TR has taken out the iconic Southern 80 ski race on the mighty Murray River, smashing the four-year-old race record in the process with a winning time of 29mins 22.28 seconds.
Racing over the 80km, 126 bend course from Torrumbarry to Vic Park in Echuca, TR beat home 117 other boats to win the grand race’s 50th edition, slicing 21 seconds off the record set by Hellrazor in 2015.
Fellow superclass boat Arkham Asylum was brilliant in defeat, posting a time of 29:56.74 to become just the third boat in the race’s famed history to dip under the magical 30 minute mark.
Third home was 2016 Southern 80 winner The Mistress in 30:11.93, who claimed the unlimited inboard expert class, but the story was all about TR and the crew of driver Ian Tricker, observer Nathan Miller and skiers Reece Simmonds and Raymond Ball.
The victory for Tricker comes 20 years after the first and only other time he won the race, when he was behind the wheel of Showdown in 1999, and the veteran driver was understandably emotional about the win and the time.
“It’s hard you know, it’s just so emotionally draining,” Tricker said, fighting back tears.
“(Arkham Asylum driver Brett Spits) Spitsy will know, he did it today. Mark Cranny did it four years ago. I was here that day when Mark did that and I said to him then ‘I don’t know how you are able to keep your focus that hard, that much for 30 minutes’ and I feared that I wasn’t able to do that.
“That was my biggest fear going into this race today.”
Tricker paid tribute to the TR team’s support crew of partners, children and friends but saved a special word for his teammates on the water.
“The skiers know how I feel about them. These guys skied the house down yesterday and made up for some terrible mistakes I made, but I think they’ll agree their driver was back today. I’d like to think so.
“Nathan (Miller) stepped right up to the plate today and if it wasn’t for him I would have a made a mistake and it would have been costly.”
Ball said the team had a special bond that included all of their families.
“This one’s very special to me,” Ball said.
“Not only is it my first, but these guys picked me up when I was down and out. I had a pretty rough season last season and to come back and be able to do this with these guys, it’s such a tight knit team.
“It’s just awesome. It’s special in every way.”
And in an ominous sign for their rivals Tricker said his team had more to give.
“In the back end, in the last ten minutes you can make some mistakes that can be costly and believe it or not I learnt some stuff today we left a bit of time out there today, a little bit.”
Finishing behind The Mistress in the unlimited inboard and in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively were Stinga 21S (31:48.85), Tempered (32:28.41) and Stalker (32:33.32).
The women’s expert class was taken out by Merc Force – a team of very experienced individuals that have come together this year – a tantalising 0.26 seconds shy of the class record.
The crew of driver Tim Pickford, observer Brian Griffin and skiers Maddison Boyer and Chelsea Blight, in her 22nd Southern 80, posted a time of 33:16.05 to finish eighth amongst all boats – a remarkable feat.
Boyer said the team was happy to lay down a very strong performance, considering how tough the Southern 80 can be.
“We’re happy to come away with a clean run with the boys and to have a time that’s comparable (to the record),” Boyer said.
“I know this race is very hard to get a good time on the board so you never know what it’s going to come out like, so just really stoked to have a clean run.”
The quickest unlimited outboard boat was 2 Extreme, the quartet of Anthony McEnnally (driver), Stewart Smith (observer) and skiers Ashley Herwin and Troy Hood clocking 36:36.51 – the 22nd quickest time overall – to take their class. McEnnally, Smith and Herwin were part of the winning team in the class last season.
In other classes:
- Illusion Down Under won the unlimited inboard naturally aspirated expert
- Superbad proved too good in the sportsmans expert
- Still Crazy took out the 8L expert
- BulletProof was the victor in the 6L expert
- the MOC expert division went to Johnson Racing
- SMOC expert was won by Express Lab
- The Curse took out the stock 6L expert
- Team 26 came away with the F2 expert title
- Monopoly was the best in the 5.2L & 6 cylinder expert
- Ghostrider proved triumphant in the under 18 boy’s expert
- While Hedake won the corresponding girl’s event
FULL RESULTS FROM THE SOUTHERN 80 CAN BE FOUND HERE
Attention now turns to the Robinvale / Euston ski race on the Murray on March 9-10.
*Results are still provisional