The 2017 Australian V8 Superboat Championships will come all the way down to the wire at the Tweed Coast Jet Sprint Club on October 29 thanks to another epic round of competition last weekend at Temora, New South Wales, where the title contenders failed to score enough points to put the season to rest ahead of the final event.
With Weapon the favorite in 400 Class, a tough round in Temora last weekend sets up a battle for the final race of the season. Photos courtesy/copyright Russell Puckeridge/Pureart Creative Images.
Reigning title-holder Phonsy Mullan has already declared himself a five-time Unlimited Superboat champion after claiming his second win of the season after title rival Tremayne Jukes stumbled in the second final with a rare navigational error. Mullan holds the advantage heading back to Cabarita, but should he for any reason falter and Jukes return to victory, it could still be the Maniac pilot who claims the crown.
In the 400-Class, a return to his primary machine which was reinstated after a complete engine overhaul, saw Ben Hathaway once again top the podium with his second win of the season to extend his championship points lead, but the consistency of reigning champion Brett Thornton has the Queenslander in front on adjusted points which is where the calculators will be working overtime at Cabarita.
For Hathaway to claim the title—like Jukes—he will have to rely on some kind of setback for his rival, and if V8 Superboats has shown one thing in season 2017, it’s that anything is possible.
The season long Unlimited Superboat title-battle continued immediately into the opening round of qualifying with Phonsy Mullan and Tremayne Jukes separated by just a tenth of a second—in the reigning champions favour. Jukes repaid the favour in Q2 by a similar margin (48.754 to 48.911), the remainder of the field virtually light years away, Glenn Roberts an impressive third, but at just a 51.613.
Mayhem then ensued at Lake Centenary with first an electrical glitch which took out electronics at the circuit, before a freak gust of wind tore down many of the team’s tents, forcing a lengthy break to settle things down again, the upshot of which was the elimination of one round of qualifying.
Mullan continued his impressive pace to top the times again in the final qualifier with a 48.690, Jukes dropping back to a 49.271 with round five winner Tony Giustozzi now third quickest with a 51.180 from Ted Sygidus and Giustozzi’s team-mate Mick Carroll.
Ultimately Mullan would qualify P1 in RAMJET ahead of Jukes, Giustozzi, Roberts, Ted Sygidus, Mick Carroll and Darek Sygidus.
Mullan continued his impressive pace to top the times again in the final qualifier.
While the title contenders were the main focus of the big Temora crowd, there was also a lot of anticipation for the returning Natwel Racing machine of Jamie and Cheryl Welch, the West Australian team making their 2017 season debut with an all-new US-built 1600-hp twin-turbo 427LSX V8, although their return wasn’t quite going according to plan, the team confirming that jet unit issues were making the big blue beast a monster to drive.
In the 400-Class all eyes were on the return of Ben Hathaway’s Weapon, the championship points leader delivering in spades with a stunning 53.675 during his opening run to comfortably top the timesheets heading into the finals, leaving the battle for the minor positions to be fought out by title rivals Mark Garlick and Brett Thornton.
They though had another fight on their hands with round five winner Jody Ely and former AFJSA President Greg Harriman, who delivered his best run of the year in the #360 Pink Boots Foundation machine to be third fastest in Q2, providing additional pressure as Hathaway sat out the second session to watch the form of his rivals.
Natwel Racing made its much-anticipated season debut in Temora.
By Q3 he was back, although his 54.448 was much slower than his Q1 time allowing Jody Ely to top the timesheets with a stunning 53.642.
In the end it was Ely who would qualify fastest by just three one hundredths of a second from Hathaway, with Thornton third ahead of Garlick and Harriman. Harriman’s team-mate Hugh Gilchrist turned in an impressive 58.403 in Q3 to be classified sixth ahead of Justin Roylance, rookie Sam Everingham and Queenslander Brad Marsden.
Ultimately Clint Ruby failed to make it through to the finals after a testing return to Dirty Deeds although teammate Shane Brennan made the cut, While Andrew Medlicott (Gone Nutz Again) was also relegated to the sidelines in what is becoming a very competitive 400-Class field.
If qualifying was tough, the finals would prove their equal with some real giant-killing runs and some poorly timed miss-steps providing the fans with plenty of entertainment.
The big news in the first final for the Unlimited class was the elimination of round five winner Tony Giustozzi and former 400-Class champion Ted Sygidus, both drivers making navigational errors, While Glenn “Spider” Roberts came out of the water in Blown Budget while comfortably within the margin to qualify for the second final.
Top spot though in the see-sawing battle for Unlimited Superboat supremacy went back to Tremayne Jukes, Maniac punching out a round best of 48.640 a full second faster than Mullan with Excalibur #2 Mick Carroll moving up to third less than a second behind RAMJET.
In the end Jamie Welch’s return in the Natwel Racing machine came to an end in the Top 12, his best of 58.044 two and a half seconds slower than Daniel de Voigt (DEVO Racing), with former champion Daryl Hutton and Darek Sydgius also making it through to the second final. Paul Burgess’ solid season continued despite missing the cut, his strong haul of points pushed him further forward in the championship, while local hero Scott Krause again entertained the fans on his way to a ninth-placed finish.
While the pace of the Unlimited class was impressive, the 400-Class teams too were pushing hard with valuable championship points on the line, and that provided plenty of action at the pointy end of the field.
First team to falter was round five winner and fastest 400-Class qualifier Jody Ely, the Victorian messing up his Top 12 run to cross the line with a disappointing 69.690, a time which was unlikely to see him make the Top 6.
Spitwater Team Outlaw driver Justin Roylance joined his former team-mate on the bank after a DNF thanks to hitting cross-wash at the wrong angle which spun him around—to add insult to injury he became lodged on an underwater shelf While motoring back to the ramp, much to the pleasure of the fans..
He wasn’t the only one to spin out, Hugh Gilchrist’s new found pace saw him running very strongly until an off during the final loop, ending his solid weekend, although he was able to enjoy team-mate Harriman’s impressive form, the #360 machine comfortably inside the top six.
Ultimately Mark Garlick would take Grumpy to the top spot with a 52.928 with Hathaway and Thornton close behind. Harriman led the rest of the pack, with Brad Marsden in Alcott Transformer and the returning Shane Brennan (Dirty Deeds) also making the cut, but only just after an impressive seventh placed finish by LS-Class points leader Ivan Safranek who took the fight to the faster boats in Katana.
In a review of season 2017, the Unlimited Superboat Top 6 final at Temora may prove to have been the turning point for Tremayne Jukes’ title assault, a crowd-silencing navigational error delivering the three-time winner a disappointing 57.877-second lap. Sadly for Jukes, his five rivals all went faster including title rival Mullan who topped the session once again with a 48.927, forcing the early retirement of Maniac from the penultimate round.
Mullan would be joined in the final by Carroll (49.569) and the resurgent Daryl Hutton (52.703), While Darek Sygidus just missed the cut for the final three by a frustrating nine one hundredths of a second.
The 400-Class Top 6 final saw plenty of jostling for position, but again the field could do nothing about the pace of Hathaway and Weapon—their 53.924 returning the team to the top of the timesheets with Garlick again second (54.005) and Thornton (54.760) third. Greg Harriman finished his weekend with a well deserved fourth, ahead of Marsden and Brennan.
With a fifth-consecutive title in his sights, Phonsy Mullan knew he needed victory to ensure he held a title winning advantage in his hands heading to the final in Cabarita, but typically of the Victorian’s approach to the sport, he would be anything but conservative in the final, punching out an impressive 49.011 to put the win out of reach of Carroll and Hutton, the New Zealander in the end claiming his best result of the year for second.
Likewise with a 400-Class title on the line and a need for more valuable championship points, Hathaway turned in his best run of the day to put any question of his title winning credentials out of the equation, his 53.615 comfortably clear of Garlick (54.358) and Thornton (54.664) although despite the win Hathaway is still behind on adjusted points setting up what will surely be a battle royale in Cabarita at the end of October.
The final round of the Australian V8 Superboats Championship will be held at the Tweed Coast Jet Sprint Club’s facility at Cabarita Beach over two days on 28-29 October where the 2017 champions will be crowned. Despite holding the points lead outright after six rounds, the championship is recorded on adjusted points where teams can drop their worst point-scoring round of the year. In 400-Class that effectively gives reigning champion Brett Thornton the points lead by five points over Hathaway who effectively has to win at Cabarita with Thornton finishing no better than third.
Maniac will be chasing RAMJET heading into the season finale.
In the Unlimited Superboat class, While Mullan has declared himself the winner of a fifth consecutive title, he needs a flawless weekend at Cabarita and a top two finish to effectively end any chance Jukes has of stealing the win, but if there’s one thing we know about the sport of V8 Superboats, it’s that anything can happen, and often it does.