The results of the 2016 UIM Jetsprint World Championships from New Zealand may not have provided Australian teams with the result they were looking for, but those that attended can hold their heads high having often overcome insurmountable challenges to compete at the front of the field against the best teams in the world.
Almost every Australian entry proved capable of matching the leaders, but luck was not on the side of the green and gold in the land of the long white cloud, with two first time winners claiming the silverware in Unlimited Superboat and International Group A.
Typically the events were run on well prepared circuits in front of impressive crowds, the Baypark event in particular a brilliant venue for jetsprinting, with as many as 18,000 fans enjoying arguably the greatest V8 Superboat spectacle ever contested.
Sadly the second round was also tinged with sadness, after the realisation on the Friday night that one of the most influential members of world jetsprinting had passed away in Melbourne, the big Baypark crowd standing for one minute’s silence for the legendary Colin Parish.
Rnd#1 - Meremere [NZ] - 23-24 January
Meremere was always expected to be a challenge to some of the Australian teams, with a mixture of experience on the circuit and boats dialed in for high speed the keys to success around the popular North Island venue.
For the Australians - many of whom hadn’t seen the Meremere venue prior - one of the first blows came with the news that a number of local teams had been testing on the circuit the weekend prior to the event, inciting some frustration from the Australian teams, notably reigning AUS#1 Phonsy Mullan.
“There was a conversation prior to the World Titles that the circuit would be closed to entrants for a month prior to the World championships, but that clearly didn’t happen,” Mullan explained. “I even watched one of my rivals testing on the Wednesday immediately prior. I’m happy if they decided to change the rule, but change it for everyone, not just the locals!”
The opening two qualifiers at Meremere on day one were a sign of things to come. In Unlimited Superboats, New Zealander Richard Burt led Mullan early, with two-time Australian champion Daryl Hutton fourth fastest in the opening rotation, but very quickly, reigning Unlimited world champion Peter Caughey and local hero Glen Head worked their way into the equation.
Mullan was forced to sit out the second qualifier with a mechanical issue, with fellow World#2 Greg Mercier moving into the top five despite still suffering from a shoulder injury which was aggravated at Cabarita late in the Australian championships season.
Mullan showed absolutely no sign of the mechanical issue which had sidelined him during Saturday’s qualifiers to dominate the timesheets during the opening session on Sunday, half a second faster than Head, with Burt and Caughey close behind. Mercier continued to find pace, but was off his best, whilst reigning AUS#3 Jamie Welch continued to move forward ahead of Hutton who was suffering mechanical issues with his new powerplant.
By the fourth qualifier, Greg and Dorinda Mercier’s illustrious 18-year Superboat career came to a close, an off whilst on a top five lap came at too high a cost for the former Australian champions, retiring the ACOL Skylights ‘shark’ in an event which was hailed as their ‘one last bite’.
“The shoulder was hurting me a lot, but fortunately most of the corners for the early part of the rotation were left-handers, but the right handers were really starting to tax me,” Mercier admitted. “We were on a strong lap too, and I just touched the tyres, but that was it. Neither of us are hurt, and the boat is certainly repairable, but the nut at the end of the wheel is a little too broken for this kind of competition, so the smartest thing to do is park it.. there’s a first for everything!”
Whilst Mercier was out, and Mullan was comfortably inside the top three, the big surprise for the Australian camp was the performance of West Australian Jamie Welch.
Sixth in the fourth qualifier, he was just tenths behind ‘honorary Aussie’ Hutton in the first final where sadly his mother Cheryl was eliminated after a solid run through the qualifiers.
Hutton was laboring after his own mechanical failure on day one.. “We discovered water in a cylinder as the result of a blocked injector which put a crack in a head, so we were forced to weld and machine it on Saturday night to be in with a shot of the finals,” he explained.
“Sunday started okay and we were looking good, but I made a mistake in the Top 8 final and clipped a bank which folded the passenger’s side of the boat in, so that was Meremere for us!”
Mullan, Jamie Welch and Hutton all made it through to the third final, after finishing inside the top eight in the Top 12 shootout, but Mullan was the only one to progress into the final five after both Hutton and Welch (who suffered a pretty catastrophic jet unit failure) were unable to complete their rotations, Mullan’s lap just half a second slower than Head’s best.
Heading into the penultimate final, Mullan was primed and ready to attack for the top spot, but sadly fate intervened, the three-time Australian Unlimited champion catching his arm restraint strap on his oxygen bottle part way around the lap, losing him valuable tenths of a second which kept him from making the final three.
“I’m pretty devastated to be honest.” Mullan admitted. “We had the pace to be comfortably on the podium, but it wasn’t to be. I’ve never had the problem before, in fact I wasn’t sure what had happened until I came into the spinout pool and the same thing happened again, I’m just glad it didn’t end with an accident, because we came pretty close. This makes Baypark tough. I know we’ll be quick there, but from fourth in the points against some pretty fast locals, it’s going to be difficult.”
Whilst the Australian Unlimited teams managed to mix it with the front-runners, the International Group A stars - of which three teams shared four Group A Australian titles between them - struggled to find the front-running performance they had shown during the 2015 domestic season on the fast Meremere circuit which really rewarded local knowledge.
Dual Australian Group A champion Brooke Avenell was off the pace initially in the Kanaris Engines entry she was sharing with boat owner Jesse Watkins, the former True Blue boat which had taken Avenell to past world championship podiums as ‘True Blue Too’ taking some time to dial in for the faster circuit after suffering a litany of engine issues.
Meanwhile reigning Australian champions ‘Grumpy’ with Mark and Jake Garlick at the helm were working hard to get in touch with the leaders, with both Avenell and 2014 Australian champion Jake Garlick making the second final, Avenell getting more comfortable with each session to make the final eight before being eliminated ahead of the top five shootout.
“Meremere was tough,” Mark Garlick explained. “It was a real horsepower circuit and we just didn’t have it, however it looks like that will all change at Baypark and that should get us back in the hunt, but it has been an incredible experience so far, well worth the trip!”
Rnd#2 - Baypark [NZ] - 29-30 January
With just five days to turn everything around between rounds, a number of teams had work on their hands to be ready for Baypark, one of which was Hutton who had some panel beating to do.
“It wasn’t too bad in the end, we fixed the hull and also took another look at the engine and tidied a few things up, but I still had time to enjoy some aerobatics in a helicopter - that was fun..!”
The Aussies were right in the mix again from opening practice at Baypark with the impressive Jamie Welch third fastest on his first lap, just half a second behind the experienced Richard Burt and almost a second up on runaway Meremere winner Glen Head.
For Phonsy Mullan fans, they had a heart-stopping moment in the opening qualifier after the four-time Australian champion came out of the water, fortunately with little damage, whilst for Daryl Hutton, the experienced New Zealander very nearly ended his event in Q2, just like compatriot - Group A points leader - Blake Briant just minutes earlier.
“There was a rogue wave off the wash at that part of the circuit, and I hit it at the very same point as Briant,” Hutton explained. “Fortunately damage for us was minimal, but it could very well have ended as badly as Briant’s accident.”
By Q2 Welch was still astounding everyone with his pace to remain third, with Mullan also inside the top five, before Mullan started to step up the pace, working himself to second behind Head, then into P1 in Q5, eight tenths up on points leader Head and more than a second faster than multiple world champion Peter Caughey, heading into the finals.
“I thought I’d show them just what we were capable of ahead of the finals,” Mullan explained.
Head returned the favour in the final qualifier, with Mullan second and waiting for his chance to attack, whilst Jamie Welch was also still within striking range ahead of the opening final.
Sadly for Hutton, his world championships hoodoo continued, the two-time Australian champion missing the final qualifier after discovering a fuel leak, perhaps as a result of his off-track excursions, although despite failing to record a time, his efforts in the earlier qualifiers saw him comfortably qualify for the top 16 final, but fate soon intervened.
“We thought we’d resolved the fuel issue heading to the ramp for my run, but then a fuel pump failed as we were about to go out, so they put the clock on us to give us the allotted time to get a start, but just as we were tightening the bolts, the boys lost the spanner in the bottom of the boat, and we couldn’t get another before we were timed out.. it about summed up our worlds - again,” the popular New Zealander shrugged.
After an impressive drive to make it through to the second final, Cheryl Welch’s world championships came to an end in the top 12, but tragically, it was also the end for Mullan who was forced to retire with a mechanical issue..
“I can’t believe it, but it’s the old $10 part that’s cost us,” Mullan lamented. “The throttle shaft broke part way around the lap, and that was that, instant elimination. It was such a pity because I felt I had the pace to take it to Head and Burt, and showed that in the qualifiers, but in the finals, it’s sudden-death and there’s no coming back from there, game over.”
Whilst Mullan was out, joining Cheryl Welch and Daryl Hutton on the bank, Jamie Welch was continuing to impress, the West Australian breaking into the final five, ultimately missing a podium result by just six tenths of a second, in the process being classified as World#4 after his two consistent results.
“The plan going in was purely to be consistent,” Welch admitted afterwards. “We achieved that without taking serious risk, and it paid off. We were well down on power compared to a lot of our rivals, but we kept improving each time out, and just focused on keeping it smooth and fast. I’m overjoyed to come so close to a podium, and now I’m pumped for more!”
Nothing though was going to stop New Zealander Glen Head - the winner of the opening round at Meremere - from going on to claim his maiden Unlimited Superboat world crown thanks to popular victory in front of a full house at Baypark.
On a tighter circuit that relied more on ability than boat speed, the Australians were right in the mix in Group A, although day one didn’t start quite so well, with the Kanaris Engines boat sidelined with mechanical woes, whilst Mark Garlick survived what could have been a much more significant accident in the opening qualifier..
“Brain fade,” Garlick lamented afterwards.. “I made a navigational error and almost immediately realised what I’d done, turning at speed into the spinout pool where I was faced with a bunch of boats on trailers.
“My options were limited, so I went for two hay bales on the edge of the bank and aimed between them. The damage wasn’t insignificant, but it wasn’t bad, and no-one was injured, so it was a good day, but it wrecked our run, although unbeknown to us at the time, it transformed the handling of the boat for the better..!”
Qualifying two saw both Avenell and Jake Garlick running inside the top eight, but the big surprise was the younger Garlick who topped the timesheets in Q4, Avenell not far behind him in the third qualifier, with both Australian teams inside the top four.. it was starting to get interesting.
Sadly for Garlick, whilst he comfortably made the second final and had the pace to go through to the final eight, a navigational error cost the three-time Australian champion any chance of progression, joining his father and impressive world championship rookie Jesse Watkins on the bank to watch Avenell battle with the leaders heading into the final five.
Ultimately the popular Australian driver fell just short of a podium result, although the Hi-Tec Oils team, working alongside the Kanaris Engines crew had transformed the boat across the two events, finishing just over a second off the pace of the leading team after starting Meremere more than six seconds off the pace.
“It was a tough event, especially as we didn’t quite have the engine setup we needed with vital parts not arriving in time for the opening round which meant we spent a lot of time testing and developing the boat,” Avenell explained.
“We got it there in the end, but could have achieved so much more had we started the series the same way we finished it. I have to thank Jesse [Watkins] and his team for allowing me to run with them, and congratulate him on his performance, he improved with almost every run in what will be a valuable experience for him heading into the 2016 Australian championships.”
The Australian teams now settle back into the domestic program, with the 2016 Australian V8 Superboats Championship getting underway at Allcott Hire Park in Temora (central-western NSW) on 26 March after a pre-season ‘shakedown’ event at the same venue, with the inaugural running of the non-championship Colin Parish Memorial Trophy on 7 March.
To keep up with the Australian V8 Superboats Championship keep an eye on www.v8superboats.com.au and www.facebook.com/V8Superboats
Rnd#1 2016 UIM World Jetsprint Championships
Meremere, New Zealand (23-24 January, 2016)
1. Glen Head/Darren Todd (Altherm Window Systems) [NZ] - 44.481
2. Peter Caughey/Shama Puturanui (Enzed/Trojan/Total Oil) [NZ] - 44.746
3. Richard Burt/Clare Roberts (Stinger) [NZ] - 45.130
International Group A
1. Blake Briant/Kate Hoogerbrug (Harvest Transport) [NZ] - 46.328
2. Sam Newdick/Glenn Mason (PSP) [NZ] - 47.116
3. Ric Burke/Alf Kil (Firewater) [NZ] - 49.031
TOP 5 FINAL
1. Richard Burt/Clare Roberts (Stinger) [NZ] - 44.651
2. Glen Head/Darren Todd (Altherm Window Systems) [NZ] - 45.232
3. Peter Caughey/Shama Puturanui (Enzed/Trojan/Total Oil) [NZ] - 45.384
4. Phonsy Mullan/Tanya Iremonger (RAMJET) [AUS] - 45.733
5. Rob Coley/Kellie Minnell (Poison Ivy) [NZ] - 47.378
International Group A
1. Blake Briant/Kate Hoogerbrug (Harvest Transport) [NZ] - 46.265
2. Sam Newdick/Glenn Mason (PSP) [NZ] - 47.271
3. Ric Burke/Alf Kil (Firewater) [NZ] - 49.142
4. Neil Marshall/Michelle Reid (Eagle Automotive) [NZ] - 49.209
5. Warren Farr/Ben Thomas (The Hustler) [NZ] - 49.745
TOP 8 FINAL
1. Glen Head/Darren Todd (Altherm Window Systems) [NZ] - 44.928
2. Phonsy Mullan/Tanya Iremonger (RAMJET) [AUS] - 45.516
3. Peter Caughey/Shama Puturanui (Enzed/Trojan/Total Oil) [NZ] - 45.702
4. Richard Burt/Clare Roberts (Stinger) [NZ] - 45.784
5. Rob Coley/Kellie Minnell (Poison Ivy) [NZ] - 47.302
6. Aaron Hansen/Julie-Anne Shanks (Rusti 1) [NZ] - 49.151
7. Jamie Welch/Joel Page (Natwel Racing) [AUS] - DNF
8. Daryl Hutton/Mick Parry (American Automotive) [NZ] - DNF
International Group A
1. Blake Briant/Kate Hoogerbrug (Harvest Transport) [NZ] - 46.817
2. Sam Newdick/Glenn Mason (PSP) [NZ] - 47.429
3. Ric Burke/Alf Kil (Firewater) [NZ] - 49.018
4. Neil Marshall/Michelle Reid (Eagle Automotive) [NZ] - 49.401
5. Warren Farr/Ben Thomas (The Hustler) [NZ] - 49.772
6. Patrick Haden/Jay Haden (Skitzo) [NZ] - 50.007
7. Ollie Silverton/Jess Sit (PSP racing) [NZ] - 50.205
8. Brooke Avenell/Louise Blythe (Kanaris Engines) [AUS] - 50.713
Rnd#2 2016 UIM World Jetsprint Championships
Baypark, New Zealand (29-30 January, 2016)
1. Glen Head/Darren Todd (Altherm Window Systems) [NZ] - 46.76
2. David Simmons/John Verry (Blue Flame) [NZ] - 49.03
3. David Hopkins/Ashleigh Grainns (Clutha Panel Repairs) - 49.82
International Group A
1. Ric Burke/Alf Kil (Firewater) [NZ] - 50.12
2. Neil Marshall/Michelle Reid (Eagle Automotive) [NZ] - 50.69
3. Sam Newdick/Glenn Mason (PSP) [NZ] - 59.45
TOP 5 FINAL
1. Glen Head/Darren Todd (Altherm Window Systems) [NZ] - 47.41
2. David Simmons/John Verry (Blue Flame) [NZ] - 49.18
3. David Hopkins/Ashleigh Grainns (Clutha Panel Repairs) - 49.84
4. Jamie Welch/Joel Page (Natwel Racing) [AUS] - 50.45
5. Aaron Hansen/Julie-Anne Shanks (Rusti 1) [NZ] - DNS
International Group A
1. Sam Newdick/Glenn Mason (PSP) [NZ] - 50.10
2. Ric Burke/Alf Kil (Firewater) [NZ] - 50.30
3. Neil Marshall/Michelle Reid (Eagle Automotive) [NZ] - 50.75
4. Warren Farr/Ben Thomas (The Hustler) [NZ] - 50.88
5. Brooke Avenell/Louise Blythe (Kanaris Engines) [AUS] - 51.54
TOP 8 FINAL
1. Glen Head/Darren Todd (Altherm Window Systems) [NZ] - 47.92
2. David Simmons/John Verry (Blue Flame) [NZ] - 48.75
3. Aaron Hansen/Julie-Anne Shanks (Rusti 1) [NZ] - 50.03
4. David Hopkins/Ashleigh Grainns (Clutha Panel Repairs) - 50.32
5. Jamie Welch/Joel Page (Natwel Racing) [AUS] - 50.56
6. Leighton Minnell/Luke Minnell (Taranaki Hardcore) [NZ] - 53.78
7. Peter Caughey/Shama Puturanui (Enzed/Trojan/Total Oil) [NZ] - DNF
8. Robert White/Anthony Bradley (Devil’s Advocate) [NZ] - DNF
International Group A
1. Sam Newdick/Glenn Mason (PSP) [NZ] - 49.96
2. Ric Burke/Alf Kil (Firewater) [NZ] - 50.72
3. Neil Marshall/Michelle Reid (Eagle Automotive) [NZ] - 50.79
4. Warren Farr/Ben Thomas (The Hustler) [NZ] - 51.23
5. Brooke Avenell/Louise Blythe (Kanaris Engines) [AUS] - 51.31
6. Patrick Haden/Jay Haden (Skitzo) [NZ] - 52.83
7. Simon Gibbon/Paul Thompson (Novus Auto Glass) [NZ] - 52.54
8. Ross Travers/Shane Travers (Radioactive) [NZ] - DNF
2016 UIM World Jetsprint Championships – overall points
1. Glen Head [NZ] - 60-points, 2. Peter Caughey [NZ] - 50.5, 3. Aaron Hansen [NZ] - 48, 4. Jamie Welch/Joel Page [AUS] - 46.66, 5. Richard Burt [NZ] - 42, 5. Phonsy Mullan/Tanya Iremonger [AUS] - 42, 6. David Hopkins [NZ] - 41, 7. David Simmons [NZ] - 40.5, 8. Leighton Minnell [NZ] - 39, 9. Rob Coley [NZ] - 37, 10. Richard Murray [NZ] - 36, 11. Robert White [NZ] - 35.5, 12. Daryl Hutton/Mick Parry [NZ] - 32.66, 13. Scott Donald [NZ] - 28, 14. Cheryl Welch/Kassie Page [AUS] - 27, 15. Garry Stephen [NZ] - 22, 16. Nick Berryman [NZ] - 20.66, 17. Graeme Hill [NZ] - 18, 18. Greg Mercier/Dorinda Mercier [AUS] - 11.5
International Group A (interim points - under protest)
1. Ric Burke [NZ] - 58-points, 2. Sam Newdick [NZ] - 57, 3. Neil Marshall [NZ] - 55, 4. Warren Farr [NZ] - 51, 5. Brooke Avenell/Louise Blythe [AUS] - 46, 5. Paddy Haden [NZ] - 46, 7. Blake Briant [NZ] - 41, 8. Phil Miller [CAN] - 37, 8. Ross Travers [NZ] - 37, 10. Jake Garlick/Kerry Garlick [AUS] - 35, 10. Simon Gibbon [NZ] - 35, 12. Ollie Silverton [NZ] - 34, 12. Bevin Muir [NZ] - 34, 14. Mark Garlick/Jamie Anderson [AUS] - 30, 15. Karl Brennsell [NZ] - 27, 16. Daniel Reade [NZ] - 24, 17. Andy Ryan [NZ] - 21, 18. Scott Jensen [CAN] - 20, 18. Jesse Watkins/Brendan Greig [AUS] - 20, 18. Kyle Patrick [USA] - 20, 18. Ron Domoe [USA] - 20, 18. Hayden Wilson [NZ] - 20
2016 Australian Superboat Championships
Colin Parish Trophy - 5 March, Temora (NSW)
Rnd#1 - 26 March, Griffith (NSW)
Rnd#2 - 23 April, Temora (NSW)
Rnd#3 - 21 May, Temora (NSW)
Rnd#4 - 6-7 August, Tweed Coast (NSW)
Rnd#5 - 3-4 September, Tweed Coast (NSW)
Rnd#6 - 1 October, Temora (NSW)
Rnd#7 - 29 October, Temora (NSW) [FINAL]
For more information on the 2016 Australian V8 Superboat Championships, please visit www.v8superboats.com.au
Photos: Russell Puckeridge - Pureart Creative Images