Defending Southern 80 winners Merc Force have withstood pressure from local Echuca team The Mistress during today’s ‘Bakers Blitz’, to take pole position for the Southern 80 Ski Racing Classic, which roars to life from 8:30am tomorrow.
Today’s result was a win for the out-of-towners, with NSW based skiers Jake Tegart and Kris Knights, as well as observer Kevin Boylan, combining with owner/driver Don Gulley to finish top dog in today’s appetiser.
Courtesy of their victory in the 2017 edition of the race, Merc Force had the luxury of being the first boat away in the punchy Bakers Blitz, which takes crews from 5 Mile boat ramp to Victoria Park in under seven minutes.
Starting first no doubt gave the winners their edge, however skier Tegart was quick to point out that it was only a slight benefit over the local crews in what will be a “chess game” of a race tomorrow.
“It was nice to be up front for once, we’ve never really led from the front and it was different to last year,” said Tegart.
“Down here, it isn’t about the clear water so much as it is getting an advantage over your competitors. A lot of the locals are really good skiers, with really good crews so getting ahead of them like a chess game to try and affect their game helps.
“Hopefully the hard work today will make it easier tomorrow.”
Second away from the start line was the Superman team, who had a challenge on their hands to extract all the speed they could from their large and powerful boat on the bends of the Murray River course. Merc Force’s time of 6 minutes 31 seconds stood tall as Superman crossed the line in 6 minutes, 45 seconds – a time good enough for fourth overall.
Two-time Bakers Blitz winners Stinga were third on course, but could only manage sixth on the line, while Sapphire started fourth and jumped up one place to third. Pigs Arsenal, who many tip as a dark horse for tomorrow’s main event, was away fifth and finished fifth.
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Finish Line action 🏁🚤🏁🚤 Saturday race results are in and the story of the day is Merc Force smashing the Bakers Blitz, 13 seconds ahead of its time last year. Watch this space for all race results… and get yourself to the Finish Line to not miss a minute of LIVE ski racing action! #southern80 #finishline #skiracing #murrayriver #echuca #moama
While all fell short of the Merc Force benchmark, one team clipping at their heels was defending two-time Bakers Blitz winners and 2016 Southern 80 champions The Mistress. In the final race before the boat, and skipper Leo Welch, retire from the sport the locals finished second, just seven seconds behind Merc Force.
“I think a lot of boats out there have the speed, it comes down to using it and getting the best out of it, the gap has closed,” Tegart continued when asked about the speed of The Mistress.
A recent rule change has also seen teams limited to 120mp/h, something that 26-year-old Tegart said was going to force teams to find different ways of making up time come the big dance.
“Previously you wouldn’t pay as much attention to the line a driver takes out of the corner, but now you do and you have to try a few different things to make sure you don’t break the speed rule.”
Tomorrow’s Southern 80 begins at 8:30am AEDT with Super Social, Juniors, Sub Juniors, 70mph and 60mph classes racing from Torrumbarry Boat Ramp to Victoria Park.
From 12:30pm it will be all about Superclass and other expert classes vying for overall honours.
Patrons are encouraged to attend the finish line where a big screen will display LIVE vision from the start line. Merchandise will be for sale, as well as an array of activities for kids, trade sites and static displays.
Those who prefer to find a spot on the river should be conscious of their own safety and remain out of the water during the race. Those that choose to swim will put the race at risk of being stopped by local authorities.
BAKERS BLITZ RESULTS
- Merc Force – 06:31.89
- The Mistress – 06:38.88
- Sapphire – 06:41.68
- Superman – 06:45.31
- Pigs Arsenal – 06:49.10
- Stinga 21S – 06:54.54