For many of Australia’s leading V8 Superboat competitors, it has been a long off season since the final round of the 2015 championship, however for some, the recent UIM World Jetsprint Championship in New Zealand forced them to ‘raise the bar’ against the best competitors in the world. This weekend the 2016 season finally gets underway, the hotly contested championship returning to Griffith in central-western New South Wales for the first time in two years, to a venue that is widely regarded as one of the most difficult in world jetsprinting.
“Griffith always throws up plenty of action, and plenty of boats out of the water,” Australian Formula Jetsprint Association (AFJSA) President and former national champion Ted Sygidus admitted.
“This weekend fans can expect to see plenty of action with some of the best drivers in the world competing for series points in the opening round of the season, and for some of us, it’s the first event in four months, so we’re keen to get on the water.”
Built into the side of the hill above Lake Wyangan outside of Griffith, the venue is amongst the most challenging circuits in the world, but there are more than a few drivers ready to take on the challenge of ‘taming the beast’..
One of those will be the driver who has been a benchmark in Unlimited Superboats in recent years, three-time (back-to-back) Unlimited champion Phonsy Mullan, the Victorian coming off a great run in New Zealand where he was one of the leading challengers to take out the 2016 world title before a minor mechanical failure ended his event whilst within striking distance of a win.
“It’s frustrating to come so close to the biggest prize in the world of jetsprinting to be thwarted by what was effectively the failure of a $5 part, but that’s motor racing,” Mullan admitted.
For Griffith the RAMJET pilot is expected to continue his winning streak, such is the performance he’s extracted from his 1600-horsepower twin-turbo V8 machine.
“Griffith is tough, there’s no question about that, and I’d expect 2014 winner Daryl Hutton to be fast, but there’s any number of boats that will be in the mix, that said, we’ll be ready and are keen to leave Griffith with maximum points, so we’ll do what we need to go after the win.”
For Hutton - who claimed victory at Griffith two years ago - a return to the regional NSW venue comes at a time where the two-time Australian Unlimited champion is ready for a fight..
“Griffith is tough and it requires 100% commitment,” he admitted. “Take your focus off for a millisecond and the consequences can be dire, I’ve learnt that more than once, but I’m sick of playing second fiddle to Mullan and have beaten him here before, so the gloves are off!”
Whilst Mullan, Hutton and the Sygidus brothers [both former champions] are expected to battle for the Unlimited Superboat podium, keep an eye on West Australian Jamie Welch, the Natwel Racing driver the highest ranked Australian at the recent UIM World Championships, classified fourth after the two New Zealand events, something which has given him plenty of motivation for the 2016 Australian titles.
“I learnt a lot in New Zealand about what it takes to run with the best drivers in the world,” Welch admitted. “We also learnt a lot as a team about how to improve the boat, so we’re looking to apply all of that and go after the Aussie title this year.”
Whilst the bulk of the focus will be on the Unlimited Superboat field, don’t discount the International Group A field (also known as 400-Class). A number of the leading teams in recent years have either progressed to the Unlimited ranks, or taken a sabbatical for 2016, paving the way for a new champion.
Amongst the front runners though will be former 350-Class champions Brooke Lucas and Brett Thornton, whilst former Unlimited front runner and an integral part of Phonsy Mullan’s domination over recent years - Jody Ely - will make his return to the wheel at Griffith, joined by Forbes’ Justin Roylance.
A former drag racer and Superboat competitor, Roylance makes a welcome return to the wheel, whilst his brother Mitch will also return to Superboats, making his debut in the 400 Class in what will be a sibling rivalry worth watching.
The opening round of the Australian V8 Superboats Championship will be a single-day event at Lake Wyangan, with gates opening at 2:00pm and qualifying rounds getting underway from 3:00pm. The circuit is located at the Griffith Boat Club, off Lakes Road (via Borga Road or Kidman Way), 10-kilometres north of the city.
Tickets are available at the gate - Adults $25, students $15, Family pass $60. Food and drinks will be available at the event.
Rnd#1 2016 Australian V8 Superboats Championships
Griffith Boat Club, Lake Wyangan, NSW - 26 March, 2016
1. Phonsy Mullan/Kelsie Gill (RAMJET)
8. Slade Stanley/Vanessa Stanley (Hazardous)
18. Paul Burgess/Matt Foote (Daly Transport)
22A. Jamie Welch/Joel Page (Natwel Racing)
22B. Cheryl Welch/tbc (Natwel Racing)
28. Daryl Hutton/Mick Parry (American Imports)
37. Scott Krause/Carey Purcell (Soak’n Fused)
666A. Ted Sygidus/tbc (Frankensztain)
666B. Darek Sygidus/Austin Gill (Frankensztain)
400 CLASS (GROUP A)
11. Brooke Lucas/Karrina White (Trouble Maker)
33A. Jody Ely/Greg Blaz (Rampage)
33B. Justin Roylance/Joel Duggan (Rampage)
39. Kevin Laugesen/Jessica Winsley (spanet)
53. Brett Thornton/Lin Thornton (2Obsessed)
66. Brad Marsden/tbc (Allcott Transformer)
333. David Moodie/tbc (Jackhammer)
85. Ben Hathaway/Lisa Oppes (Weapon)
Saturday, 26 March;
3:00pm - Gates Open
3:00pm - Qualifying #1 (45-minutes)
3:45pm - Qualifying #2 (45-minutes)
4:30pm - Qualifying #3 (45-minutes)
5:15pm - Qualifying #4 (45-minutes)
6:00pm - dinner break (60-minutes)
7:00pm - Top 12 Final (all classes)
7:40pm - Top 6 Final (all classes)
8:20pm - FINAL (all classes)
2016 Australian Superboat Championships
Rnd#1 - 26 March, Griffith (NSW)
Rnd#2 - 23 April, Temora (NSW) - ANZAC Day Tribute
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 2015 Australian V8 Superboat Championships, please visit www.v8superboats.com.au