World Hovercraft Championship 2008 in Stockholm, Sweden

Camracing is 4th in the world!

Our first major international event was a success in spite stiff competition and exploding engines… Initially our craft, number 37, qualified 4th on the grid for the first race and took four 3rd places out of the six races. The course was mostly water with some very long straights on the lake and a small, technical land section. The lake was next to a hill which is where ski jumping competitions take place in the winter- so we were racing on a ski resort! In world championship events there are 6 races and the winner is whoever has the most points from all of the races; 25points for 1st, 20 for second, 16 for third and so on. For laptimes and pointstables go to Keith Oakley was broadcasting results, pictures and commentary live over the internet during the event. Before we travelled to Sweden a few mods were carried out on the craft- an extra fuel tank was added at the front to deal with the longer course and to put some more weight up the front of the craft and some more non slip tape and foam was added in the cockpit for more comfortable (and safe) driving…


In practice before time trials i did one lap of the course going very conservatively and on the second lap the engine cut out on the water, after being towed back to land without sinking… i managed to sort out the minor electrical problem, however i missed the rest of practice. This meant i had to practice during the time trial period when i should have been trying for my fastest time to get onto the grid. In spite of this i managed to get 4th place on the grid for the first race posting a 91.3 second laptime. There were 4 craft within 2 seconds of my time- there was going to be some good racing. Another plus of my time trials was that i didnt go swimming at all, in all about 4 of my competitors had gone swimming multiple times because of the conditions- waves and unpredictable winds make some craft very difficult to control at speed…


Race 1- I was gunning my engine on the front row of the grid ready for a speedy getaway, the low end acceleration is one of my craft’s stronger areas, the flag was waved and i dawdled of at a third power! A problem with the engine that we thought we had resolved had re-surfaced again- i was last by this point as i came slowly upto the first buoy. Then randomly the engine revved upto half power as i went round the corner and just after i had been lapped by first and second places the craft picked up to full power and we were off proper, i kept in front of third place (albeit a lap behind him) and started taking back some positions. But two laps later as i was slowing down behind some craft on the twisty land section my engine bogged down and eventually died completely. I tried to start again but it was seized solid, i was out of the race. In the pits we found lots of bits of steel on top of the pistons and no rollers inside the big-end bearings! Apparently a failing big end bearing explained the seemingly random coming and going of the engine that we experienced- sometimes all of the rollers were just sitting in the wrong places which caused so much friction that the engine couldn’t run properly, and when they fell back into place it would go. We spent the afternoon installing the spare engine which meant we missed the second race, thanks to Rick and Dave for helping get the thing going again. It could have been a help not going out in the second race as three craft (including 2nd and 3rd) were put out of the race after being thrown into the air by the wake from a massive gin palace that powered past the race area!


I was ready for race 3 after going out in practice the craft felt good with the new engine. I started from near the back of the grid since i had missed the previous race but by the second lap i was fourth and closing in on Tony in third place. I managed to take him on the large water straight and had no chance of reaching 1st and 2nd who were miles away in this race. Throughout the rest of the race i was on average about 3-seconds faster than fourth place and finished in a comfortable third place.

Race 4 was similar to race 3 apart from the changing wind which was now coming toward land making the craft feel very flighty on the outgoing water straight… After fighting through the rear of the grid i had to try and take Tony again- i tried to out-drag him down the water-straight and came to the corner buoy about level but he didnt notice i was there and there was no room to get through! I had to go straight over the buoy which was slightly bigger than a space hopper- it launched me into the air and i splashed down nose down, i didnt feel like it had caused too much of a problem but spectators on land were convinced i was going to submarine the craft completely! I managed to get past Tony on the next lap and finished 3rd again.


In race 5 i got a cleaner run off the grid and came got into 3rd place on the first lap and finished in that position. By now my laptimes were around the 80 second mark, and my average laptime was only a few seconds slower than 1st and 2nd places… My fastest lap on the course was set in this race at 78.4 seconds.

For the final race i was back on the front row of the grid in fourth place, it was all or nothing in this race; if i beat Tony i would get 3rd place overall and vica versa, and we both knew it… The tension was not eased when the start was held up, it gets hot standing around in race kit and the waiting isn’t great for your nerves! Also the conditions had worsened- there was a gusting wind and the water was fairly choppy. Finally the 2-minute board was shown and we started our engines and got ready, at the wave of the flag the first four were very close along the opening straight, i couldn’t seem to make any ground on Tony! We raced in a group nose to tail for the next lap but as we came to the last buoy before the land section 1st place, Dave, ploughed in to the left and we all overtook him putting him in fourth, but still hot on my tail.


The conditions were making some of the corners quite difficult and i wasn’t driving as well as i had been previously; the next lap i took i slightly wide line around the shicane on the land and Dave tried to get through, but there wasn’t enough room and his rear slammed round into my front causing me to spin off into the catch netting. I jumped out the the craft which id kept running and turned it round, got back in, lanyard on and off i went again, i thought i would be out of the race now but overtook Dave again not far after. I could see Tony at the end of the straight so i put my foot down. A few laps later i saw Dave stopped on the land, he had damaged his rudders when he tried to take me on the shicane. In the end i came in third behind Tony, there was no way i could have caught him, later i found out that he had done some mods on his craft for the last race that were all or nothing- he had compromised his lift to get some more thrust out of the craft which had definitely worked, but meant he could only drive at 100% or nothing! If i had not have been knocked off the course the story could have been different- my laptimes were very similar to Tony’s and i might have been able to get past him if i was still close to him… However im still very happy how it worked out- we took 4th place in a new, unproven craft in spite of not finishing 2 out of the six races, result!

Posted in: Racing Diary on August 18th by admin

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