Top Gun on water…

As a photographer I feel it is important to be able to keep things fresh. After shooting cars for a number of years there are times where I become so bored shooting another generic car consisting of a blister kit, wing, hippari stretch tyres and a set of aftermarket gauges.  I realised last year that the key to not hitting photographers block is to make sure I change things up every once in a while so recently I indulged in some Grand Prix Hydroplane racing.

The hydros were running on Lake Taupo, right at the top end of the main street right next to the cafes and public grass verges.

There was no way you could miss the action, so before racing got underway I went for a quick look at the hydros out of the water.  Most forms of motorsport prefer to be firmly stuck to the surface that they race on, the more downforce the better, that is until you enter the world of Grand Prix Hydroplane racing.

Just as the name suggests, these machines are a clever mix of simultaneous downforce and lift allowing them to skim across the water at speeds of 297 kilometres per hour.

As the event was only 100m from the cafe end of the main street, all the ‘brunchers’ were being served a double shot of Grand Prix Hydroplane with their lattes.  The relaxing catchup on Saturday morning was blown to pieces as soon as the pilots fired up their 2500 horsepower engines. Hit play and enjoy Ken Lupton’s Lucas Oils idling in the pits.

Cafe people, meet hydroplane engine…just one of these makes enough noise to raise the dead so imagine six of them!

Once the engine fires and the hydro starts the skim across on the water it is time to wind the throttle open.

As the hydroplanes sithe up to the start line, a white flag signals race start and instantly the combined roar of 10,000 horsepower erupts as does a 200-foot-long, 50-foot-high roostertail of water behind each boat, as they all jostle for position going into the first turn.

A 2km lap happens in around 36.5 seconds, and a race only takes three to four minutes to complete.  Although in that time the hydros will drink 150 litres of methanol, that is almost a litre every second!

Driving one of these requires some seriously big….well ummm…

As the pilots climb into the hydroplanes it is like something you would expect to see on an aircraft carrier.  Full flameproof suits, fighter-pilot helmets and oxygen masks with the lines hanging off them clipped up over their face, while they clamber into the hydroplane via the small escape hatch on the top.  If the everything turns to s**t and the hydro flips landing upside down on the water, they have a sealed escape hatch on the floor.

It is said that 300kph on the water feels like 500 on the land, and driving a race craft that will happily take off like an aeroplane at any moment requires nerves of steel.

Clever driving and big stones to keep your foot on the loud pedal harder and for longer periods of time is a pretty good approach to racing.  

With the smell of methanol hanging in the air, the photographers block was nowhere to be seen!

It seems just like in photography, sometimes even the machinery hits a temporary snag and needs a bit of a look over.  Although just like Jack’s GP57 it wasn’t long before it was back at full speed again.

This weekend was the perfect refresher, and it seems that when motivation or inspiration is lacking you just need to put something different in front of your lens, just like this 2500 horsepower Ford Ranger…

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