MERC Force has had enough of being the bridesmaid of the Southern 80.
The team has come runner-up the previous two years and is eager to finally make it a first place finish in 2017.
And while any race win is important, driver Don Gulley said there were definitely some which stood out more than others.
The team were outright winners at this season’s Sydney bridge to bridge, a race Gulley said was ‘‘iconic’’ in the ski racing industry.
‘‘It’s one you aspire to have in your back pocket,’’ he said.
‘‘The Southern 80 is another one of those and one we’re very excited about this year.
‘‘The field has opened up and it’ll be interesting to see who takes it out — anyone can win it.’’
Gulley added they will need to put their best foot forward to take it out and with the original team back on deck this season he was confident of finally finishing in first.
‘‘Coming so close in other years definitely makes you want it even more,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve got Kristofer Knights back skiing for us and he’s in good form this season.’’
Knights was out most of the 2015/16 season after doing a cruciate ligament during a touch football game.
But he is back with a vengeance, skiing incredibly well to win the bridge to bridge and hoped to add another win at the Southern 80 alongside Jake Tegart as the other skier.
Kevin Boylan will be observing once again and Gulley said consistency has played a key part in the team’s success.
‘‘We’ve been racing as a team for a few years now,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a quick race and you need to be able to understand your skiers’ body signals because they don’t always have the time to get out hand signals,’’ he laughed.
The team had spent a fair bit of time on the water this season attending a number of world selection races throughout the country.
‘‘We’re doing as much as we can on the water and the guys have been hitting the gym pretty hard in their own personal training,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s important to get time training on and off the water, but mainly it’s about experience.
‘‘The more you race, the more you learn and we’ve raced there (the Southern 80) a few times now so hopefully we’ve picked up a few clues along the way to give us a better time this year.’’
Merc Force hasn’t had much time on the Murray river with Gulley based in Brisbane and two other team members in Sydney.
Gulley said the team would do a couple of starting laps ahead of the race to get a look at the course this year.
‘‘It won’t be easy for us to come and beat the local teams, but that’s our plan,’’ he said.