MUMBAI: John Donnelly and Kevin Burdock are two of the fastest men on water and hold the P1 Super Stock World Speed Record of 107.69 kmph. But they recall the video that brought them social media fame was that of their crash in June last year at the P1 Superstock powerboat race in Greenock, Scotland.
“The sea in Scotland can be tricky because there are waves coming from many different directions,” says Donnelly, the powerboat team’s pilot, in an interview in Mumbai on Tuesday evening ahead of the inaugural Nexa P1 Powerboat, Indian Grand Prix of the Seas.
“There were two of us going into the turn. Stuart and Sarah Cureton, who are also here, were in the other boat. I guess one of us misjudged the turn, slammed into each other and they were thrown off the boat.”
“That’s when it hits home that it can be a very dangerous place to be in,” chips in his navigator Burdock, who also owns their racing boat. “The most difficult thing was that we didn’t know they were okay. The rescue teams were on it straightaway, and they took them away. We were sinking in our boat and had to call for help. Our boat was really badly damaged but we fixed it overnight, went out again the next day and won the following race.”
“There’s always that element of risk, like in all motorsport,” says Donnelly. “That’s the adventure. Even after the accident, we couldn’t just quit.”
It helped that both the Englishmen having engineering backgrounds. While Donnelly was a marine engineer and used to work for Honda boat racing teams, Burdock is an F1 transmission engineer.
“I am the guy in the background who secretly wants to be in the F1 car,” quips Burdock, who is also a not-so-secret James Bond fan and has designed his own range of 007 memorabilia. The 49-year-old Burdock took to the sport in 2015 mainly because it was more democratic and didn’t need the big bucks of motor-racing in a car.
Donnelly and Budrock are the glamour team, in tennis parlance, the top seeds, for the Nexa P1 Powerboat, Indian Grand Prix of the Seas, which will take place on Marine Drive on the coming weekend. Though their engineering background helps them tinker with the boat, within rules obviously, the unique thing about the P1 series is that the panther boats, which will be used for this weekend’s race, and all the same and powered by the 250HP BRP Evinrude engine.
“We got at average speeds of 70 mph,” says Burdock. “Some people might say that’s not a lot, but on the water, it’s like driving at more than 100 mph, on a rocky road, in the rain without a windshield!” All this while racing other roaring boats and trying to avoid them.