After a three month sabbatical, the Australian V8 Superboats returned to action at the Tweed Coast Jet Sprint Club at Cabarita Beach in New South Wales for the fifth round of competition Aug. 26-27 and delivered some of the most unpredictable racing of the year.

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A tough weekend on the Tweed Coast sees title leaders falter and leaves championship wide open heading into the final two rounds of the season. Photos courtesy/copyright Russell Puckeridge/Pureart Creative Images.

Ultimately the weekend would see many of the top teams plagued by technical challenges, and in a field as close as V8 Superboats has been this season, even the slightest of hiccups can have big implications in the championship points, but while frustrating for the teams, the setbacks provided an added bonus for the many fans of the sport around the country, with the series wide open with just two rounds remaining.

The much publicized battle for Unlimited Superboat supremacy between five-time Australian champion Phonsy Mullan and points leader Tremayne Jukes started strongly, but across the weekend both suffered problems opening the door for the “evergreen” Tony Giustozzi who needed no second invitation to pick up the mantel and record his first win of the year.

Likewise in the 400-Class, points leader Ben Hathaway went into damage limitation mode without use of Weapon. His rivals, including multiple Australian champions Jake and Mark Garlick, stumbled allowing the rising star of the 2017 season, Jody Ely, through for his first win of the year in his impressive new boat.

Qualifying
With the Tweed Coast’s traditional two-day format, the first two qualifying sessions take place on Saturday afternoon, and as expected the big guns came out firing, Unlimited points leader Tremayne Jukes setting the fastest lap of the weekend during his first timed run, while for the returning Jake Garlick, he smashed the field in the opening 400-Class qualifier to be well over a second clear of his rivals.

For the fans who had come to see the epic battle continue between Unlimited Superboat stars Tremayne Jukes and five-time Australian champion Phonsy Mullan, they were treated to another brilliant display of driving, although from the outset it was clear both teams were battling their own issues, issues which would ultimately have a big effect on Sunday’s finals.

Jukes fired an opening salvo of 46.081 to Mullan’s 47.833, but by Q2 he’d dropped back to a 46.364 while RAMJET posted a 46.895 to close the gap to just half a second.

Behind them South Australian Tony Giustozzi was the best of the rest, creeping Excalibur down to a 47.476 to be third fastest by the close of day one as a number of the Unlimited boats battled to make the most of the testing rotation, the first two sessions carding six “wrong way” results and three DNFs. It was going to be a tough weekend.

In 400-Class Jake Garlick again proved why he is still rated as one of the most exciting drivers in the sport, the Queenslander setting the benchmark in Q1 with a 51.040, 1.3-seconds faster than the impressive Paul Kelly, with title rivals Mark Garlick and Brett Thornton mere hundredths of a second behind.

The younger Garlick kept Grumpy at the top of the timesheets in Q2 with a 50.660, his father Mark just three tenths slower with Kelly third and Thornton fourth.

Where was points leader Ben Hathaway? Sharing Allcott Transformer with boat owner Brad Marsden, the pair were doing their best to maximize performance and minimise Hathaway’s points loss, with the Victorian still waiting for the engine of Weapon to be repaired. Working feverishly to improve the performance of Marsden’s machine, Hathaway was able to circulate just inside the top six to keep with his points rivals heading into day two.

In the LS-Class, new rivals for points leader Ivan Safranek meant he’d have to up his game in Katana but a “wrong way” in Q1 left him behind the eight-ball for Q2, his 59.688 best though still slower than rookie David Bray who took Bare Necessities to the top spot for the day with a 57.593 best, while DUC driver Darrin Kesper endured a tough baptism to the class, inverting the boat in Q2, fortunately without significant damage to team or boat.

While Saturday presented a taste of what fans could expect to see at the front of the field in Sunday’s final qualifiers leading into the finals, no-one could have quite expected what would play out as the day wore on, as one-by-one the big guns started to falter..

For points leader Tremayne Jukes, that drama started early, the team battling an electrical issue which was forcing the mighty twin-turbo V8 to misfire, the team all over the Maniac machine searching for solutions, while across in the RAMJET camp, starter motor and ring gear issues caused the reigning champion much concern initially before a fuel pump problem had them chasing their tails through much of the day.

They weren’t the only ones though, fellow former champions Ted and Darek Sygidus were in a world of hurt with Frankensztain, the Victorian brothers battling a handling problem that saw them both admitting it was the most difficult boat they’d ever driven after an engine change from their ‘junior’ 410-cubic-inch naturally-aspirated powerplant to their much more powerful 510-cubic-inch unit.

For Jukes the problems continued right through qualifying, the team unable to record another full lap across the remaining three qualifiers, leaving his opening qualifier lap time as the benchmark for the weekend.

Mullan however did manage to fire, although like Jukes, he had to rely on his Q2 time to make the finals (still second fastest overall), while for Tony Giustozzi, the veteran was able to keep improving to set the fastest times in Q4 and Q5 despite a navigational error in Q3, his best in the end; 46.960, just 65 one thousandths slower than Mullan.

Giustozzi’s Excalibur team-mate Mick Carroll was fourth fastest ahead of the impressive Glenn “Spider” Roberts in Blown Budget, the Victorian mere hundredths faster than former champion Daryl Hutton who after a testing year in a new hull, was finally staring to make forward steps.

Local driver Daniel de Voigt was seventh, comfortably clear of Canberra’s Paul Burgess and Scott Krause, while for the Sygidus brothers, their nightmare continued, Darek electing to sit out to allow Ted to focus on claiming championship points, yet despite that, the team were only able to record a single lap in the ten sessions they shared, a frustrating 82.905.

In 400-Class the battle of the Garlicks continued through the remaining qualifiers, Mark getting the better of Jake in Q3 with a best of 50.472, but he was unable to replicate it through Q4 and Q5, Jake claiming the top spot, although his qualifying best of 50.515 showed him that the “old-boy” still had the pace to record the fastest qualifying lap of the weekend.

Jody Ely was the best of the rest, improving in Q5 to a 50.805 in his brand new Jetspeed hull, topping Paul Kelly and Brett Thornton. Ben Hathway continued to hang on to the top six and valuable championship points, although with Spitwater Team Outlaw driver Justin Roylance finding more pace with each rotation, he was in danger of slipping outside the six in the finals.

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Tony Giustozzi claimed his first final last weekend.

For Pink Boots Foundation driver Greg Harriman, a tough weekend sharing with Hugh Gilchrist saw the pink and white machine languishing further down the order than they would have expected, battling with Brad Marsden and new recruits Sam Everingham and Luke Diedrich, while for local driver Peter Monger, his return with Mongrel was less than perfect with a navigational error in Q1 followed by a technical issue which sidelined him for the remainder of the weekend.

For LS-Class points leader Ivan Safranek, a return to form in Sunday’s final qualifiers saw him breach the gap to David Bray, although the Bare Necessities driver held the top time at the close of the three sessions, Darrin Kesper also overcoming his inversion to record a qualifying time in Q4 before being sidelined by a technical issue in the final qualifier.

Finals
To the roar of the big Cabarita crowd, Tremayne Jukes backed away from the trailer to begin the Top 12 final, but no sooner had he hit the throttle, than silence emerged around the banks of the circuit, with it clear there was something still amiss, the time-clock’s 81.204 lap only confirming their worst fears.

Sadly the drama continued with both Glenn Roberts and Scott Krause failing to record a time while for Ted Sygidus, there was some level of minor celebration, with the former AFJSA President carding a best of 53.868, almost 30-seconds faster than his qualifying effort.

Ultimately Tony Giustozzi topped the first final, his 46.829 more than seven tenths faster than Mullan, who was still suffering from fuel issues, while Mick Carroll made it both Excalibur drivers in the top three, but only just, the South Australian just eight one hundredths faster than Hutton in American Imports the pair though only a second up on the impressive Daniel de Voigt.

Paul Burgess maintained his qualifying pace to make the final berth in the second final, displacing Ted Sygidus by just more than half a second.

The Top 6 final again fell the way of Giustozzi, the South Australian once more defeating Mullan, this time by four tenths of a second, with Mick Carroll’s 48.558 more than a second slower than his team-mate, but good enough for a place in the final.

Daniel de Voigt’s impressive weekend continued to give the Queenslander fourth overall, with Paul Burgess fifth, while for Daryl Hutton a mechanical setback in the final run saw him classified sixth.

Without Jukes in the final, Mullan knew he had to make the most of the opportunity to breach the gap to the points leader and he charged out the gate in the final to a time of 46.948 despite still battling a fuel pickup issue—and as it turns out in the end, a thermostat failure which robbed him of valuable horsepower—it was quick, but not quick enough, Giustozzi sealing his fate with a best of 46.881, just six one hundredths faster.

For Mick Carroll, his 48.195 was his best of the weekend to give Excalibur the top and bottom steps of the podium, the result elevating both up the championship order, while for Mullan, his fourth second place finish of the year gave him the points lead, although on championship adjusted points (teams can drop their worst round score of the year to set their season total), Jukes continues to hold a slender lead.

In 400-Class the expected battle between the Garlick father-and-son combination took an unexpected turn after the first final with Jake Garlick suffering an issue with the jet unit after setting the fastest time, the team discovering post-session that some filler in the bottom of the hull (used by teams to “shape” the bottom of the boat) had become dislodged, damaging the jet unit as a result.

Some quick repairs allowed Mark Garlick to top the times for the Top 6 final, but ongoing problems with the jet unit forced Jake to ease off on his final rotation to ensure Mark was able to take his place in the final in his efforts to close down championship points leader Ben Hathaway.

Hathaway by contrast made the second final, comfortably displacing Justin Roylance who was continuing with the development of Spitwater Team Outlaw but lamenting a lack of blades for his jet unit, an issue the team felt was costing them at least two seconds a lap.

Also failing to make the Top 6 final were Greg Harriman, Brad Marsden, Sam Everingham and Luke Diedrich, who did an impressive job on debut in Arkham Asylum and Hugh Gilchrist.

With valuable championship points at stake heading into the final two events of the year, everyone was on the limit in the Top 6, Ben Hathaway carding a 52.429—his best of the weekend—but it was not good enough to make the final three with Mark Garlick, Brett Thornton and Jody Ely through, the three of them separated by just two tenths of a second, it was that close,

Also joining Hathaway (who recorded all five of his Sunday laps within 18 one hundredths of a second) was Jake Garlick and Griffith round winner Paul Kelly.

Ultimately it was Jody Ely who claimed the top spot in the final, the Victorian supported by Phonsy Mullan’s GM Motorsports, smashing his rivals with a stunning 50.079, six tenths faster than he’d been all day to defeat reigning champion Brett Thornton by 34 one hundredths of a second, with Mark Garlick a consistent 50.632.

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Jody Ely prevailed in the final.

Despite claiming just sixth for the weekend, Hathaway keeps his championship dream alive to lead into the next round in Temora ahead by a solitary point, but with the knowledge he will be back behind the wheel of Weapon at Temora in a package capable of comfortably winning the final two rounds of the year, while for Thornton, his podium result improves the Queenslander’s chances of claiming back-to-back 400-Class crowns.

In the LS-Class the final came down to a battle between Ivan Safranek and David Bray with the points leader taking ‘Katana’ to a comfortable victory in the end, up by five seconds over rookie Bray who did an outstanding job on debut to finish all six rotations and put the points leader under some serious pressure.

The penultimate round of the Australian V8 Superboats Championship will be held at Lake Centenary in Temora on September 23 (day/night event), ahead of the final round of the 2017 season back at the Tweed Coast venue on October 28-29.

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