The opening leg of the second half of the 2016 Australian V8 Superboats Championships at Cabarita Beach delivered not just the best field in recent years, but plenty of intrigue after a rare mechanical failure by runaway series points leader Phonsy Mullan opened the door for a first-time winner in the Unlimited Superboat class this season, the first time that opportunity had presented itself in two years!
The teams really didn’t need any extra incentive as the battle at the top of both the outright Unlimited class and the hotly contested 400 Class saw boats pushed to the absolute limit with the big Cabarita crowd on their feet for much of the weekend as drivers pushed to the edge and beyond.
In the end, it took a borrowed boat and some serious commitment from two-time Unlimited champion Daryl Hutton to come through for the win, in the process displacing Tremayne Jukes in ‘Maniac’ who drove a brilliant race in the reliveried ‘Loose Cannon’ of Dean Finch which has dominated much of the last decade in the sport.
In 400 Class an expected battle between 350 Class champions Brett Thornton, Daniel James and Brooke Lucas delivered everything a true title fight should with the three teams, along with series rookie Mitch Roylance, extracting every tenth from their Group A machines, before Thornton delivered the knockout blow in the final to extend his championship points lead.
There was a record high 30 entries for the opening event of the season at the popular Cabarita venue, although almost as soon as boats had started on the ramp after a lengthy mid-season break, there were challenges, Dave Moodie forced to park ‘Jackhammer’ with a mechanical issue, whilst New Zealander Daryl Hutton didn’t arrive until late on Saturday morning towing something nobody expected..
“I was late arriving because I had to steal a boat on the way, and had to wait until it was dark to do the job,” the laconic Kiwi quipped.
Reality was an engine issue with his primary powerplant left the two-time Unlimited champion with little time to properly reassemble his engine and high-tail it to the Tweed Coast for opening practice, instead he was offered a life-line by fellow Unlimited driver Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts, Hutton campaigning the former 350 Class champion’s 560ci big-block powered ‘Blown Budget’.
Despite the big field which included some new faces to the national championship series - Queenslanders Clint Ruby (Dirty Deeds) and Nathan Walker (Allcott Transformer), and Victorian Hugh Gilchrist (Pangaea Floors) - the early qualifiers, whilst lengthy, ran with little drama, although day two certainly upped the ante as the pace begin to increase.
Typically it was ‘Excalibur’ who had the big Cabarita crowd quickly on their feet in surprise after Mick Carroll came unstuck early in his fourth qualifier, the South Australian and team-mate Tony Giustozzi had been the pace-setters on day one, but Carroll’s off saw the super-quick Sprintec forced hard into the earth embankment bringing the boat to a rapid stop.
Neither inhabitant was hurt, whilst the battle-scarred ‘Excalibur’ suffered only cosmetic damage and was quickly back on the water although the impact had broken their primary set of blades in the jet unit, something which Giustozzi later admitted cost them a little bit of additional torque - typically that didn’t slow them down too much.
Another driver exploring track limits was Justin Roylance, the former drag racer bouncing off banks with reckless abandon, at one stage more than half a metre in the air as he launched himself over an island but fortunately back into the water..
“That was one crazy ride,” he laughed afterwards. “We’re running an all new boat this weekend, and it’s taking a little sorting, especially as the engine only came together half an hour before we hit the road to come here..!”
Another team debuting a new boat was the ‘Frankenzstain’ operation of Ted and Darek Sygidus, the brothers - both former 400 Class national champions - revealing they’d purchased a second Sprintec hull from former Australian round winner Rob Coley, and in the deal, invited the New Zealander to join Darek Sygidus in their 510ci powered machine whilst Ted took on solo driving duties in the 680ci powered monster..
Sadly a broken throttle shaft ended the ‘Junior’ boats run early on Saturday, but they were back in action on Sunday after parts were rushed up from Melbourne overnight.
The big news though on Saturday night was the demise of three-time Unlimited Superboat champion Phonsy Mullan, the points leader revealing a mechanical failure which saw a blowout in the head gasket between the cylinders and instant retirement, although the Victorian was quickly offered a lifeline from Jody Ely in ‘Rampage’ allowing him to carry on and collect valuable series points.
Disappointingly for Mullan’s biggest challenger in season 2016, Jamie Welch was also forced to withdraw not long after his rival with some serious damage to his naturally-aspirated 510ci Chev, damage which could well see the reigning world #4 sit out the remainder of the season.
“It’s devastating really,” Welch admitted. “Over the break we’d been through the engine and checked everything, the engine builder had also checked everything in the off season, and whilst we were making plans for a new powerplant for next year, that was going to come after this year was over, so right now, we don’t have any options and have an engine that is basically destroyed..”
With the two ‘big guns’ effectively sidelined, the door was open for a new star in the Unlimited class, and there were a number of contenders, led by one of the sport’s most popular drivers - Tremayne Jukes - in one of the sport’s most famous boats..
“After years messing around trying to build my own boats, then trying to tune out problems in other people’s boats, I wanted to just focus on driving, so I was keen to get a boat which was essentially already sorted, and arguably, there are few better in the world of Unlimited Superboats than ‘Loose Cannon’..”
A conservative start on well under 50% throttle gave Jukes a good feel for the newly - and perhaps appropriately - renamed ‘Maniac’, but from the smile on his face after opening practice, to his pace through the final qualifiers, it was clear Jukes was well within his element, finishing the five qualifiers with the second fastest time, his 42.867 just quarter of a second shy of the top spot, held by Tony Gisutozzi..
Giustozzi’s team-mate Mick Carroll held the third fastest time of the boats still in contention, whilst Daryl Hutton was just four one thousandths faster than Ted Sygdius who was just two tenths faster than Cheryl Welch prior to the Natwel Racing team’s retirement.
In 400 Class, the battle for the top spot saw a great fight between the pre-race favourites, although initially both Brett Thornton and Daniel James had to take a back seat to Brooke Lucas and Temora star Mitch Roylance, however by the close of qualifying there was just three tenths between points leader Thornton and returning star James.
Paul Kelly too was impressive, qualifying the PK Racing machine fifth fastest, ahead of Greg Harriman who was enjoying some more power and torque from a new powerplant, promising he’d be a threat as the finals approached.
Whilst the qualifiers were exciting, the finals took the tempo up another level again, and one of the first to come unstuck was Tony Giustozzi, the ‘Excalibur’ pilot again finding air to roll over hard into the channel mid lap, although unlike his now famous 2015 off at Cabarita, this one had very little to do with the driver..
“The boat cut out on me and I had nowhere to go,” the popular South Australian shrugged afterwards. “It did it just prior and I kept my boot into it and it came back in, but the second time was the charm and it hit the bank and there was nothing I could do but hang on for the ride.”
Sadly, hit number two was enough to force ‘Excalibur’ out of the finals, leaving three of the four fastest boats sidelined heading into the top six..
One of those though wasn’t Tremayne Jukes, the Victorian continuing to extract speed from his new machine, his 42.826 faster again than his top qualifying effort, up almost two seconds on Darek Sygidus who was emerging as his closest challenger.
After a conservative start to the weekend which saw a lot of soul-searching on Saturday night, Jeremy Kincaid was another who ‘came alive’.. “I was faster here on a recent club day, so I need to really get stuck into it..” The former 350 Class champion set an impressive third fastest time in the supercharged 302ci Ford V8 powered ‘Rogue’, bringing a lot of blue-oval fans - including the legendary Dick Johnson who was also in attendance - to their feet in support..
Ted Sygidus too was getting more and more comfortable with the powerful 680ci big-block, moving into fourth, whilst Daryl Hutton too looked comfortable, only a wrong-way - which he soon righted - keeping him from a top three time.
With the final three places set by the top six final, it was do-or-die for the penultimate run of the day and the times improved again, with Tremayne Jukes setting a stunning 42.236 to lower the benchmark by a full half second. Hutton typically dug deep, the two-time champion finding an extra second from his qualifying times to be P2 and make the cut, whilst Darek Sygidus slipped under Kincaid by a mere four tenths to claim a start in the final.
Whilst Ted Sygidus also missed the cut, down at the Daly Transport team, Paul Burgess’ result was almost as good as a win, the veteran falling just half a second short of Sygidus to claim fifth in one of his most competitive runs in recent years.
In the final Jukes elected to take the opening run, catching his rivals by surprise, with the fastest boat usually electing to take the final run of the day. He set an impressive time, but a run slightly off line mid-lap saw him lose almost a full second on his Top 6 time, and that was all the incentive Hutton needed.
The Kiwi looked almost slow as he put in what for that boat would have been an almost perfect lap, and typically, looking slow on the water usually means it’s a quick time, and Hutton went straight to the top finding eight tenths of a second to defeat Jukes by just over half a second, with Darek Sygidus setting a time just four one thousandths slower than his T6 time to claim third.
The Unlimited class may have had the big local crowd on their feet, but the 400s were just as spectacular and the pace almost as impressive..
First eliminated after the qualifiers were rookies Clint Ruby (Dirty Deeds) and Hugh Gilchrist (Pangaea Floors) after some solid runs through the five sessions that on any other day may have seen them make the final 12, but the level of competition was so good they were forced to watch the finals from the bank.
So too ‘Outlaw’ team-mates for the weekend Justin Roylance and David Moodie, they had the boat speed but no the luck, Roylance paying the price of development ‘on the fly’ as a result of the package coming together at the final moment, whilst Moodie was being careful not to come unstuck after his boat ‘Jackhammer’ was sidelined early in the weekend.
After top qualifying in the morning with a best of 46.338, Brett Thornton went one better in the Top 12, then improved the mark again in the Top 6..
Returning former 350 Class champion Daniel James always had a reputation for consistency, and his Q5, Top 12 and Top 6 times only reinforced that reputation, all three runs separated by just 66 one thousandths of a second.. Unfortunately for the JRE Race Engines pilot, he was unable to improve in the final, but dropped just a tenth of a second after a head gasket issue in the final run, whilst Thornton - with the win almost guaranteed - punched out a stunning 45.899, a time that would have given him fifth in the Unlimited class!
Whilst the top two were settled almost as soon as the finals began, the dark horse - as ever - was local hero Brooke Lucas, but despite Daniel James-esque consistency in the final two runs, he fell just five one hundredths short of the second step of the podium.
Fourth in the end was the super-impressive Paul Kelly who put in a mature drive to finish just half a second shy of the podium, and mere hundredths clear of Greg Harriman and Mitch Roylance who admitted afterwards that he’d been ‘fully tapped’ across the final rotations and couldn’t extract anything more from ‘Black Jack’..
Jody Ely wound up seventh - which could have been higher had he not suffered a leaking head gasket which progressively got worse across the weekend - the Victorian taking advantage of sharing ‘Rampage’ with four-time Australian champion Phonsy Mullan, whilst Ben Hathaway in his storming ‘little’ LS3-powered ‘Weapon’ monstered the more powerful boats throughout the weekend to ultimately claim eighth, just ahead of Cabarita local Peter Monger who recovered from a big rollover in Q4.
With the winter-break now over, it’s back to the Tweed Coast Jetsprint Club, with round five held once more at the popular Cabarita Beach circuit, with the next event on 3-4 September.
Rnd#4 2016 Australian V8 Superboats Championships
Tweed Valley Jet Sprint Club, Cabarita Beach, NSW
6-7 August, 2016
1. Daryl Hutton (American Automotive) - 42.561
2. Tremayne Jukes (Maniac) - 43.110
3. Darek Sygidus (Frankenzatain) - 44.153
400 Class (Group A)
1. Brett Thornton (2Obsessed) - 45.899
2. Daniel James (JRE Race Engines) - 46.881
3. Brooke Lucas (Trouble Maker) - 46.934
TOP 6 FINAL
1. Tremayne Jukes (Maniac) - 42.236
2. Daryl Hutton (American Automotive) - 43.372
3. Darek Sygidus (Frankenzatain) - 44.157
4. Jeremy Kincaid (Rogue) - 44.598
5. Ted Sygidus (Frankenzatain) - 46.039
6. Paul Burgess (Daly Transport) - 46.651
400 Class (Group A)
1. Brett Thornton (2Obsessed) - 45.777
2. Daniel James (JRE Race Engines) - 46.716
3. Brooke Lucas (Trouble Maker) - 46.953
4. Paul Kelly (PK Racing) - 47.094
5. Greg Harriman (Pangaea Floors) - 47.343
6. Mitch Roylance (Black Jack) - 47.440
2016 Australian V8 Superboat Championships - Series points
Unlimited Superboat (after round four of seven)
1. Phonsy Mullan (RAMJET) - 130 points, 2. Daryl Hutton (American Automotive) - 122, 3. Darek Sygidus (Frankenzstain) - 111, 4. Jamie Welch (Natwel Racing) - 100, 5. Ted Sygidus (Frankenzstain) - 92, 6. Paul Burgess (Daly Transport) - 88, 7. Cheryl Welch (Natwel Racing) - 76, 8. Tony Giustozzi (Excalibur) - 74, 9. Mick Carroll (Excalibur) - 64, 10. Scott Krause (Soak’n Fused) - 60, 11. Tremayne Jukes (Maniac) - 33, 12. Daniel deVoigt (Q-BEARS) - 30, 13. Jeremy Kincaid (Rogue) - 28, 14. Slade Stanley (Hazardous) - 26, 15. Rob Coley (Frankenzstain) - 12, 16. Andrew Page (Maniac) - 10
400-Class (Group A) (after round four of seven)
1. Brett Thornton (2Obsessed) - 135-points, 2. Brooke Lucas (Trouble Maker) - 109, 3. Jody Ely (Rampage) - 92, 4. Justin Roylance (Rampage) - 89, 5. David Moodie (Jackhammer) - 86, 6. Mitch Roylance (Black Jack) - 86, 7. Ben Hathaway (Weapon) - 86, 8. Greg Harriman (Pangaea Floors) - 80, 9. Kevin Laugesen (Spanet) - 80, 10. Brad Marsden (Allcott Transformer) - 68, 11. Daniel James (JRE Race Engines) - 33, 12. Paul Kelly (PK Racing) - 28, 13. Peter Monger (Mongrel) - 18, 14. Nathan Walker (Alcott Transformer) - 16, 15. Clint Ruby (Dirty Deeds) - 12, 16. Hugh Gilchrist (Pangaea Floors) - 10
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]