The Australian V8 Superboat series has escalated to a whole new level in season 2017, the battles for the pointy end of the field in both the Unlimited and 400-Class categories has been amongst the best in the history of the sport, with very little separating the contenders across qualifying and the finals. While three rounds into the season we couldn’t expect it to be any better, last weekend’s event in Cabarita Beach, New South Wales, took it to a whole new.
In front of one of the best Cabarita Beach crowds in recent years, it all came down to the final run of the day in the Unlimited class, with Tremayne Jukes driving like the Maniac he is, right on the ragged edge to set the fastest time of the day to defeat title rival—four-time champion—Phonsy Mullan by just over four tenths of a second.
With his fourth win of the 2017 season, Tremayne Jukes is looking dominant this year. Photos courtesy/copyright Russell Puckeridge/Pureart Creative Images.
In the 400-Class, returning champion Brett Thornton was pushed all the way in the final by former champion Mark Garlick and points leader Ben Hathaway to claim his second win of the season.
Qualifying began on Saturday afternoon with two sessions back-to-back keeping the fans entertained. And entertained they were, with Unlimited Superboat title rivals Jukes and Mullan immediately into it from Q1, Jukes on top by more than a second in session one over Mullan with Darek Sygidus third in Frankenzstain. In Q2 Jukes went four tenths faster, while Mullan found more than a second to get to within 35 one hundredths of his rival with Sygidus still third.
In 400-Class all eyes were glued to the No. 12 of Ben Hathaway, the points leader though was not able to reproduce the incredible pace he’d shown at Griffith after reverting to a spare powerplant for Cabarita, his original Weapon engine undergoing a rebuild after not insignificant damage during the Easter event, but he was still pushing, although he had to play second fiddle to two former champions.
Griffith winner Paul Kelly stopped the clocks with a 51.196 in Q1 ahead of fellow Queenslanders Brett Thornton and Mark Garlick, while multiple Australian champion Mark Garlick went quickest in Q2, from Thornton and Spitwater Team Outlaw’s Justin Roylance.
Sunday dawned clear and warm with promises of a big day of competition, and the teams turned on the action for the big Cabarita crowd with some electrifying performances.
Shaving was the name of the game, with valuable tenths to be gained from running across the edge of the bank at the apex of the corners, but despite the risk, there were no big offs to make the evening news, instead just some good hard racing at the front of the field.
The battle between Mullan and Jukes continued through to the final qualifier with Jukes on top until the final session, his pace impressive when you consider that the greatest margin between his five qualifying lap times was just a second, such was his consistency, but like Mullan, you could tell the Victorian was pushing his big 1,300-hp twin-turbo V8 hard.
Mullan too was throwing everything he had at it and driving on the limit, the five-time Australian champion rewarded with the fastest final qualifying time, although it was still six tenths slower than Jukes’ best of the day.
While the top two were trading blows session by session, Tony Giustozzi and Excalibur team-mate Mick Carroll and Ted Sygidus (Frankenzstain) too were improving with each qualifier, the trio locked in a battle for third which ultimately fell the way of Giustozzi, the South Australian fan favorite on a charge as the finals approached.
Darek Sygidus was only marginally slower than his brother, and just ahead of two-time Unlimited champion Daryl Hutton who was starting to get on top of his new hull and supercharged 468ci-powerplant, the Australian-based New Zealander typically keeping the crowd on their feet as he threw the Victorian American Imports machine around on the absolute limit on his way to a place just outside the top six.
In the 400-Class, Brett Thornton continued to set the pace in Sunday’s final three qualifiers, the 2Obsessed driver doing his best under fire from Mark Garlick and Paul Kelly as points leader Hathaway continued to find time with every session.
Jody Ely too was sitting just outside a podium position and waiting for an opportunity to attack, while Justin Roylance was struggling to curb a fuelling issue that had the Spitwater Team Outlaw operation working feverishly between sessions to locate the problem.
After falling behind Mullan in the final qualifier, Jukes was back on song for the first final, stopping the clock with the fastest run of the day at 44.426, admitting that he’d tried something different in Q5 that hadn’t worked, the team quickly back up to speed to complete the Top 12 just a quarter of a second faster than his rival.
The fight for third was just as intense, Tony Giustozzi continuing to lead the battle of the 500-cubic-inch-powered machines, his 46.384 half a second up on Darek Sygidus, with older brother Ted just 42 one thousandths of a second slower—it was that close. Sadly though for Mick Carroll, his run came to an end after a DNF while well within reach of a berth in the second final.
Sixth fastest to make it into the second leg of qualifying was the returning Jeremy Kincaid in Rogue, the Victorian pushing his 302-cubic-inch supercharged Ford V8 to his best of the weekend with a 47.959.
Sadly the first final saw the demise of Daryl Hutton who while lamenting another missed opportunity, showed improvement with his new package, providing some light at the end of a very long development program. Glenn Roberts too was unable to continue after falling short of the cut-off by just over half a second in Blown Budget, while Superboat veteran Paul Burgess (Daly Transport) had a titanic battle with local hero Daniel deVoigt (Devo 2) the pair separated by very little all day, with the final margin just 12 one hundredths of a second.
The top six soon became the top three with the two Sygidus brothers falling mere tenths shy of Tony Giustozzi’s 46.451, the Frankenzstain drivers joining Jeremy Kincaid on the bank to watch the battle between Jukes and Mullan, after the two comfortably qualified for the final, Jukes still holding the advantage.
The battle for the top three soon became the battle for the top two after an oil pressure issue stopped Giustozzi on the ramp.
That was all the incentive Mullan needed as he pushed his naturally aspirated LS527cubic-inch V8 to the fastest time of the day at 44.232.
Jukes though was ready, admitting post-lap that there was nothing left in it as he laid down an impressive 43.799 to claim his third win of the season and extend his championship points lead.
With the Cabarita event behind them, Australian V8 Superboats get a break from competition until late August.
“That was it, there was nothing left,” said Jukes after the race. “If I’d had an extra 500-horsepower I couldn’t have gone any quicker. That was on the edge, and to do it I had to break a hoodoo corner for me and take Benny’s (Hardies) faster than I had done all day, that was the edge that gave me the time. I normally don’t ask what time another driver has done, but this time I did, so I knew what I had to do, and we pulled it off. A special thanks to the team, this was all down to their efforts in keeping this thing alive and kicking and working to find the best setup.”
In 400 Class Brett Thornton continued to set the pace, although Mark Garlick was keeping him honest, the pair separated by just over a tenth of a second in the Top 12 with Ben Hathaway mere hundredths slower. Ultimately Jody Ely (Rampage), Greg Harriman (Pink Boots Foundation) and Justin Roylance joined them in the second final, while for Paul Kelly a DNF scuppered his plans for back-to-back victories.
LS-Class points leader Ivan Safranek ran among the 400s for the weekend, pushing Brad Marsden and Hugh Gilchrist hard, the Katana driver just missing a berth in the final six, after turning in an impressive run all weekend.
Six soon became three with Justin Roylances ongoing fuel issues ending his chance of a berth in the final three, the Spitwater Team Outlaw pilot forced to cruise around and severely abated speed for sixth, joining Jody Ely and Harriman in their final runs for the weekend.
Ultimately Thornton continued his winning run as fastest 400-Class driver of the weekend to take his second win of the season, a cool seven tenths faster than Garlick in the final run of the night, while points leader Ben Hathaway kept his championship hopes alive despite being well down on power, to take third and a valuable haul of points for the weekend.
The Australian championship contending teams will now enjoy winter break, returning for the first event of Spring at the popular Tweed Coast facility for a two-day event on August 26-27.
2017 Australian V8 Superboat Championships
Round No. 1—March 4, Temora (NSW), Colin Parish Memorial Trophy, day/night
Round No. 2—March 25, Keith (SA), Diesel and Dirt Derby
Round No. 3—April 15, Griffith (NSW), day/night
Round No. 4—May 27-28, Tweed Coast (NSW), day
Round No. 5—August 26-27, Tweed Coast (NSW), day
Round No. 6—September 23, Temora (NSW), day/night
Round No. 7 (Final)—October 28-29, Temora (NSW), day
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