Four weeks ago, one of the biggest fields in recent years descended upon the Cabarita Beach venue in New South Wales for Round No. 4 of the 2016 Australian V8 Superboat Championships. And while that event forced a number of premature retirements for which Round No. 5 paid a hefty price, the competition was no less fierce at the same venue last weekend.
Ultimately, despite a brand-new and untried powerplant, three-time Australian Unlimited champion Phonsy Mullan proved all but unstoppable, although Tremayne Jukes did everything he could despite limited experience in his new boat to force the issue all the way down to the final run of the day. In the end it was Mullan who had to dig deeper than perhaps any time in the last few seasons to claim the win, with round four winner Daryl Hutton completing the podium.
Back in Cabarita Beach, Phonsy Mullan continued his winning ways. Photos courtesy/copyright Russell Puckeridge/Pureart Creative Images
In the 400-Class, the expected fight between local stars Brett Thornton and Brooke Lucas saw a terrific battle through the heats with emerging stars Paul Kelly and Mitch Roylance in the mix, but ultimately Thornton was too good, claiming his third successive win to open up a big points lead heading into the final two rounds of the season.
With six rounds of qualifying over the two day event there was plenty of time for teams to dial themselves in, but almost immediately it appeared that drivers were a little rusty, with the first three runs of the weekend ending in retirement, a number of drivers admitting that the Father’s Day weekend rotation was one of the most challenging in recent years.
Campaigning his brand new naturally-aspirated 527-cubic-inch alloy LS powerplant for RAMJET four-time Australian champion Phonsy Mullan set the early pace, leading Daryl Hutton and Tremayne Jukes through the opening qualifier in the Unlimited class, while 400-Class points leader Brett Thornton was sixth tenths down on the impressive Paul Kelly in the opening run, a run which saw six boats fail to complete a full lap.
Q2 saw a surprise retirement from crowd favorite Tremayne Jukes, the Victorian still getting used to the iconic Loose Cannon, however a technical issue and a loose turbo pipe prevented him from recording a competitive time in both opening sessions, but by Q3 on Saturday afternoon he was second fastest and within a second of Mullan.
By that stage Thornton too had assumed his position at the top of the 400-Class standings, his third run of the day a full two and a half seconds faster than second placed Greg Harriman in another session that saw inverted boats and a number of really impressive submarine impressions, although while crowd-pleasers, they weren’t providing competitive lap times. Three 400 boats failed to complete a lap in Q2, whilst in Q3, five boats failed to get around.
By Sunday morning most of the teams had enjoyed a night to reflect on their opening day nerves and almost all stayed in the water through to the completion of the sixth round, although there were some anxious moments for the brothers Roylance and for Hugh Gilchrist who was doing a brilliant job of finding his feet under immense pressure in just his second event.
Ultimately just Gilchrist completed just one run in the final two qualifiers as the pace at the top of the timesheets continued to fall, Mullan’s best in Q5 just two tenths faster than Jukes, while in 400s Paul Kelly had thrown down the gauntlet to Thornton to be just over a tenth slower than the points leader. The finals looked promising.
The big questions heading into the finals was about just how much Mullan had in reserve approaching the last run of the day, and whether anybody could catch runaway pace-setter Thornton in 400s.
By the close of the Top 12, a number of those questions had been answered.
Jukes found a little extra to stop the clocks with a best of 43.081 a full second faster than Mullan who was down more than a second on his best of the day, whilst the impressive Jeremy Kincaid was less than a tenth off Darek Sygidus in the battle for fourth, Hutton continuing to split the two groups.
For more action from Cabarita Beach, check out the slideshow above.
Thornton too had a slip in the opening final, dropping more than a second off his best time, whilst rival Brooke Lucas in contrast used the extra pressure as motivation, finding three tenths of a second to finish almost a second clear on top with Mitch Roylance moving into second. The cream was starting to rise.
By the close of the top six it was situation normal at the front, Mullan taking back the top spot—negating the opening final hiccup, his three most recent runs were 42.742, 42.747 and 42.746. It doesn’t getting any more consistent than that. Jukes too was finding the limits of his new mount, although admitting it had plenty in reserve, his consistency too showing two final runs separated by just 18 thousands of a second. It was tight at the top.
Hutton too improved, but he was also nursing a new powerplant and coming to grips with the intricacies of the package while Kincaid continued to push the top three, promising to move into the final if any of them faltered.
And falter they did, however it wasn’t the top three. Sadly, Frankenzstain Junior of Ted and Darek Sygidus which had made cameo appearances in the top three during qualifying was out after both drivers failed to complete the opening final.
After running with the mighty 680-cubic-inch Frankenzstain on Saturday, Ted Sygidus jumped in with brother Darek for Sundays final qualifiers, both showing signs they were capable of making the final but both suffered an off during the top 12.
The intake grill fell out during Ted’s run forcing him up the bank without injury, whilefor Darek, his best run of the weekend came to a premature end after running up the bank looking for some vital extra tenths to put himself into the final.
That misfortune allowed the ever-present Paul Burgess into the final six along with local hero Daniel deVoight in his twin-turbo LS3, the two long-time campaigners enjoying their additional laps in front of the big Cabarita crowd.
Ultimately though the weekend came down to one final run.. As ever Hutton had found that little bit extra during his final rotation to set the benchmark at 44.536 before Jukes put in his best of the weekend, going an incredible two seconds faster than the New Zealander to lower the mark to 42.535 a full two tenths quicker than Mullan’s best.
Mullan though isn’t the most prolific winner in the sport this decade for no reason, the Victorian finding just that little bit more in his final run to take the win with a stunning 42.138.
Showing the worth of practice laps during a run of previous club days at the Cabarita venue, 400-Class points leader Brett Thornton was untouchable in the final although he was still six tenths down on his best of the weekend, the Queenslander stopping the clocks with a 46.353 – his time while safe, was still well clear of rival Brooke Lucas who also went slower than his Top 6 time, whilst Mitch Roylance continued his impressive Superboat debut with third.
Jody Ely managed to retain his third place in the outright championship despite a big rollover on his final run—fortunately without injury, the Victorian claiming fourth in his cameo appearance in Outlaw, while Greg Harriman’s impressive recent run continued with fifth. Local star Peter Monger claimed sixth despite his own moment late in the day which had the big crowd collectively holding their breath as both driver and navigator appeared from below the water line after a big off, and despite campaigning a 350-cubic-inch powerplant in the 400-Class, Ben Hathaway’s giant-killing efforts continued with sixth, the result moving him into the top five in the outright points.
Round No. 6 of the V8 Superboat Championships is set for Oct. 1 at Allcott Hire Park at Lake Centenary in Temora.