The battle for the 2018 Penrite Australian V8 Superboats title has perhaps never been more intense than the second event at the popular Tweed Coast Jet Sprint Club. And ast weekend’s event in Cabarita Beach, New South Wales, saw one of the biggest fields in recent seasons, many of whom were competing to both qualify and prepare for the forthcoming Penrite Union Internationale Motonautique World Series later this year.
The domination of Phonsy Mullan continues. Photos courtesy/copyright Russell Puckeridge/Pureart Creative Images.
A testing rotation claimed plenty of high profile scalps during Saturday’s opening qualifiers, while technical challenges took down some of the outright contenders, including 6-time champion Phonsy Mullan, but true to form, the Victorian elected to fight on, racing overnight to Brisbane to repair his twin-turbo LS powerplant to be ready for action come Sunday morning.
Sadly for Unlimited points leader Scott Krause, he had a weekend to forget with a string of wrong-ways to his name, the last of which eliminated him from the opening final, while for New Zealander Rob Coley, Paul Gaston and the Natwel Racing team, technical issues forced the potential podium contenders into retirement early in the event.
Ultimately Mullan recovered from his early setback to come through for victory in the final, although he had to work hard, crowd favourite Glen Roberts pushing him all the way, the underfunded Blown Budget driver falling just half a second shy of the biggest win of his career, and post-race you couldn’t wipe the smile from his face, such was his delight.
In 400-Class the championship returned to Cabarita with very little separating the contenders and they all battled hard into the finals. Adjusted points leader Paul Kelly looked to have a second win for 2018 in the bag until his final run where he beached the boat just a couple of corners in while pushing to extend his advantage over his rivals, allowing former 350-Class champion Daniel James through for the win over round four winner Mark Garlick.
In LS-Class, Ivan Safranek’s retirement to focus on developing a new powerplant left the way clear for Kyle Elphinstone to gain some serious miles in Blackout Racing, his time during his final run good enough to match the top ten in 400 Class.
By the close of Saturday’s two qualifying sessions, you could have been forgiven for thinking everyone still had their minds on their mid-season break, such was the high rate of failed navigation attempts, some drivers so confused with the new direction, they were shooting back down the start shoot completely lost.
Sadly for Unlimited Superboat points leader Scott Krause, he was one of the victims, even bouncing over the islands during a hot lap while still looking for the correct rotation.
For others their problems were even bigger. Reigning champion Phonsy Mullan was in trouble during the opening run with an engine that sounded less than perfect, his second run only confirming his worst fears, with a potential round retirement on his hands, while for rivals Natwel Racing, their weekend ended almost as quickly as it had begun with a fuel fire at the close of Cheryl Welch’s opening run, a fire which did serious damage to their electronics.
With thoughts of a rare retirement on his mind, a call home to family saw Mullan rejuvenated, the RAMJET team electing to travel to Brisbane overnight in an effort to effect repairs and continue on Sunday morning, work completed by 3 a.m. with the boat back on the water for Q3 where sadly the problems continued, a failed throttle body again leaving Mullan to return to the spin out pool early—three qualifiers down and no time on the board.
By that stage he wasn’t the only one struggling, Scott Krause managing just one run to get his rotation correct with a time well off the leaders, while the news was worse for New Zealander Rob Coley and Heatseeker’s Paul Gaston, both retirements with blown head gaskets.
While all this was happening, Glenn “Spider” Roberts was putting his past experience at Cabarita to good use, the Victorian topping qualifiers two, three, four and five to be fastest into the finals to the rapturous applause of the fans.
While waiting for his replacement throttle body from the Maritimo Offshore team, Mullan ran the boat without one in Q4 just to record a time, knowing that with the retirements of a number of rivals, he’d comfortably qualify inside the top 12, allowing him to miss the final session if needed—his time in the end, more than three minutes slower than pace-setter Glenn Roberts.
Ultimately Roberts would qualify just three tenths clear of the impressive Michael Cunningham who was continuing his solid improvement in his debut season, the Sprintcar driver closing in on his maiden podium finish. Daryl Hutton too was enjoying his best run of the year despite a tough start to the day, the 2-time champion just four tenths slower than Roberts despite suffering from the grille falling out of the boat on a quick run, steering him up the bank as a result—the team forced to make repairs to the underside of the boat on Saturday night.
Roberts pushed Mullan all the way in Cabarita Beach last weekend.
Just a tenth slower than Hutton was the impressive Daniel deVoigt, the former 350-Class champion showing how important consistent pace and experience at Cabarita was, to be fourth fastest and threatening for a podium finish.
Ultimately Scott Krause would turn in the fifth fastest time of the day in Q5, but it was clear the pressure of leading the championship and the constant reminders from people up and down the paddock was starting to take its toll.
That made Mullan the slowest of the qualifiers, but true to form, the multiple champion was well aware of the situation and that he needed to buy himself time, with all the retirements he qualified last of the seven teams still circulating from the eleven that started the weekend. It had been a tough day.
While the Unlimited Superboats were struggling to qualify, so too the 400-Class teams, many of whom were battling to perfect the testing rotation.
Reigning champion Ben Hathaway failed to record a lap on Saturday, while Jody Ely sat out the first two runs of the weekend due to commitments elsewhere, the Rampage driver would be back in action Sunday however he too endured a couple of shortened runs due to navigational errors, forcing him to wait nervously as one-by-one his rivals looked to topple him heading into the Top 12 final.
Saturday though belonged to former champion Brett Thornton, the Queenslander on top with a best of 51.868, although that time very quickly fell come Sunday morning, points leader Mark Garlick, son Jake, Hathaway and Paul Kelly joined by Daniel James, all five dropping below Thornton’s mark by the final qualifier.
There was no shortage of action on the water either—or out of it for that matter—as a number of boats kept the fans on their feet, not the least former 350-Class champion Brooke Lucas who had a big off on the run through “Bennys” during Q5, the Queenslander rolling a number of times as he clipped the bank on the exit, putting Trouble Maker into retirement.
Sadly with just 12 places in the opening final and 19 teams entered, there were always going to be some early showers, Shane Brennan (Ynot), Peter Monger (Mongrel), Ron O’Day (Agro-vation), Andrew Medlicott (Gone Nutz Again) and Darrin Kesper (Let’s Boogie) missing the cut after some tough runs through qualifying, while for local driver Phil Weinthal and Josh Woodroofe-Lucas, retirements ended their weekend early.
Meanwhile Kyle Elphinstone and his Blackout Racing team were continuing to gain valuable experience in their LS-powered machine, turning times which would almost have qualified them for the 400-Class finals.
All eyes were on Unlimited Superboat title rivals Scott Krause and Phonsy Mullan coming into the finals—one recovering from technical challenges, the other from an ongoing navigational issues.
Mullan proved that he too was human, the 6-time champion making a navigational error early before correcting it to set a time almost six seconds slower than the pace-setting Blown Budget of Glenn Roberts. That left him on the bubble, but with just seven boats still in the field after a bout of failures, he needed just one rival to slip up to give him that opportunity to make the second final, and sadly for the fans, the victim was points leader Scott Krause.
Clearly frustrated at his ongoing battle with the rotation, Krause was the only driver not to progress to the second final, while for Mullan, he was about to put his title rival—and the field—on notice, laying down an impressive 48.327 in the second final to eclipse Roberts’ best time of the day of 48.740.
The third driver through to the final after setting the second fastest time in the opening final, was 2-time champion Daryl Hutton, the expat New Zealander starting to find some speed at last from his supercharged Stinger, although he was pushed to dig deep after a great challenge by Michael Cunningham in ‘True Blue’, the rookie coming to within 15 one hundredths of Hutton in the first final before sadly making a navigational error in the second.
Daniel deVoigt was having one of his strongest runs of the season to fall just a second shy of a berth in the final three, while the returning Paul Burgess recorded a solid fifth place overall as he continues to make preparations for the forthcoming World Series.
Ultimately it all came down to the final, and Mullan—as fastest boat in the second final—chose to run last. Hutton laid down an impressive 49.450—his fastest of the weekend—before Glenn Roberts delivered his best, a 48.534 just 17 one hundredths slower than Mullan’s T6 time.
Typically the showman, Mullan delivered his best on the final rotation to put all doubt out of question, recording a 48.014 to take his second win at Cabarita for 2018, and with it, the championship points lead, although on adjusted points [teams can drop their worst point-scoring round of the season], Krause continues to lead the points by three heading into a “home” final.
With little separating the top teams in 400-Class heading into the finals, the title rivals knew that one wrong step could have huge championship implications, but with two quick new teams into the championship for this round in the shape of former champions Jake Garlick and Daniel James, they knew they needed to complete the final rotations with a mix of speed and consistency.
Daniel James prevailed in the 400 class.
For Sam Everingham, his solid weekend which had seen very few errors came to an end in the opening final with a navigational error, while for reigning champion Ben Hathaway, he was forced to wait nervously after completing a painfully slow lap with a fuel issue which saw him record a time some 35 seconds slower than his rivals.
Sadly for him, nine other boats went quicker, forcing him back on to the trailer and retirement.
Pink Boots Racing’s Greg Harriman was next to go, while Jodie Ely and Justin Roylance too failed to make the second final, Roylance in the Spitwater Team Outlaw machine falling an agonising 19 one thousandths of a second shy of Saturday pace-setter Brett Thornton, such was the pace of the leaders.
Ultimately Daniel James in the JRE Race Engines machine grabbed the top spot in the opening final with a best of 50.537, the Victorian just two tenths quicker than title contender Paul Kelly, with Mark and Jake Garlick not too far behind.
Kelly returned the favor in the second final to lower the benchmark to 50.264, incredibly less than two seconds slower than Phonsy Mullan’s Top 6 time, James again turning a 50.5, while Mark Garlick also grabbed a finals berth after beating son Jake by just a tenth of a second.
2016 champion Brett Thornton was unable to improve on his Saturday best, falling almost a second shy of a run in the final, while Mitch Roylance’s impressive run in Black Jack continued, taking sixth placed points.
With Paul Kelly the pace setter heading into the final, he elected to throw down the gauntlet early to be first off the trailer, but the local auto electrician was out after a handful of corners while pushing to break the back of his rivals, lamenting afterwards that he’d probably not needed to have pushed so hard.
That left James and Mark Garlick. In the end James just too quick, recording his maiden win of the year with a 50.337, in the end, a full second clear of Garlick, who—as a result—extended his points lead while also moving into a share of the top points with Kelly after adjustment, putting all the emphasis on Temora next time around in a repeat result of the 2017 season finale.
The Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championships is now on the eve of the final round of the 2018 national season at Temora on September 22, a day-night event that will settle all three championships as teams continue their preparations for the forthcoming UIM World Series.
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