Warwick Lupton two times world GP Hydroplane champion.
Words by Denise Preece
Images by Jeremy Ward (Shot 360)
POWER & PASSION
Power & Passion are two words that sum up two time UIM GP World Champion Warwick Lupton. Initially only wanted a boat to use for water- skiing, he got hooked on the sport after a friend tricked him into a race meet. 35 plus years later and Warwick still loves the thrill and the horsepower of hydroplane racing.
To rate Warwick’s powerboat racing career as successful would be an understatement. Starting in an 18ft racing runabout he was soon to be tricked a second time when he purchased his first GP hydroplane, Continental Airlines from the late Vinnie De Buck.
The NZGP Hydroplane Drivers Club bought the Canadian out to race in New Zealand, and the deal was to race the boat in the then Epiglass Series, before selling the boat to a New Zealand team. This was to be the start of Annihilator 007 Hydroplane racing. Warwick campaigned the boat in New Zealand and Australia for several years with much success.
In 2002 New Zealand hosted the UIM World Grand Prix Hydroplane Championship and Warwick decided it was time to build a new Staudacher hydro. The boat was only finished days before the event started at Lake Karapiro, so testing time was limited. The new Annihilator 007 had graphics that looked like a Tiger, and like a magnet the boat attracted the kids. Warwick still today supports, encourages and sponsors, youth to get into the sport.
In 2001 Warwick lead a Kiwi team to Paynesville in Australia for the EC Griffith Cup. The visit to Australia was an outstanding success with Warwick winning the EC Griffith Cup, AE Baker Australasian Hydroplane Championship and the Paynesville Gold Cup.
Add those to multiple Masport Cup wins, five times NZ Grand Prix Champion, and then his first UIM World Champion title in 2006 at Lake Karapiro, Cambridge and it’s fair to say that the man had arrived.
However, despite all the success in the Staudacher, he felt it was time for a new boat and this time it would be radically different to anything else, but a design that would give him an edge. The design was from Kiwi, Malcolm Jamieson and not only was the three pointer concept a departure from the traditional design, it would be lighter than other boats in the same class, have less horsepower but just as quick as everyone else.
In 2010 with the new Annihilator 007, Warwick was to win his second World title this time in Yarrawonga, Australia. Still convinced he could get more speed, they continued to make changes to the boat.
In 2015 at Lake Dunstan in Cromwell, Warwick had the boat running the quickest we had seen the boat go. It seemed the changes had all worked, until on the fourth and final lap while in the lead, he hit a wave, which lifted the boat up, became airborne and somersaulted. The boat landed upright but snapped in half when it landed. Warwick walked away with a sore back and a few bruises and credited that to the safety gear doing its job. The boat was easily repaired and Warwick is still racing it today.
VALLEYFIELD OR BUST
Every Grand Prix Hydroplane Drivers dream is to compete in Canada and win the Grand Prix title in Valleyfield. A few years ago a team of Kiwis went to watch a few rounds of the HRL series and purchased a couple of the local boats. Today they are regulars in the the Hydro Thunder series, running as Lady Liz and Penrite Repco.
In 2018 Warwick had the opportunity to lease a boat to compete in the HRL series and his son Jack ran his first season there. Jack was to cross the line first in the final of the Grand Prix title in Valleyfield but was later penalised for jumping the line and relegated to third place. 2019 saw both Ken and Jack competed in several rounds of the HRL series.
After the Lupton family competing in the HRL series it was decided to make a few changes to the GP rules in New Zealand to more align with the international competition.
The maximum 510 cuin engine limit was changed to the HRL rule of 468 cuin. In an attempt to bring more reliability and cost savings to the sport. Warwick has worked hard to grow the grand prix hydroplane class changing the engine specs has certainly achieved this. There are now more drivers competing in this class than ever and it looks probable that there will be 2 or 3 more next season. The problem we have now is the demand for getting boats.
Warwick is dedicated to all the teams, and helps them all with his advice and expertise. The future for Grand Prix Hydroplane racing here in New Zealand is strong thanks to the huge effort Warwick has put into the sport. With sons Ken and Jack both competing, it has become very much a family affair. Warwick says he is on his way out of driving hydroplanes one would suggest never under estimate this elder statesman of Grand Prix Hydroplane racing, there is plenty more years left yet.