Life in the passenger seat can be a bit boring; sometimes you’ve got to take control!

Benj Wilkinson is late, almost an hour late. The rest of his mates — a group of eight — have been milling around waiting for him at the brand-new Colin Dale Park, located near Auckland Airport. This is the home of New Zealand’s all-new Superthriller Jetsprint, a unique adrenaline speed-buzz with a twist: you turn up with your mates and get behind the wheel.

There are other purpose-built lake courses for jet-sprint boats in New Zealand, but they have always been strictly for competitive racing teams with their own high-powered boats. Superthriller changes all that, letting almost anyone 13 years or older take control of one of Superthriller’s jet-sprint boats — 100hp of aquatic power — and experience thrashing it around its purpose-built lake course. Just like the pros, there is only one boat on the course at a time.

Benj is smiling and confident on arrival, and fills out the required safety paperwork, as the anticipation builds with the others. Benj’s got every right to be a little cocky; for the past three years, he has competed in the D1NZ Drifting Championship Series, the elite national competition for Kiwi drift racers. After years of practice and the D1NZ experience, he knows how to manage a vehicle to lock into aggressive, fast, controlled corners better than most people in the country. With jet-sprint basically the aquatic equivalent of on-land drifting, he’s surely got to be the favourite heading into today’s competition!?

Benj might be the odds-on favourite, but his mate Tyler isn’t so sure. Tyler reckons that Joe, the head mechanic for Benj’s drift team, might be the dark horse and do the fastest lap today.

“Joe used to be a drag racer; I reckon he might have this!” quips Tyler.

Tyler runs a tyre business, and his employee Elvis has come along too. Both these guys are a lot lighter than the other, much bigger units — perhaps this will be an advantage for them?

Finally, everyone gathers on the lakefront deck, putting on their life jackets as Superthriller’s Nick Greenslade gives the detailed safety briefing. Then they head out for their initial practice lap.

“Safety is absolutely key for us,” Nick explains later. “We’re licensed to operate by Maritime New Zealand, who also perform regular safety audits. Because most clients have never driven a boat or jet ski before, and are doing this for the first time, safety is a big focus and key to having a great time.”

This caution is balanced by some serious grunt. Purpose-designed and built in New Zealand for the general public to enjoy, the Superthriller Jetsprint boats are quick and agile, balanced to minimize the risk of spinning out while providing enough horsepower and torque to deliver a serious adrenaline rush for everyone.

Nick talks the group through today’s ‘Whiskey’ circuit (one of two courses on the lake); the watch points on the course for everyone to keep an eye on; and, finally the basics of operating the boats. The group team up in twos, nervously deciding who gets to drive first as the other navigates. (If you are 13, there has to be another adult aged 18 or over in the boat with you.)

Everyone gets one practice lap, then three chances with ‘official’ timed laps to challenge each other — and maybe even have a crack at the all-time leader board.

They each venture out for their practice lap, which looks exactly like that: surging then slowing as they edge cautiously around the course, trying to hit the right markers while establishing the responsiveness of the accelerator. It presents quite a challenge, which adds to the thrill for everyone.

Once everyone thinks they’ve got the idea, Nick takes the wheel, showing everyone how it’s done through the Whiskey course. He tears through it — it’s obvious that he’s done this a few times before — sending plumes of sideways spray into the turns and really putting the foot down on the straights. Nick’s demo lap is a touch under 23 seconds, but a bit off his fastest lap of 22.17 — the second-fastest time on the Whiskey circuit ever.

“The average person’s first time for a lap is about 26 seconds,” Nick tells us after he gets back in.

Now, it is time to race. Nick engages the precision Tag Heuer timing technology and sets up to record everyone. One by one, they head out and the buzz of the day really starts to kick off. As the guys start going as hard as they dare, the response of the first few is almost identical: massive smiles, laughter, and “Wow, that was awesome!” as they head back from the lake. No one has done this before.

All eyes are on the dark horse, Joe, as he gets out. He gets back from his three laps grinning but has only managed a best of 26.05 seconds, which doesn’t seem like it will be enough.

It’s the turn of Benj’s sister, Nikki, next. She has teamed up with friend Olive in an all-girl boat. Nikki does really well; her best time is 25.15 seconds. Chris is fresh from a massive night; not only does he get punished with three penalties for missing the course markers, but he can only manage a sluggish 29.42 seconds. Tyler is next; his 24.51 seconds is impressive. Then Elvis quietly gets around and blows everyone away with a very sharp 23.62 seconds.

All the pressure is on now; can drifter Benj top this? Out he goes, and, right up, he’s really thrashing the boat as if he’s done this before. It’s going to be close. Benj comes away with a fastest lap of 23.81 seconds, a shade slower than the surprise king of the afternoon, Elvis.

At the end, everyone is fizzing.: “Awesome, just awesome;” “I really loved that — a great adrenaline kick;” “Definitely going to do that again.”

It is a unanimous thumbs up from everyone, and Benj sums it all up as “a really fantastic thing to do with a group of your mates”.

Nick tells me that Superthriller is increasingly popular as the perfect team-building exercise for businesses of all sizes, and for all staff, male or female.

A big thanks to Nick and the team at Superthriller for letting us check it out. Bookings essential — minimum two people. To organize your outing or company event, call Nick on 0800 JETSPRINT (0800 538 777) or visit superthriller.co.nz.

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