THE roar of highly tuned engines and the smell of aviation fuel will permeate the air around Grafton this weekend when the high octane, extreme action Australian Formula Powerboat GP hits the mighty Clarence River tomorrow.
The second event of the four-round national series will see competitors from as far a field as Malaysia and Townsville descend on the Clarence.
Competition will be hot in eight classes covering everything from eight year olds in boats powered by six-horsepower outboards, to 250kmh-plus formula-one rockets.
There will be excitement for the whole family when spray flies from explosive starts and high-speed turns executed by the brave pilots of these low-flying missiles.
Series vice-president and formula one powerboat driver Gavin Simmons said driving the boats was a massive adrenaline rush.
“Going forward you don't get as much force on your body as in an open-cockpit type boat,” he said.
“It's the corners that get to you.
“You pull more than three Gs into a corner so you have to be as fit as you can be.”
Mr Simmons, who will arrive in Grafton today with a 12-strong entourage – including his trailer driver, mechanics, pit crew and family – said he had his own special fitness regime.
“I have got three kids so that keeps me as fit as I can be and I eat well,” he said.
Mr Simmons said his Burgess hull, Crown Hotel-sponsored formula one boat put out 380 horsepower from a V6, 2.5-litre Mercury outboard and should hit speeds of up to 220kmh on the triangular Clarence River course.
“We will have shorter straights, 600-700-metre straights, on a triangular course enabling better views for the spectators,” he said.
Of all the venues across the nation Mr Simmons has competed at, he said the Clarence River at Grafton was a favourite for most competitors.
“The Grafton course and the Sydney regatta centre are some of the more spectator-friendly racing venues. There's no point racing if no one can see what you are doing,” he said.
The public can meet and greet with the competitors this afternoon at the Crown Hotel from 4.30pm.
Entry for spectators to Grafton's Memorial Park will be free for children and $5 for adults on Saturday and Sunday from 9am.
The driver-run Formula Powerboat series was lured to Grafton by the Clarence Valley Council as part of its Clarence River Way Masterplan.