured kilometre — 157 mph, Although only powered by a 348 c.i. Chev. motor, the boat is finely tuned and in the bands of the skilful Keith McGregor it is certain to start favorite for the event. The Keith and John McGregor team started speedboat racing 16 years ago. Originally both shared the driving, but over the past few years. John has concentrated on the planning and preparation of the boat.

The biggest threat to Air New Zealand is Stan Jones’ new Stampede. As yet untried in open competition, the local Merlin-powered giant hydroplane should be Capable of speeds close to 200 mph. In trials it has given every indication of being a flier and provided the engine is running smoothly Stampede could easily be the new holder of the E. C. Griffiths Cup.

Another Victorian with a great chance is Tommy Watt’s Exciter, fitted with a brand new motor for the event, it could really provide the surprise of the meeting. In previous events Exciter has shown great potential, but regular engine trouble has limited its chances of winning.

Big Benzol in Running

The West Australian hydroplane Big Benzol, driven by Tony Bartlett, is sure to perform better than in last year’s event. Although it made the final last year, Big Benzol never really got going and was beaten into fourth place by the runabout Cheetah. Les Ramsay’s Cheetah is also in this year’s event, but provided the big guns of the fleet can keep going for the whole race, it’s not likely to make the final.

Wasp Two (Ernie Nunn) and Tortoise (Des Redburn), both from NSW are likely to be among the finalists. Wasp Two is well known for its consistent racing. It competed in last year’s event, but in one of its rare breakdowns it broke an oil line and retired.

Tortoise, not so well known to Victorians, is also no slouch. A highly respected boat in NSW, it also competed in the 1972 Cup but was forced to retire with engine failure.

Super Roo — Bert Brauman’s hydro from Canberra — has been a good performer this season, showing the fleet a clear transom at the Yarrawonga meeting on Boxing Day.

Pat Hawthorn’s Black Knight is always a boat to be respected. Disqualified last year for breaking the start in her heat, it raced throughout the beat and fared well.

Red Line is another consistent Victorian boat and Peter Wade will drive it fearlessly. It should gain a place in the final with Vulture, John Lewis’s new hydroplane. As yet, Vulture is untried, but it has the potential to do well and before his accident John Lewis was one of Australia’s top drivers. Whether he has regained that split-second judgment needed by top racing drivers, only time will tell.

# 29th January 1973 'Boating' by Ray Laird