Jackie Hunt doesn’t trust many people to take the helm of her P1 SuperSport World Championship winning powerboat, but when Darren Turner, driver for the SEAT Sport UK British Touring Car team, arrived at Southampton yesterday (Wednesday 15th August) along with a Channel 4 film crew, Jackie handed over the steering wheel while Darren took it for a spin on the Solent.
"It was absolutely fantastic and something I’ll never forget! I’ve heard that Jackie doesn’t let many people drive the boat so it was a great honor that she let me have a go," enthused Darren, the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours GT1 class winner, following his first powerboating experience. "Jumping across the waves with the spray coming over, you can’t get much better than that."
Comparing the experience to that of car racing, Darren explained, "The steering is more remote than in a car, it’s about anticipating what’s coming up and getting the balance of the boat right. The speed was very impressive. Eighty or ninety miles an hour on land doesn’t feel that fast but on choppy water it is amazing. When you look ahead you don’t feel like you’re travelling very fast because there is such an expanse of water, but when you look to the side and the land flashing by, only then do you have a true sense of speed."
"It’s also a lot more physical than I was expecting," Darren continued. "It’s not so much the G-forces that you get in a racing car - although you can really feel the power from those two massive 525hp engines - it’s more the pounding you get from the waves. I guess it’s a lot more like rallying than racing in that respect."
Jackie, who took the throttles while Darren was driving, was suitably impressed with his performance, "After a couple of minutes I could see that Darren was really enjoying it so I didn’t hold back at all. You can tell he’s a racing driver, he’s got a natural feel for anything with an engine and his turning was very smooth. Darren said that driving a British Touring Car is all about finesse, and it’s very much like that in a P1 boat - probably more so. I’d be quite worried if he was racing against us, I think he’d be tough competition!"
With talks of a return test-drive, Darren was equally full of praise for Hunt, "Jackie would be very good in a racing car; she possesses the basic skills and has a thorough mechanical understanding, she’d take to car racing like a duck to water!"
It seems that Johnny Herbert, who test-drove P1 Evolution boat Wettpunkt.com on Lake Comolast week, may have competition if he races in the P1 British Grand Prix of the Sea at Cowesnext weekend. When told of his fellow racing driver’s potential wildcard entry, Darren responded, "I’d love to come back and race in Powerboat P1, the boats are awesome! If Johnny is going racing, I’ll certainly give him a run for his money!"
The test was filmed for a new Channel 4 series entitled Racing Rivals which goes behind-the-scenes of the 2007 BTCC. The six-part 30 minutes series will be broadcast every Sunday morning from 7th October onwards.