Back-to-back hopes for crew

February 09, 2018

Merc Force observer Kevin Boylan and driver Don Gulley celebrate during the Southern 80. Photo Luke Hemer.

THE crew of Merc Force has its eyes on just one thing — going back to back.

Last year’s superclass winners started the 1500km journey from Brisbane to Echuca last Friday to give them as long as possible to be ready for the Southern 80.

Merc Force driver Don Gulley has been with the crew for five years and has competed for 12 consecutive years. He was totally focused on ensuring the dream became reality, Gulley said.

‘‘One hundred per cent we are hoping to go back to back, particularly being one away on the start line. If we win there (in the Baker’s Blitz), we’ll be in a good position,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re just going for the superclass this year, so the Baker’s Blitz (qualifier) and the superclass. We’re ready to race, we’re race fit, our gear is good,’’ he said.

Gulley said it won’t be a simple task to go two in a row and the crew was helped along the way last time.

‘‘At the end of the day, a race is a race, but you need a distinct lack of bad luck to win ... I think that’s racing, and last year was a case of never give up,’’ he said.

‘‘We were in the front and other competitors kind of knew that and were very courteous to us, so they did their best to let us go past in some cases. So it’s thanks to those blokes as well.’’

Gulley said last time out, Merc Force was dreaming of a podium finish, but did not expect a win.

‘‘We went out last year to reach the podium, we certainly wanted to win and in the latter stages we knew we could go high on the podium,’’ he said.

‘‘We knew we had a good time ... we didn’t know how high we were ... but it was definitely a surprise to get first.’’

Gulley said the Merc Force crew ‘‘always feels welcome’’ in Echuca and the Southern 80 was the ‘‘event of the year’’ — a whole weekend of racing where the whole town became involved.

‘‘I just hope it’s not too hot,’’ he said.

Gulley believes the boat is in good shape ahead of the races, although it has been tinkered with throughout the year.

‘‘You’re always doing something with it, always fine-tuning and that never stops,’’ he said.

‘‘But we haven’t changed anything major, just small bits and pieces.’’

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