Ultimately we saw a first-time winner for the 2016 season in Unlimited Superboat after the demise of runaway championship points leader Phonsy Mullan during qualifying, while Queenslander Brett Thornton continued to stamp his authority on the super-competitive 400-Class with his second straight victory of the year.
A dominant figure in his class, Mullan to have a better outcome this weekend in Cabarita. Photo courtesy/copyright Russell Puckeridge/Pureart Creative Images.
Sadly we also lost a couple of competitors due to mechanical failures, the most notable outside of Mullan, was reigning World No. 4—and Mullan’s closest rival—Jamie Welch, the West Australian out with serious damage to his 510-cubic-inch powerplant, damage which saw the team forced to withdraw from the remainder of the season.
Jackhammer’s David Moodie was also sidelined early last round with mechanical dramas, and he will be absent this weekend, while Jody Ely who is holding down third place in 400 Class has been offered a lifeline by former team-mate Justin Roylance in Outlaw after a delay in delivery of parts to rectify a technical issue the team suffered during the closing stages of the August event.
Unfortunately too we’ll have to wait just a touch longer to see former 400-Class world champion Slade Stanley debut his new boat after further setbacks, he is now aiming for a return later in the season.
Last time out we saw a couple of big hits too from Adelaide’s Tony Giustozzi and Mick Carroll, the pair once more coming to grief in Excalibur and while repaired and ready for action, the South Australians were unable to make the transport for the Tweed Coast event and have been forced to sit out the weekend, but expect to return for Temora.
As for Mullan, a rare mechanical failure sidelined the points leader forcing a rethink on his future.
“I’ve been keen to try a naturally-aspirated engine for a while to see just how competitive we can make it,” Mullan explained. “We haven’t actually pulled down the twin-turbo unit yet, and actually have plans to build another, but the block has been delayed, and the naturally aspirated package was sitting in the wings ready to go.
“That said we’ve had a lot of sleepless nights and some seriously long hours because it’s not just a matter of changing the engine, it’s a matter of changing just about everything from electrics to driveline, to starter motor and exhaust,” he continued. “It’s been a tireless three weeks since we got back.
Another with a “new” powerplant is two-time Unlimited Superboat champion and winner last time out, Daryl Hutton.
“It’s the same unit we’ve been using up till the last round at Cabarita, although it’s a new block and new pistons and a few other ancillaries,” Hutton said. “But it’s still a 410-cubic-inch supercharged V8 so hopefully it gives us a known package to work with.”
Last time out Hutton was forced to “borrow” a boat from former 350-Class front-runner Glenn “Spider” Roberts, the New Zealander taking the 560ci powered naturally-aspirated big-block to victory in the final over pace-setter Tremayne Jukes and Darek Sygidus.
“I think we surprised a few people in the final,” Hutton admitted. “We kept improving the boat but actually suffered a stator failure in the jet unit in the final few rounds as well as a valve spring in the final run, but we were able to find enough pace to take the win and move back into contention for the title, so we’ll be going hard this weekend with the American Importers machine back in action.”
While Mullan and Hutton will no doubt provide a focal point at the front of the field, don’t discount Ted Sygidus and younger brother Darek in Frankenzstain the naturally-aspirated 680 cubic-inch big-block V8 powered Unlimited machine that features insane horsepower. Darek made the podium last time out in the team’s “Junior” boat with its nimble 510-cubic-inch powerplant, but with each event the bad-boy 680 gets quicker and quicker and the team gain more valuable insight into how to get it to work, so it’s only a matter of time before the two former 400-Class champions start eking away at Mullan’s ongoing domination of the category.
Throw in Tremayne Jukes in his new twin-turbo powered machine, the Victorian showing last time out that Maniac—the newly re-liveried Loose Cannon—still has the ability to shake the standing order of the Unlimited field, and the popular former 400-Class competitor showed incredible pace to record the quickest time of the event.
And while there’s little question that the crowd comes to see the Unlimited boats battle at the top of the timesheets, something which often produces some spectacular out-of-water episodes, the 400-Class title battle too has been shaping up to be one of the best on record.
Currently former 350-Class champion Brett Thornton leads the way with two wins from four starts (but podiums on every occasion) to be clear of Brooke Lucas and more than a round clear of third placed Jody Ely. But if there’s one thing that Phonsy Mullan’s early retirement last time out showed, and that’s that you need to keep scoring points. One DNF or low point-scoring round and that lead could quickly evaporate.