WITH less than a month until the great race, the Superclass field is set for the 2018 Southern 80.
Missing is a local favourite — Jessica Pearse’s 99 Psycho Clowns entry will not run after mechanical issues arose after the world championships in America.
Leading the boats away in the Bakers’ Blitz will be reigning champion and surging powerhouse Merc Force, which took out last year’s race by eight seconds.
It will renew its rivalry with 2017 runner-up and Echuca local team The Mistress, the 2016 winner searching for another race win this time towing skiers Dylan Stevenson and Cameron Mitchell.
Darren McGuire-driven Superman returns after a fourth placing last year, as does Sapphire, which failed to finish the 2017 event.
The most interesting of the additions to the Superclass field is Pigs Arsenal, which took out Superclass in November’s Barrie Beehag at least in part aided by Merc Force’s mechanical failure.
Stinga also returns to the field after missing the 2017 edition. It ran fifth in 2016, nearly two minutes back from The Mistress.
But the most notable absentee is Echuca’s Pearse. The 99 Psycho Clowns driver said the boat’s engine was damaged at the world championships and wouldn’t be ready for February 11.
‘‘Our boat is broken and it needs a very expensive rebuild. It just won’t be ready in time for the Southern 80,’’ she said.
‘‘We ran in October at the world titles and it was really fast racing. We set up our boat more for rough racing and there was a lot of weight in our boat.
‘‘Once we were on the water we realised it was very fast, and that extra weight put a lot of stress on the engine.’’
Mechanics informed the team the engine had valve damage and metal in the oil.
‘‘Fixing it will be a very expensive exercise and we just didn’t have the time or the funds, and we didn’t want to rush. We want the engine fixed thoroughly and unfortunately we’ll have to give this year a miss,’’ she said.
While out for the rest of the season, Pearse will drive Ben Pettingill in the race, as she did in 2017 when Pettingill became the first blind skier to compete in an event on Southern 80 weekend.
‘‘We’re still running the outboard entry towing Ben,’’ Pearse said.
‘‘We’re very excited with him doing the full course this year after only doing the 20-kilometre course in the disabled class last year. That will be a challenge to get through the 80 kilometres without any issues.’’
When back in action, Pearse said the team would be looking to get back to the world championships and improve on its second-placing from 2017.