Some of Australia’s best V8 Superboat drivers will ‘travel across the ditch’ to New Zealand for the 2016 UIM World Jetsprint Championships this weekend for the first of two rounds back-to-back at the popular Meremere and Bay Park venues.
Forty-five drivers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA have entered the two UIM-sanctioned classes - Unlimited Superboat and International Group A (400 Class).
Three-time Australian champion and recently crowned Unlimited Superboat #1 Phonsy Mullan leads the Australian team, which includes three Australian champions with a combined seven-national titles between them.
Mullan - like fellow World#2 Greg Mercier - is considered an outright chance to topple local hero and multiple world champion Peter Caughey on home soil, but the RAMJET pilot will have his work cut out for him on the testing New Zealand circuits.
“I’ve driven both Meremere [first] and Baypark [second] before with some success,” Mullan admitted. “In fact only recently one of my lap records was broken at Wanganui after standing for a number of seasons, so it’s pretty clear we’re capable of matching the best in the world.”
Mullan was undefeated in season 2015, winning on both sides of the Tasman, to claim his third consecutive Australian Unlimited Superboat crown, although his season wasn’t without challenges, crashing a motocross bike mid-season which broke both his legs! Despite that, the gritty Victorian carried on to meet every challenger head-on, defeating the likes of former Australian title holders Mercier, Daryl Hutton and Brooke Avenell [Dixon]. He also had the chance to battle one of New Zealand’s best - Rob Coley - defeating the Kiwi driver at every turn despite some spirited finals.
Mullan is expected to be a title contender in this year’s Worlds having tuned his twin-turbo 445-ci Chev powered Unlimited machine to a point where it almost appears to run on rails, something which in the past has been a hallmark of multiple world champion Peter Caughey.
“There’s no question that Caughey is the man we’ll all be chasing, he’s a multiple world champion and a local hero, he’s done what we’re all dreaming about achieving, but recently he showed he was only human, putting his boat hard out of the water in one of the New Zealand rounds, a rare error which only happens when you’re pushed, so that tells me he knows the opposition is coming and that he has a big job ahead of him this time.
“From what I can see there’s a number of contenders in New Zealand - obviously Caughey, Glen Head, Rob Coley and Leighton Minnell, but there’s also an unknown in Richard Burt, but don’t rule out the Australians, what we might lack in laps in New Zealand, we’ll make up for in experience.
“I expect that former Australian champion Greg Mercier will be quick in what could be his final event in a Superboat, whilst Daryl Hutton could surprise a few people..!”
With two Australian Unlimited crowns to his name, Australian-based kiwi Daryl ‘Nutsy’ Hutton is a crowd favourite and someone who relishes the tag of underdog..
“I’ve had a few mixed experiences with the World titles in recent years,” Hutton admitted. “So I reckon it’s just about my turn..!"
The last time Hutton contested a world title in New Zealand he was forced to replace an engine between rounds, bringing out of retirement his big-block 670ci Chev affectionately known as the ‘Big Chief’. The New Zealander has been running the engine in Australia ever since, but whilst one of the most feared powerplants in the world ten years ago, the ‘Chief’ has seen it’s last battle, Hutton admitting that the engine is now buried deep in the reservation as he turns back to a supercharged small-block 420-ci Chev with over 1100-horsepower for this year’s assault.
“I don’t think we’ll have the most powerful engine, not by a long shot, but we’ll give it a fair old crack. There’s a lot of talk about this year’s Worlds, and a lot of posturing, but like any of these things, we’ll see what happens when qualifying starts at Meremere, then all the talking will stop and we’ll see who’s really got the goods!”
For Mercier, the 2016 World Championships is being billed as the ‘shark’ boat’s “One Last Bite” with the former Australian title holder and reigning World #2 looking to go out in style.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” the popular Victorian driver - affectionately known as ‘Mr Crusty’ admitted (the tag came after a monster out of water jump off a berm some years ago, Mercier landing the boat back in the water to the cheers of the fans).
“I’ve been doing this for more years than I care to remember, and have been close to the front on a number of occasions. I like New Zealand, and I like the challenge of the Worlds, and this year I think I’m going into it with the best chance I’ve had yet, but to be honest, we don’t know what the locals will bring out. They have the advantage of being able to run those venues regularly, whereas we’ve been in and out of the place over recent years, but based on the exploits of some of the best drivers New Zealand has to offer competing against us in Australia, I think we’ll be there..”
Joining the three Unlimited Superboat title holders in the field will be West Australian mother-and-son pairing Cheryl and Jamie Welch, the Natwel Racing duo making a return to the world titles after a mixed run in the USA last time out.
Jamie was one of the revelations of the 2015 Australian Championships, ultimately claiming third in the points race after a string of podium results across the season against some seriously impressive competition, whilst Cheryl has always been a consistent finisher, the team could be a podium place-getter if the expected fireworks between the top guns forces the front runners out of the water at any point.
“This event is serious,” Mullan explained. “There’s no margin for error, so it’s about being fast but consistent, the last thing you need is to fail to finish, that will be game over!”
Whilst the Unlimited field of 21 boats will provide plenty of action, the International Group A field will also be hotly contested.
There will be just four Australian crews contesting the Worlds this year, but what a list it is, three of those drivers sharing nine Australian titles between them!
Leading the charge will be recently crowned 400 Class [Group A] Australian champion Mark Garlick, the four-time national title holder will make his New Zealand debut at Meremere but is excited about the prospect.
“We were going over the entry list the other day, and it looks like we’ll have the oldest boat in the event,” Garlick quipped. “It’s no matter, it’s still good!”
Garlick showed in season 2015 that there’s life in the old dog yet, the three-time 350 Class champion taking the title from outgoing champion - 2014 400 Class champion Jake Garlick.
“One of the proudest moments in my life,” Garlick admitted with a tear in his eye. “The only thing I think that will top that is me standing on the top step of the World Championship podium with Jake standing the next step down [laughs].
“Honestly, we’re going out to try and win the event, and I don’t think there’s any reason we can’t. There’s some strong competition, but we’re ready for the challenge!”
One of those challengers has been a very closely kept secret in recent weeks, with two-time Australian 400 Class champion Brooke Avenell recently revealing that she will jump back behind the wheel of the #12 Sprintec she took to multiple championship victories alongside new owner Jesse Watkins.
“Dad [Phil Dixon] was keen to bring our Unlimited boat, but we had delays sourcing engine parts in time, so Jesse and the Kanaris Engines team were kind enough to invite me along to have another crack at the Group A title,” Avenell explained.
“I’m looking forward to it and hope the experience I’ve gained from running in the Unlimited class will help me because I’ve got some unfinished business in Group A, especially after finishing second in the Worlds the last few times. I’m under no illusions though how tough it will be as there are some pretty serious challengers, some of whom are as fast as the Unlimited teams, so it’s not going to be easy.”
Whilst disappointed not to be a part of the Unlimited field, Avenell admits she’s not going to miss a second of the action on track, and happy to be able to watch it unfold from the bank..
“The depth of talent in the Unlimited field is incredible, with the best field of boats ever assembled, so the finals are going to be intense - it’s going to be fast, I think it’s probably going to see a number of boats out of the water, and it’s going to be exciting. As to who could win, I think there’s at least four teams with a real outright chance, but there could be as many as five or six more that are capable of winning if the top teams strike trouble. Whatever happens, it’s going to be fantastic!”
The opening round of the World Championships gets underway at Meremere in the northern Waikato region of the North Island of New Zealand with opening qualifying on Saturday, 23 January, before the first finals on Sunday.
Then just five days later teams will be at Baypark Stadium at Tauranga for qualifying for the second and final round of the series, ahead of the finals on Saturday which will crown the Unlimited Superboat and International Group A champions for 2016.
To keep up with the 2016 UIM World Championship from New Zealand keep an eye on www.v8superboats.com.au and www.facebook.com/V8Superboats for details as they emerge.
2016 UIM World Jetsprint Championships [New Zealand]
Meremere (23-24 January), Baypark (29-30 January)
22A. Jamie Welch/Joel Page (Natwel Racing) - Australia
22B. Cheryl Welch/Kassie Page (Natwel Racing) - Australia
23. [AUS#1] Phonsy Mullan/Tanya Iremonger (RAMJET) - Australia
27. Greg Mercier/Dorinda Mercier (ACOL Racing) - Australia
28. Daryl Hutton/Mick Parry (Phoenix Lubricants) - Australia
43. Richard Murray/Ian Carter (Meaner Machine) - NZ
53A. Keven Roberts/Clare Roberts (Stinger) - NZ
53B. Richard Burt/Katie Quantrell (Stinger) - NZ
66. Leighton Minnell/Luke Minnell (Taranaki Hardcore) - NZ
67. David Hopkins/Pam Reid (Clutha Panel Repairs) - NZ
68. [W#1] Peter Caughey/Shama Puturanui (Enzed/Trojan/Total Oil) - NZ
73. Aaron Hansen/Julie-Anne Shanks (Rusti 1) - NZ
80. Robert White/Anthony Bradley (Devils Advocate) - NZ
81. Scott Donald/Nicole Reesby - NZ
88. Nick Berryman/Ella Berryman (NZ Riverjet) - NZ
89. Chris Munro/Brent Scammell (Queenstown Roofing) - NZ
99. David Simmons/John Verry (Blue Flame) - NZ
111. Rob Coley/Kellie Minnell (Poison Ivy) - NZ
181. Garry Stephen/Damon Murray (Bwana) - NZ
232. Graeme Hill/Amanda Kittow (Liquid Gold) - NZ
400. Glen Head/Darren Todd (Altherm Window Systems) - NZ
International Group A
5. Simon Gibbon/Paul Thompson (Novus Auto Glass) - NZ
7. Hayden Wilson/Chris Hausman (White Noise) - NZ
8. Scott Jensen/Cari Jensen (Bad Fish Racing) - Canada
9. Daniel Reade/Ben Sole - NZ
12A. Jesse Watkins/Brendan Greig (Kanaris Engines) - Australia
12B. Brooke Avenell/Louise Blyth (Kanaris Engines) - Australia
12N. Neil Marshall/Michelle Reid (Eagle Automotive) - NZ
15. Warren Farr/Ben Thomas (The Hustler) - NZ
21. Paddy Haden/Jay Haden (Skitzo) - NZ
22. Phil Miller/Sharon Heuser (Punisher) - Canada
31. Ollie Silverton/Jess Sit (PSP Racing) - NZ
32. Karl Brennsell/Hamish Murray (Marooned Too) - NZ
34. Ross Travers/Shane Travers (Radioactive) - NZ
37. Bevin Muir/Kathy Muir (Teng Tools Racing) - NZ
47. Baden Grey/Mandy Tisdall (Overlord) - NZ
50. Sam Newdick/Glenn Mason (PSP) - NZ
52. Blake Briant/Kate Hoogerbrug (Harvest Transport) - NZ
72. Andy Ryan/Karianne Allen (The Joker) - NZ
95A. [AUS#1] Mark Garlick/Jamie Anderson (Grumpy) - Australia
95B. Jake Garlick/Kerry Garlick (Grumpy) - Australia
151. Kyle Patrick/Alex Patrick (Psyco Racing) - USA
156. Ron Domoe/Steven Church (Bad Influence) - USA
158. Harry Whelans/Jason Conroy (Usain Boat) - NZ
222. Ric Burke/Alf Kil (Firewater) - NZ
2016 UIM World Jetsprint Championships [New Zealand]
Meremere, NZ (23-24 January)
Saturday, 23 January [NZDT]
12:00pm - Practice 1-2
2:00pm - Qualifying 1-2
Sunday, 24 January [NZDT]
8:30am - Qualifying 3-4
12:30pm - Finals - Top 16/12/8/5/3
5:30pm - Presentations (Round#1)
Baypark, Tauranga [29-30 January]
Friday, 29 January [NZDT]
2:00pm - Qualifying 1-2
5:30pm - Qualifying 3
7:00pm - Qualifying 4
Saturday, 30 January [NZDT]
1:30pm - Qualifying 5
7:00pm - Finals - Top 16/12
8:45pm - Finals - Top 8/5/3
Sunday, 31 January
7:00pm - Official Presentations
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, 7. Greg Mercier (ACOL Racing) - 106, 9. Cheryl Welch (Natwel Racing) - 104
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, 8. Jesse Watkins (Kanaris Engines) - 98
350-Class (after round six of six)
1. Jake Garlick (Evil As) - 141, 2. Ben Hathaway (Allcott Transformer) - 135
For more information or high-resolution images, please contact;
AFJSA Media Manager; Sean Henshelwood Email: email@example.com
Mobile: 0419 143 267
Photos: Russell Puckeridge - Pureart Creative Images