Mercury’s dream left at start

February 13, 2017

Mercury Rising in the 2017 Southern 80.

Tongala's Mercury Rising team of Garry O'Connell (observer), Marley O'Connell (skier under 10s) and Shaun Tomkins (driver).

Mercury Rising was hoping to put its name into the history books at this year’s Southern 80.

Previously named Little Man, the team from Tongala had more than 20 years experience which has seen them hold a record at every river classic in Australia — except the Southern 80.

It was the ultimate goal for Garry McConnell who had been the team’s observer from the beginning.

He had formed a strong connection with driver Lance Tomkins who passed the baton to his son Shaun in 2003.

Shaun was set to drive on Sunday in the SMOC class and was looking forward to getting back into the driver’s seat after taking a year off the previous Southern 80 due to family commitments.

But the team never ended up completing the race, with the event red-flagged before they even had a chance to start.

They were scheduled to compete in two races, SMOC (Sunday) and under 10s (Saturday), and McConnell was confident ahead of Sunday’s race the team would win.

‘‘We’re not just expecting to win,’’ McConnell said.

‘‘This year we hope to break the record.’’

Skiers Andy Martin and Chris Maher were the experienced pair hoping to record the win behind Mercury Rising, Martin having raced with the team for 15 years and Maher racing behind the team in 2015.

They would have to wait until next year before attempting another shot at the record.

Until then McConnell, who had previously been a skier, got to enjoy watching his son Marley race in the tadpoles.

‘‘I’m just over the top with pride seeing him ski,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve been practicing almost every second day after only getting him up on one ski a month ago.

‘‘We gave him the best shot at doing well and hopefully he finished in the top half.’’

And not only did Marley finish in the top half — he came second in the under 10 boys class in a time of 12.52.

A smooth run on Saturday gave the team their only success at the weekend and what pleased McConnell most was passing Sapphire on the way.

Marley said he couldn’t wait to race again, but would have to wait and see what his Mum said.

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