Just 12 months ago, the Penrite V8 Superboats made their maiden visit to Keith in South Australia for the annual Diesel and Dirt Derby. To say it was an unqualified success was an understatement, with Keith now firmly entrenched on the calendar as one of the “go-to” events of the season.
The second round of the Australian V8 Superboats Championship saw plenty of attrition due to mechanical failures. Photos courtesy/copyright Russell Puckeridge/Pureart Creative Images.
As the host of the second round of the 2018 season, Keith had the Superboat regulars in awe from the moment they first arrived in the regional South Australian town. From lush green grass around the entire circuit, to a concreted pit area, the facilities for the Spitwater-supported category were first class, and ultimately—so too was the racing, although in the end, the lengthy rotation claimed a number of victims, but so too did a number of technical failures, claiming a few of big names in the process.
First to go post practice was the reigning Unlimited Superboat title holder at Keith—now in the guise of Heatseeker, both Paul Gaston and Tremayne Jukes forced to sit out Jukes’ return event after a head-gasket failure in the mighty twin-turbo machine.
Ted and Darek Sygidus were out shortly after in their 680-cubic-inch naturally aspirated big-block machine Frankensztain—sidelined with a mechanical problem as a result of a big off at Bay Park in New Zealand, initial investigations missing what was ultimately a contributor to a terminal failure.
They weren’t alone, even six-time Australian champion Phonsy Mullan suffered issues, having to withdraw from the second final, but ultimately no-one and nothing could stop Griffith winner Scott Krause from a dominant back-to-back win as one after another, his title rivals faltered.
Whilst Krause was a welcome winner, it was the performance of the other two teams on the podium that were the biggest surprise, with the giant-killing efforts of Rachel Swarts and Ivan Safranek in their LS-powered machines well rewarded for their pace and consistency to get them both into the final.
With his victory in Keith, Krause claimed his second win of the season.
In 400-Class the pace at the front too was impressive, with many expecting that Griffith winner, and the man who stole his maiden win at Keith 12-months ago—Ben Hathaway— would be the pace-setter, but it was Griffith star Paul Kelly who emerged victorious ahead of Mark Garlick and a resurgent Justin Roylance.
Apart from the absence of some of the event’s “big gun” after failures during practice, the next most obvious thing about the second event of the 2018 Penrite V8 Superboats season was the challenging track rotation, with a lot of navigational errors made during the four qualifiers.
Few were immune including Unlimited points leader Scott Krause, although by the fourth session—his only navigational hiccup of the weekend—he’d comfortably set the fastest time of the weekend.
The other thing that was clear to the drivers outside the rotation, was the beautiful grassy banks. While creating a heavenly course channeled through lush green grass, what the organizers had inadvertently done was ensure that teams needed to be very decisive about their lines, as any brush with the bank could leave them open to tearing up the freshly sewn grass, pumping it through the jet units, and bogging their powerplants down as they fought to clear the obstacle.
Ultimately though no-one could stop Unlimited points leader Scott Krause from topping the qualifying times, his 48.311 in Q3 more than a second faster than Phony Mullan’s best (49.550) with his new twin-turbo machine, Krause admitting he had plenty left in store, although ultimately he didn’t need to look for the extra pace as one after another his rivals faltered.
After missing the season opener at Griffith, Tony Giustozzi and Mick Carroll were back in Excalibur and as expected, on the pace pretty quickly—their “local” South Australian fans giving them plenty of motivation.
By Q4 Giustozzi was on top of the timesheets (50.650) after a DNF by Krause in the KAOS/Penrite machine with team-mate Carroll third fastest (51.275) behind a resurgent Daryl Hutton who was seemingly starting to find a solution to his season-and-a-half long love-hate relationship with his new hull.
Griffith star Paul Kelly claimed victory in Keith.
Sixth fastest was Michael Cunningham (52.644) in the ex-Phil Dixon machine, the speedway star showing that he will be an emerging force in the sport in comings seasons, although he was just half a second faster than the first of the “giant-killers” Ivan Safranek (53.270).
The reigning LS-Class champion and winner of the class in Griffith, had stepped up to the Unlimited class at Keith alongside West Australian LS star Rachel Swarts, the pair getting quicker and more precise with every run to take the fight to many of the more powerful machines, the Keith rotation clearly suited to those drivers able to use technique rather than sheer horsepower.
Splitting the two LS-powered machines was Griffith sensation Glenn “Spider” Roberts, although the naturally-aspirated big-block 632ci V8 wasn’t able to find the single lap pace it had at Griffith, the demanding layout seeing the Shepparton local struggling to stay inside the top ten.
Tenth was 2017 Keith winner Tremayne Jukes (55.324), who after failing to get a run in the boat he drove so brilliantly to second in the championship last season, jumped in alongside Jeremy Kincaid in the supercharged 302ci Ford powered Rogue although neither were able to break into the finals.
Daniel deVoigt too was surprisingly off the pace, the consistent Queenslander qualifying eleventh ahead of the West Australian pairing of Simon Cain and Cheryl Welch in Quality Time, Welch looking to return at Temora in the updated Natwel Racing machine alongside son Jamie.
In 400-Class, Jody Ely carried on the pace that has seen him a front-runner since the closing rounds of the 2017 season, the Victorian on top in the opening three qualifiers before a navigational error in the final session allowed Griffith rival Paul Kelly to claim the top spot, although on aggregate, Ely (56.683) was the fastest overall by four tenths of a second.
Third overall was 400-Class points leader and 2017 Keith winner Ben Hathaway in Weapon (52.997) from former champions Mark Garlick (Grumpy) and Brett Thornton (2Obsessed), with Justin Roylance a welcome sixth post-qualifying in Spitwater Team Outlaw.
Seventh was Mitch Roylance in Black Jack his 56.648 about as much as he can currently extract from his 400-Class machine, but enough to put him clear of Brad Marsden (Allcott Transformer) and West Australian Shane Francis (Auzzie Apocolypse). Sam Everingham was back in Akham Asylum and getting quicker with each run to be tenth, ahead of Hugh Gilchrist (Pink Boots Racing) and final qualifier Andrew Medlicott (Gone Nutz Again).
Sadly, due to navigational errors and a string of DNFs Shane Loughnan (Vicious), Darrin Kesper (Let’s Boogie) and Greg Harriman (Pink Boots Racing) failed to progress into the finals, whilst for former 350-Class champion Daniel James, his weekend ended early with a technical issue with the JRE Engines machine, the team forced to find an alternative powerplant at the last minute after parts delays saw their primary engine remain on the engine stand in the workshop.
Ever the entertainer, local hero Tony Giustozzi was one of the first big retirements of the finals, catapulting out of the circuit in a wild ride that saw Excalibur come to a stop pointing skywards against a collection of hay bales set up to protect safety crews and photographers.
It was another epic off for the team that currently has the record of the most viewed V8 Superboat crashes in history (yes, multiples), however despite relatively light overall damage, it was enough to end their weekend, putting Giustozzi and Carroll out of the finals.
Michael Cunningham was the next victim, the Victorian pushing hard but just clipping the bank which threw him out of the water and into the catch fence – game over, whilst Glenn Roberts too failed to advance after a lengthy run thanks to ingesting grass into the jet unit. He put in a valiant effort to make the line, recording a four-minute plus lap, but unfortunately a number of his rivals went quicker, forcing him to put the boat back on the trailer.
Daniel deVoigt was next to go in the Devo Racing machine, although seventh gained more valuable championship points, with the Queenslander less than a second behind Phonsy Mullan in the No. 1 RAMJET Racing entry. Mullan was without his customary pace, and despite qualifying for the second final that was the last the crowd would see of the six-time national champion.
Ultimately Scott Krause would top the opening final with a best of 50.309, although just three tenths clear of Daryl Hutton, the next best pairing being the LS-powered machines of Ivan Safranek and Rachel Swarts who were just under three seconds slower than the two pace-setters with Simon Cain taking the final position in the second final by just three tenths of a second over deVoigt.
With Mullan unable to record a time in the second final, Krause delivered a comfortable 50.446 to top the session, his nearest rival Daryl Hutton the next to falter after himself falling foul of the grassy banks, the sound of the supercharged 468ci V8 screaming it’s head off at barely walking pace in an effort to clear itself was enough to get the 11,000 fans on their feet cheering, but sadly a 57-second second lap wasn’t enough to keep out the giant-killing LS machines.
Nor was Simon Cain in Quality Time the West Australian suffering his third navigational error of the day to miss an almost certain place on the podium alongside fellow WA driver Rachel Swarts who was her consistent best in the second final, eking out a 53.668 to claim the second position ahead of Ivan Safranek who missed his best after a slight navigational error which he corrected.
For Safranek his dream debut in the Unlimited class ended early in the final, a navigational error seeing him shoot past the third turn, and with the clock ticking on he elected to return to the boat ramp and watch the final two starters.
Rachel Swarts put in another stunning time, this time a 53.308, her best of the day, but no-one could deny the Penrite liveried KAOS machine of Scott Krause who all but cruised to a comfortable 49.667 to claim his second win of the season and extend his championship points lead.
In the 400-Class, pace-setter Jody Ely was an early victim, an ingestion of grass into the jet unit forcing his early retirement, whilst Hugh Gilchrist too would go no further.
Paul Kelly’s pace saw him on top in the first final, with a 52.972, topping Mark Garlick, the former champion beating the reigning champion to the line by just three one hundredths of a second, all three covered by just half a second! Fourth fastest to advance to the second final was Justin Roylance, with former champion Brett Thornton and the returning Sam Everingham (Akham Asylum) the last of the six to advance.
Former 350 and 400-Class national champion Garlick punched out a 53.136 second lap in the second final, the Queenslander clearly with little left in Grumpy with his final four laps all within half a second of each other. Paul Kelly missed his mark in the 4Zero Racing machine to be half a second slower than his first qualifier, whilst Justin Roylance dug deep in the Spitwater Team Outlaw machine to beat Ben Hathaway to the final place in the top three by just 36 one thousandths of a second.
Brett Thornton suffered from an ingestion of grass to be fifth ahead of Everingham, the final three forced to watch the finals from the bank.
Ultimately the win in the final went to Paul Kelly—his first since Griffith 2017, the Queenslander setting his best for the day but still quarter of a second shy of Jody Ely’s qualifying best. Mark Garlick was his ever consistent self to take second, whilst Justin Roylance went out all guns blazing to set his second fastest time of the day to grab third and a strong haul of championship points.
The Penrite Australian Championships now returns to Temora in regional New South Wales for a day-night event at Kennards Hire Park at Lake Centenary for what doubles as the Colin Parish Memorial on April 28.
2018 Australian V8 Superboat Championships Schedule
Round 1—Feb. 24, Griffith, NSW(day/night).
Round 2—March 24, Keith, SA (day).
Round 3—(Colin Parish Memorial Trophy) April 28, Temora, NSW (day/night).
Round 4—June 2-3, Tweed Coast, NSW (day).
Round 5—August 17-18, Tweed Coast, NSW (day).
Round 6—(Final), September 22, Temora, NSW (day/night).