After a four-month absence, the Australian V8 Superboats Championships will fire up a new season on March 4, with the opening round of 2017—the Colin Parish Memorial—under lights at the popular Lake Centenary facility in Temora. Leading the charge will be four-time Unlimited Superboat champion Phonsy Mullan, the Victorian looking to continue his record breaking winning-streak in the vibrant yellow RAMJET machine complete with the naturally-aspirated Chevrolet LS 527cubic-inch alloy V-8 with which he dominated the final two rounds of the 2016 season—interestingly, at Temora.
High-energy ditch-racing Down Under begins tomorrow. Photos courtesy/copyright Russell Puckeridge/Pureart Creative Images.
“I’ve had a really busy off-season with GM Motorsport, so haven’t had the time I was hoping to develop our next twin-turbo machine, so for the first half of the season at least we’ll run with the 527,” said Mullan. “I expect the competition will be pretty tough this year, but the plan is to be the first team to rack up five consecutive titles, so we’ll be going all out to make sure that happens.”
With a winning-record the envy of competitors all over the world, there’s no question Mullan starts favorite, but he won’t have it all his own way. Among the challengers who can take the fight to Mullan is Tremayne Jukes. The popular Victorian has been instrumental in the development of many championship winning packages across the years, but it’s wasn’t until part way through season 2016 that he had a boat capable of running at the front consistently.
“I’d always been looking after boats for other people, and if business commitments got in the way I’d sit out an event or two,” said Jukes. “But I thought last year, it was time to actually get in and have a proper go myself, so I picked up a package which I felt could do the job.”
That package was none other than the multi-race winning powerhouse of Dean Finch—Loose Canon. In a new guise as Maniac the twin-turbo Chevrolet V8 with awesome horsepower (think north 1000 hp) saw Jukes a regular on the Unlimited podium, and this year he has every chance of being a title contender, but he concedes that he’ll need plenty of laps under his belt to match the pace of Mullan.
Sadly the opening round at Temora will be without former Group A world champion Slade Stanley, the Wagga local still recovering from the incident which eliminated he and wife Vanessa at Temora’s 2016 final despite showing race winning pace—a busy off-season has meant that he too still needs time to effect repairs and update Hazardous for a return in the middle of the year.
Tony Giustozzi and Mick Carroll though will return, the two Adelaide locals are always crowd pleasers at Temora, Carroll still recognised by the crowd as holding the mantel of the two best crashes the locals have ever seen at Lake Centenary. Always front runners, and never scared to push the limits, Excalibur will once more be right in the battle for the podium, and are every chance to unseat Mullan for the top spot.
Well-known veteran racers as well as last year’s rookies are returning to the 2017 Australian V8 Superboats Championships series.
Dual Australian Unlimited champion Daryl Hutton is another who will be in the mix, the New Zealander another driver who is a great entertainer, and always on the limit, while Victorian brothers Ted and Darek Sygidus too are expected to be quick with the two former Australian Formula Jet Sprint Association [AFJSA] committee members stepping down to focus on their racing. With two V8 Superboat titles between them, and countless podiums, they could be the dark horses in the field.
The talent though doesn’t end there.. Jeremy Kincaid will be back in his 302ci supercharged Ford, the Victorian doing impressive things last season to be right in the podium mix, whilst Canberra’s Paul Burgess and Queensland’s Daniel deVoigt also showed impressive pace last year.
The local fans will have plenty to cheer about with the return of Scott Krause in Soak’n Fused. But wait, there’s more.
Glenn “Spider” Roberts is another who will make a return, with his big-block V-8-powered Blown Budget but this time around he will have company, with reigning Unlimited Superboat world No. 3 and New Zealand Rookie of the Year Aaron Hansen joining him as B team, the New Zealander signaling that he will also complete the full season in the Australian Championships.
In the 400-Class there is also likely to be plenty of fireworks, with 2016 champion Brett Thornton likely to have lots of competition to contend with.
Former rival Brooke Lucas has stepped down for season 2017, but with the retirement of one former champion comes the return of another, with multiple V8 Superboat title holder Mark Garlick returning in Grumpy. The 2015 400-Class champion sat out much of the last 12-months after a relatively strong showing in the world championships in New Zealand, the Queenslander admitting that the experience had given him some great insight on how to improve his performances, signaling some tough battles for the top of the Group A standings.
Justin Roylance is another who is expected to challenge for the top spot in 2017, the boy from Forbes has been a regular contender over recent years, but has suffered at times from mechanical issues. With a brand new JRE powerplant and an all-new JRE hull for season 2017, Roylance and Outlaw Team Spitfire could be serious title contenders.
Throw in Queenslander Paul Kelly who is looking to contest the full program in 2017, Ben Hathway in the ex-True Blue Racing Sprintec that delivered multiple championship wins to Brooke Avenell, Victorian Jody Ely and Pangaea Floors pilot Greg Harriman, and you have a strong field of drivers that will be sure to keep fans on the edge of their seats.
A strong group of returning rookies is returning and looking to build on their maiden events in 2016, while fans will watch with interest the resurgent 350-Class which has now been combined with the new LS V-8 class, a structure developed around cost-controlled budgets to keep racing affordable at an introductory level.
For the season opener, three teams are entered in the new category with Ivan Safranek (Katana) doing battle with Graham and Kyle Reynolds who will share driving duties in RedRum/Spider Racing.
For new AFJSA President Grant Bourke, the start of the 2017 season will see a welcome return to racing. “There is always plenty of action in the first round after a long break. It takes a while for the drivers to get their heads back into the game after the off season,” he said.