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Australian Jet Boats Kick Off Superboat Season

Dual Australian Unlimited Superboat champion Phonsy Mullan has opened his 2015 championship account in perfect fashion in front of a record crowd under lights at MAX HIRE Park in the first Australian Formula Jet Sprint Association event of the season on March 7 in Temora, New South Wales, after dominating the opening round from first practice. Campaigning his twin-turbo 445 cubic-inch small block V8 powered RAMJET, the Victorian was the class of the field, holding out until the very last run of the night to set a blistering time of 38.954-seconds. That was more than a second and a half faster than Ted Sygidus and younger brother Darek who placed second and third in their Unlimited Superboat dubbed Frankenstein.

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Phonsy Mullan took the Unlimited-class checkered flag at the 2015 AFJSA season-opener in Temora. Photo courtesy/copyright AFJSA.

Although the pace of the 1400-hp RAMJET had the big Temora crowd on its feet, former 350-Class champion Mark Garlick and reigning AUS#2 Damian O’Leary thrilled the crowd with their battle at the front of the 400-Class field. The duo were rarely separated by more than a few tenths of a second, with the lead swapping all the way through the event until Garlick used his years of experience to take the final by a mere two tenths of a second.

The outstanding start to the 2015 season though came as a result of some serious commitment from the competitors who make up the Australian Formula Jet Sprint Association executive committee. Ted and Darek Sygidus like Brooke Avenell and Greg Mercier spent the weekend juggling driving duties with the operation and management of the event, a tough task in which they were assisted by former World Champion Slade Stanley and 400-Class regular Justin Roylance, both of whom were instrumental in the preparation of the Temora event.

“There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes away from an event,” said Ted Sygidus, the AFJSA President. “So to kick off the year with one of the biggest Temora crowd’s on record is justification to all the effort and hours that those people have put in—we couldn’t be happier with the result.”

While the size of the fleet for the season-open was modest by recent standards, no-one could deny the appeal of the V8 Superboats, with big crowds, lots of families and some exceptionally long lines during the dinner break looking for posters and autographs.

“To be honest, I’ve never seen that before,” Phonsy Mullan said with a smile. “It was great to see so many people, but the thing that got me was the kids. Not only were they genuinely interested, they also knew what the sport was about. I was really blown away.”

Action on track was equally impressive, although there was some attrition. Reigning world No. 2 competitor Greg Mercier was forced to retire his primary boat ACOL Racing after the late arrival of the engine from New Zealand saw him run out of time to be ready—a frustration for the team who had driven through the night from Melbourne.

Despite that, he was quickly offered the “B” drive in Brooke Avenell’s Hi-Tec Oils, but by Q3 both teams were out after a mechanical failure sidelined Mercier in his second run.

Former V8 Superboat President Daniel deVoigt was then forced to join fellow Queenslander Brad Marsden after his primary boat suffered a cracked hull thanks to contact with the bank in qualifying, whilst Superboat rookie Dave Moody from nearby Forbes was one of few boats to leave the water after jumping an island near the completion of his run in qualifying, fortunately without damage.

Ultimately, though, Mullan was too good for the field, topping the timesheets in every session. But despite being unchallenged at the top of the leaderboard, he didn’t come through the weekend unscathed.

“We suffered a broken jet unit in qualifying and whilst the boys tried their best to fix it, we battled through in the end,” he said. “Fortunately, we weren’t pushed too hard so I didn’t have to lean on it, but I did want to end the night on a high and give the crowd something to scream about, so we pushed extra hard in the final run despite the fast that Frankenstein was unable to make a start.”

“We suffered an engine issue just prior to the final,” runner-up Ted Sygidus explained. “The engine may have made a run, but it could also have done some seriously terminal damage, so we elected to sit out the final. In the end Phonsy was just too good, and sadly we lost Brooke and Greg Mercier which would really have spiced up the top three, but we’re starting to get on top of our ‘little’ 750-horsepower 410 cubic-inch V8 and look forward to getting our ‘big’ engine back in time for Cabarita in late May.”

In 400-Class the battle between Mark Garlick and Damian O’Leary intensified across the night. O’Leary held the early advantage in his ‘borrowed’ ride, while Garlick was looking to keep “Grumpy’s” leaderboard challenge alive while reigning national champion—son Jake— was absent with work commitments. Despite leading into the finals, it was Garlick who grabbed the top spot in the Top 12, before O’Leary struck back in the Top 6, Garlick though using his years of experience in the sport to dig deep and grab the top honours in the final despite a nasty moment mid lap.

“The old Tuff-Tak hull is perfectly suited to smooth water and we were up by a full second at the first spilt, but then I got crossed up as I came back across the wash and had to come out of the throttle, but we held on and made it by two tenths of a second,” Garlick said. “It was one of the toughest battles I’ve had, but I really enjoyed it. Damian drove brilliantly, even in a borrowed boat—I just hope we see him back for the next event, although that said, I wouldn’t mind a crack at the title, so I’m OK if he stays at home with the family.”

Third overall in 400-Class was Greg Harriman in the Pangaea Floors supported Mackraft, with long-time competitor Kevin Laugesen (spanet) a close fourth.

Editor’s Note: Sean Henshelwood is the media manager for the AFJSA. Speedonthewater.com will provide coverage via Henshelwood of the organization’s Superboat Championships series throughout the 2015 season. For a complete list of results from the Temora event, click here.

2015 Australian Superboat Championships

Rnd. #1— March 7, Temora (NSW)
Rnd. #2— May 23-24, Tweed Coast (NSW)
Rnd. #3— August 8-9, Tweed Coast (NSW)
Rnd .#4 —September 26, (venue TBA)
Rnd. #5— October 24, Temora (NSW)
Rnd. #6— November 21-22, Tweed Coast (NSW)

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