New Zealander Rob Coley suffered a monster rollover in qualifying, before recovering to go on and claim his maiden round win during the final round of the Australian V8 Superboats Championships at the Tweed Coast venue over the weekend, an event which saw all three class champions crowned for the year.
Coley went into the final locked in a titanic battle with crowd favourite Booke Avenell and emerging star Jamie Welch, with Coley setting the fastest time of the weekend on his final run to claim the win, whilst in the 400 Class, Damian O’Leary made a welcome return, defeating series rival Mark Garlick in the final, although Garlick’s consistency during the year handed him his maiden Group A title.
Split across two days, the biggest news heading into day one was the withdrawal of newly crowned Unlimited Superboat champion Phonsy Mullan, the RAMJET driver at Cabarita, but unable to start after recent surgery to right the injuries he’d suffered earlier in the year during a motocross accident. Fellow former title holder Greg Mercier too was forced to sit out the round, the ACOL Skylights ‘shark’ pilot still suffering from an injury he sustained at Temora which forced him out of that event prior to the finals, with both crews watching the action unfold from the sidelines.
During Saturday’s opening qualifying, it was Cabarita’s August hero Tony Giustozzi who set the Unlimited pace in ‘Excalibur’, the South Australian and team-mate Mick Carroll ending the day on top, with Ted Sygidus third in ‘Frakenzstain’, whilst May’s second round winner Brooke Lucas set a blistering pace in the 400 Class to be just a second slower than the leading Unlimited boats.
Sadly there were a few retirements on day one, notably Brooke Avenell who was forced to sit out second qualifying with a mechanical issue, something which also claimed round five 400 Class winner Greg Harriman, whilst Kevin Laugesen was forced to retire with a mystery illness, fortunately Dixon and Laugesen recovered to be on the ramp for Sunday’s all important finals.
By Sunday morning there was a new challenger in the mix in the Unlimited class, with West Australian Jamie Welch stopping the clocks four tenths up on dual Australian champion Daryl Hutton, whilst Darek Sygidus jumped into third in a round which saw a number of navigational errors.
Brooke Lucas continued to dominate in 400 Class, but had title rivals Damian O’Leary and Mark Garlick pressing him hard, whilst former 350 Class champion Brett Thornton was also finding some impressive pace in his new boat ‘2Obsessed’.
The 350 Class too saw a great battle brewing between outgoing 400 Class title holder Jake Garlick and Victorian Ben Hathaway, the duo separated by just 15 one hundredths of a second in Q3, setting up what would be an epic final.
By Q4 the times dropped again with Brooke Avenell bringing the crowd to their feet with the first lap in the 50s, her 50.158 just a quarter of a second up on Hutton, with Rob Coley also going sub-51, whilst O’Leary took over the front running in 400 Class after an off-track excursion by Lucas.
Avenell did it again in the final qualifying round, throwing down the gauntlet to her rivals as the first driver to go under the 50-second mark, as others started to buckle under pressure. Most notable of the missing challengers was Hutton, who was forced to retire ‘Total Lubricants’ after the previous session with terminal engine failure, forcing him to step into ‘Daly Transport’ alongside Paul Burgess, the New Zealander keeping his challenge alive with the fifth fastest time, marginally behind local star Daniel deVoigt.
The biggest of the absentees from the timesheets in Q5 were New Zealand pairing Rob Coley and Kellie Minnell who had a big rollover late in their run, fortunately without harm to crew or boat, and fortunately in qualifying, as an off in the first of the finals would have eliminated them from a podium challenge.
Brooke Lucas was back in the thick of the action in 400 Class, battling arch rivals Garlick and O’Leary, the South Australian once again topping the timesheets in ‘Kryptonite’, whilst in 350 Class Jake Garlick started to stretch his legs in ‘Evil As’ to open out a lead of more than two seconds heading into the finals.
In the Top 12 final - the first of the three finals - Avenell again topped the timesheets, with the recovering Coley next, whilst Jamie Welch, Hutton and the Sygidus brothers also made it through to the Top 6, whilst sadly Mick Carroll’s great start to the weekend came unstuck after missing the cut by just a quarter of a second..
Damian O’Leary continued to set a blistering pace in the 400 Class, with former 350 Class rivals Mark Garlick and Brooke Lucas separated by mere hundredths of a second in the battle for second. Brett Thornton, Kevin Laugesen and Peter Monger qualified for the second final, whilst local driver Brad Marsden and Jesse Watkins missed the cut.
It was disappointment for the Kanaris Engines crew not to qualify for the final, after running strongly inside the top three for much of the weekend despite it being Watkins’ maiden season in V8 Superboats.
Knowing the boat was still at its competitive best after his big off in the final qualifier, Coley made his move in the Top 6 final to claim the top spot, dropping Avenell back to second, with Jamie Welch continuing his impressive form to make the final, whilst for the Sygidus brothers and Hutton, it was ‘game over’, Ted Sygidus admitting afterwards that they were still in need of more development in the 680ci powered machine.
O’Leary once more topped the 400 Class timesheets, with Lucas and Garlick joining him in the final, whilst Laugesen showed little sign of the illness that had sidelined him on Saturday to claim fourth, falling just seven tenths shy of a second finals berth in 2015.
Ultimately, despite another impressive run by Avenell, the final belonged to Coley, the New Zealander turning in a stunning 48.360 to claim the top spot in ‘Poison Ivy’ with Avenell second and Welch third. Coley’s result saw not just his maiden Unlimited Superboat win in Australia, but the valuable championship points elevated him to second in the championship behind three-time Unlimited champion Phonsy Mullan.
O’Leary held his nerve in the final to displace title rival Garlick by less than a tenth of a second, whilst Brooke Lucas failed to finish after suffering a mechanical failure whilst on his fastest run of the weekend. The win was O’Leary’s first round victory of the year, but it was Garlick who was crowned champion, the Queenslander adding the 400 Class crown to his 2010 350 Class title, his win made all the more sweeter after outgoing champion - son Jake - handed him the perpetual trophy at the presentation dinner.
In 350 Class, reigning 400 Class champion Jake Garlick claimed his second 350 title, after winning the final over title rival Hathaway by more than two seconds in what had been a great battle between the pair across the season.
With the final round of the 2015 Australian V8 Superboats season now concluded, attention turns to 2016, with a six or seven race program expected to be released in the coming weeks. Keep an eye on www.v8superboats.com.au and www.facebook.com/V8Superboats for details as they emerge.
Rnd#6 2015 Australian Superboat Championships
Tweed Coast Jetsprint Club, Cabarita Beach, NSW
1. Rob Coley (Poison Ivy) - 48.360
2. Brooke Avenell (Hi-Tec Oils) - 49.497
3. Jamie Welch (Natwel Racing) - 50.838
400 Class (Group A)
1. Damian O'Leary (Kryptonite) - 53.752
2. Mark Garlick (Grumpy) - 53.847
3. Brooke Lucas (Trouble Maker) - NTR
1. Jake Garlick (Evil As) - 58.245
2. Ben Hathaway (Weapon) - 1:00.479
TOP 6 FINAL
1. Rob Coley (Poison Ivy) - 49.083
2. Brooke Avenell (Hi-Tec Oils) - 49.284
3. Jamie Welch (Natwel Racing) - 51.334
4. Darek Sygidus (Frankenzstain) - 51.960
5. Daryl Hutton (Daly Transport) - 52.555
6. Ted Sygidus (Frankenzstain) - NTR
400 Class (Group A)
1. Damian O'Leary (Kryptonite) - 53.422
2. Brooke Lucas (Trouble Maker) - 54.085
3. Mark Garlick (Grumpy) - 54.498
4. Kevin Laugesen (Spanet) - 55.146
5. Brett Thornton (2Obsessed) - 56.111
6. Peter Monger (Mongrel) - 1:01.300
2015 Australian V8 Superboat Championships - Series points
Unlimited Superboat (after round six of six)
1. Phonsy Mullan (RAMJET) - 190 points, 2. Rob Coley (Poison Ivy) - 147, 3. Jamie Welch (Natwel Racing) - 144, 4. Daryl Hutton (Total Lubricants) - 143, 5. Brooke Avenell (Hi-Tec Oils) - 140, 6. Ted Sygidus (Frankenstein) - 139, 7. Greg Mercier (ACOL Racing) - 106, 8. Paul Burgess (Daly Transport) - 106, 9. Cheryl Welch (Natwel Racing) - 104, 10. Darek Sygidus (Frankenstein) - 104, 11. Mick Carroll (Excalibur) - 90, 12. Tremayne Jukes (JRE Engines) - 79, 13. Daniel deVoigt (Q-BEARS) - 78, 14. Tony Giustozzi (Excalibur) - 74, 15. Paul Gaston (Frankenstein Jnr) - 36, 16. Louise Dixon (Hi-Tec Oils) - 34, 17. Phil Dixon (Hi-Tec Oils) - 30.
400-Class (Group A) (after round six of six)
1. Mark Garlick (Grumpy) - 177 points, 2. Damian O’Leary (Kryptonite) - 168, 3. Kevin Laugesen (Spanet) - 146, 4. Brad Marsden (Allcott Transformer) - 140, 5. Greg Harriman (Pangaea Floors) - 134, 6. Brett Thornton (Obsession) - 129, 7. Brooke Lucas (Trouble Maker) - 120, 8. Jesse Watkins (Kanaris Engines) - 98, 9. Peter Monger (Mongrel) - 90, 10. Dave Moody (Jackhammer) - 52, 11. Paul Kelly (Anaconda) - 50, 12. Ben Hathaway (Allcott Transformer) -22, 13. Mark Seddon (18), 14. Scott Krause (Soak’n Fused) - 18
350-Class (after round six of six)
1. Jake Garlick (Evil As) - 141, 2. Ben Hathaway (Allcott Transformer) - 135
2015 Australian Superboat Championships
Rnd#1 - 7 March, Temora (NSW)
Rnd#2/3 - 23-24 May, Tweed Coast (NSW)
Rnd#4 - 8-9 August, Tweed Coast (NSW)
Rnd#5 - 24 October, Temora (NSW)
Rnd#6 - 21-22 November, Tweed Coast (NSW)
For more information on the 2015 Australian V8 Superboat Championships, please visit
Photos: Russell Puckeridge - Pureart Creative Images