Finalized immediately after last-weekend’s season-opener of the V8 Superboats Championship series on Lake Wyangan in Griffith, New South Wales, Australia, Penrite Oil has signed on as the title sponsors and its post-season world championships. Moving forward, the six-round Australian Championships will be known as the 2018 Penrite Australian Superboat Championships, while the forthcoming world titles, will become the 2018 Penrite UIM (Union International Motonautique) World Championships.
The V8 Superboats Championship series roared into Griffith under threatening skies and exited with a new title sponsor. Photos courtesy/copyright Russell Puckeridge/Pureart Creative Images.
“Like Penrite, the V8 Superboats Championships are all about passion,” said Toby Dymond ,the general manager admitted of the iconic Australian family-owned business. “The teams, the drivers and the fans are purists who love their motorsport, just like we do, so when the opportunity came to be involved with the series in a World Championship year, we felt that it was the ideal time to ‘jump on board.’”
Of course, even a new naming sponsor couldn’t change the weather for the first event of the season. Heading to Griffith, all of the V8 Superboat jet sprint teams were well aware that mother nature would be a contributing factor with first high temperatures and then threatening storms likely to impact the schedule. Despite darkening skies that were a menacing dark brown as nearby paddocks mixed with the wind and rain, qualifying began with the Lake Wyangan venue seemingly free from the drama that was clearly intensifying all around.
Ultimately the weather came though, just as the finals started to get interesting, with the event declared just after 10 p.m. as heavy rain ultimately decided the fate of the opening round, with the Unlimited Superboat category declared after the first final, while the 400-Class was able to complete their second final with Hathaway just sneaking through on early pace-setters Paul Kelly and Jody Ely.
The big news from qualifying was the absence of reigning Unlimited Superboat champion Phonsy Mullan, the six-time national title holder had suffered dramas with his new package (he debuted a “new” hull at Griffith) which delayed his departure from Melton, before a steering failure in his primary tow vehicle saw him stranded roadside waiting for assistance. To make matters worse, he discovered a fuel line issue once set up at Griffith that the team took most of the afternoon fixing, the Victorian finally able to lay down a time in the third qualifier.
With the opportunity open to his rivals, they attacked, with both Scott Krause and Glenn “Spider” Roberts dominating the timesheets in the Unlimited category, as former champion Daryl Hutton continued to battle with his Stinger hull, the fact that he spent more time in the air than on the water a sure indication the team had been unable to dial out its evil tendencies.
Scott Krause was the man to beat in the 400-class qualifier.
Campaigning the package originally put together by former Group A (400-Class) world Champion Slade Stanley, Scott Krause showed incredible skills to punch out a staggering 39.489 in the opening qualifier, the next best driver was Glenn Roberts who was over a second slower, while Daryl Hutton bounced around five seconds off the outright pace, it was an impressive debut.
Roberts though quickly returned fire with a 39.729 in Q2 as Krause started to try alternate lines looking for some more speed on track. Campaigning the boat that took Tremayne Jukes to four outright wins in season 2017, Paul Gaston was easing himself into the seat of the new look Heatseeker, taking on board feedback from Jukes and the team that took Maniac to a season high four wins and second in the Unlimited championship last season.
He was second fastest in Q2 before dipping into the 39s in both Q3 and Q4, but by that stage Krause had stunned the field with a 38.236 in the final qualifier, with Roberts also dipping into the 38s as Mullan began to fire, his second run (Q4) netting a 39.361 with the promise of more to come.
Unlike previous seasons at Griffith, the qualifiers went by almost without drama, although the returning Jeremy Kincaid had the vocal Griffith crowd on their feet in Q4 after clipping a bank while trying to find some extra time late in the lap. He initially righted the boat, but momentum was against him, rolling Rogue over fortunately landing on the hard dry circuit edge and not in the water, the upshot being some red clay on the roll cage, but aside from that the hull and engine were unhurt.
In the end no-one could touch Scott Krause’s benchmark qualifying time—the Temora local comfortably clear of Roberts, Mullan and Paul Gaston who was getting progressively quicker in Heatseeker. Michael Cunningham was an impressive fifth fastest on his debut, ably assisted by former national champions Phil Dixon and Greg Mercier, while Jeremy Kincaid—who despite the indiscretion of Q4—was sixth in Rogue.
Daniel deVoigt was finding more consistent speed with every run, while a frustrated Daryl Hutton was strangely slowest in the field, something which didn’t sit well with the two-time champion.
While the Unlimited field was preparing for a shake-up in the finals, in what was shaping up as one of the best 400-Class fields in recent seasons, the action was even more intense with mere hundredths separating the top teams at times as the field ran through the four qualifiers.
Reigning champion Ben Hathaway started the season the way he’d finished 2017—with the quickest time in Q1 before starting a see-sawing battle with Jody Ely in Rampage and 2017 Griffith winner Paul Kelly in the 4Zero Racing machine.
Ely took top honours in Q2 (although four one hundredths off Hathaway’s top time from Q1) before Hathaway fired back in Q3, lowering the benchmark time to a 40.686, but it was Kelly who waited until the final qualifier to fire, setting a stunning 40.458 best, two tenths quicker than Ely and Hathaway who were again separated by mere hundredths of a second, with former champion Mark Garlick well within reach in Grumpy.
Brett Thornton , the 2016 champion and the man who missed last year’s title by just a single point, was a conservative fifth in 2Obsessed, the Queenslander seemingly unwilling to push the absolute limit on a track notorious for breaking boats and ending championships.
The Rookie of the Year in 2016, Mitch Roylance was sixth, lamenting a lack of experience at the Griffith circuit, and a lack of development time with Blackjack, although he was celebrating having gone quicker than older brother Justin who was having a tough time in the Spitwater Team Outlaw machine after a pre-race preparation which saw him glued to a telephone for 16 hours a day in an effort to secure sponsors for the sport.
Brad Marsden was next quickest of the qualifiers in Allcott Transformer the Queenslander confirming his 400-Class package was available ahead of a sabbatical from the sport to focus on business, the 2016 Griffith winner though a devout Superboat fan, so much so that he allowed rival David Moodie to share the drive after Jackhammer suffered a mechanical setback in the opening session.
Sadly Moodie had a big off in Q4 although fortunately without significant damage to the Allcott Transformer machine, which was repaired in time to allow Marsden to run in the finals.
Greg Harriman was ninth fastest qualifier in the Pink Boots Foundation machine ahead of the returning Shane Loughnan who had a tough time in ‘Vicious’ recording just a single lap in Q1 before retiring the boat with technical issues.
David Moodie was classified 11th after qualifying despite having to change seats ahead of Hugh Gilchrist (Pink Boots Foundation), while former champion Andrew Medlicott (Gone Nutz Again) out-qualified Darrin Kesper in Let’s Boogie whose 55.475 Q4 time saw him fall seven tenths shy of a berth in the finals.
First out for the finals was reigning LS-Class champion Ivan Safranek, the sole LS entry enjoying updated performance from his new powerplant, fitted just days out from the opening round of the season.
A 46.819 opening qualifier for the West-Australia improved to a 45.618 in Q3, a time which would have put him just off the tail of the top 10 in 400-Class. By virtue of being the only LS entrant to make the field for the season opener, Safranek and Katana claimed top points for the Griffith round.
Frustratingly, after Safranek’s lap, threatening rain began to fall on the circuit, delaying the start of the finals, although just as quickly as it came, it eased, allowing the Top 12 sessions to get underway.
The 400-Class was out first and Paul Kelly’s impressive late-session pace improved, the Queenslander comfortably quickest with a 40.244, eight tenths quicker than Jody Ely and more than a second up on Hathaway. The gauntlet had been thrown.
Mark Garlick was also within reach of Hathaway, so too Brett Thornton, while Mitch Roylance also made his way into the second final, defeating brother Justin for the position, Greg Harriman and Brad Marsden also failing to advance.
With light rain falling, 400-Class took to the water for their second final with Paul Kelly again setting the pace as the first driver into the 39s, something the bulk of the Unlimited class was struggling to achieve, his 39.833 lap seemingly good enough to take back-to-back wins at Griffith, but nobody had told Ben Hathaway about the plan, the Victorian going nine one thousandths faster to claim the round win—39.824.
Hoping to reprise his 2017 400-Class world title, Ben Hathaway prevailed in the first round of the 2018 season series.
Third ultimately fell to Jody Ely whose consistency in Rampage saw him improve by just eight one hundredths over his Top 12 time, in the end he took the final podium position by just 26 one thousandths from Garlick. It was that close.
Mitch Roylance ultimately claimed fifth, with Brett Thornton, who was suffering an ignition problem which dropped him to seven cylinders, hanging on for sixth.
Between the two 400-Class finals the Unlimited class too was able to put down a full session with the running of the first final and with lightning flashing in the distance, the field realized that it could very well be their last run of the night.
Daniel deVoigt (Devo Racing) was the big improver during the first final setting a best for the night of 42.411 to top the hapless Daryl Hutton, Jeremy Kincaid and rookie Michael Cunningham, before falling just 17 one hundredths short of Paul Gaston.
The main focus though was on reigning champion Phonsy Mullan who was still working feverishly on his new RAMJET package. Having just two rotations under his belt before heading out for what would ultimately be his final run of the night with the increasing tempo of the rain, Mullan put down an impressive 39.965 to top Glenn Roberts who at that stage held the fastest time.
Then it was down to Scott Krause.
Krause threw the immaculate KAOS/Penrite machine around the Lake Wyangan circuit with the crowd and his rivals mesmerised by his aggression and wheel-work, the Temora local stopping the clocks with a stunning 38.446 to claim the win by more than a second and a half over Mullan despite falling short of his final qualifying best.
In a round that had delivered ambient temperatures of up to 38 degrees, followed by strong wind and ultimately a drought breaking rain storm, race director Grant Bourke was left with little option other than to declare the event after the completion of the second 400-Class final despite a number of Unlimited boats starting their second final.
The second of Australian V8 Superboat Championships is set for March 24. Catch the livestream from the event on speedonthewater.com
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).