Time Machine: 1978 New Zealand Marathon

Gale Banks turbocharged engines completely dominated the 1978 edition of the New Zealand Citizen Jet Boat Marathon by powering boats that finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th. Winning the grueling 11-day event, Reg Benton of New Zealand made this the second consecutive marathon win for him in just months. He also won Canada’s Great Smokey Marathon. Benton’s margin of victory in the grueling 1000-kilometer event was a staggering one full hour.

Powering his jet boat was a 454 cubic inch, twin turbocharged Gale Banks Chevrolet engine. Finishing behind Benton, the top five were as follows: 2nd, Howard Smith with a 350 cubic inch Gale Banks turbo engine; 3rd, Alan Johnson with a 454 cubic inch Gale Banks turbo engine; 4th, Max MacKenzie with a 496 naturally aspirated engine and 5th, Selwyn Paynter with a 350 cubic inch Gale Banks turbo engine. Every boat in the top five used a Hamilton jet. 

Gale Banks powered jet boats won the world championship 5 years in a row, 1976-80, solidifying his place in boat racing history.

The New Zealand Marathon was the third major international event won by a Gale Banks turbocharged engine in a time span of three months. Benton’s wins in Canada and New Zealand accounted for two, with a Mr. John Westland winning his class in the Rio Balsas race in Mexico also using a Banks twin turbo marine engine. “Since this trio of races constitutes all of the recognized international river racing marathons,” said Gale Banks at the time, “it seems reasonably safe to call our turbocharged engines the World Champions of river marathon racing.”