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Big night under lights for Penrite V8 Superboats at Temora

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It was no surprise that the annual ‘Colin Parish Memorial’ event saw perhaps the biggest crowd in the history of V8 Superboats at Kennards Hire Park in Temora, the local region – like much of Australia – starved of entertainment over the last 12 challenging months, however they were more than entertained by some outstanding racing, with some epic battles that ran well into the night.

Ultimately the results card had a familiar feel to it, with local hero Slade Stanley extending his winning streak in the Unlimited category, whilst Justin Roylance too continued his strong form to claim his fourth consecutive Penrite V8 Superboats 400-Class round win, although both faced their own challenges on the run into the final three.

Perhaps the biggest win of the night though came for second-generation racer Bastian Mullan who again weathered the storm from points leader Matt Malthouse and younger brother Nate, to claim his maiden LS-Class victory in just his third start in the category, although he was forced to celebrate his victory lap on foot after Nate made a firey exit in the final three looking for his own victory.

Like the fans, the teams had been starved of competition for more than a year, with a strong entry for the second round of the Penrite Series including a record high 15-entries in the developmental LS-Class, whilst additional entries buoyed the 400-Class field. The Unlimited field too was expecting new and return entries, although such is the bespoke nature of these impressive machines that often finding just a single component can take weeks, ultimately forcing a frustrating delay to the start of the season.

UNLIMITED SUPERBOAT

Arguably the best news of the Temora event was the return of two-time champion Daryl Hutton in a brand new ‘Stinger’ hull, the expat Kiwi having had to source a replacement hull in just four weeks after his dramatic off at Keith during the season opener.

Long-time rival and fellow ‘Stinger’ pilot Slade Stanley just happened to have a brand new hull sitting in the corner of his shed ready for an engine package that is still under development, so within hours of Hutton’s crash, he offered a lifeline to get the ‘Phoenix Lubricants’ team back into the game ahead of the second round, Hutton’s team putting in some solid hours in the weeks prior to be back on the grid with the new package.

“It takes about 8-10 weeks at best to get a new hull out of New Zealand, and I wanted to stay with the ‘Stinger’, but it was lucky that Slade [Stanley] had decided to build a second boat, so he had a brand new ‘Stinger’ hull, that he hadn’t started working on, sitting in his shed, so I asked him straight up if I could buy it off him, and he told me to just take it, and replace it with a new one when it was ready. [It] shows the true sportsmanship of the man that he’d much rather beat us on the water than beat us in the pits,” Hutton explained.

“There was a lot to do because it was just a bare hull, so we needed to check the old roll cage after the off and fix that, then make everything fit, but at least I knew where everything needed to go, so there was a fair amount of ‘cut-and-paste’ although there was still a lot of pressure with signwriters, upholsterers etc, as everyone these days is flat out – including me! We made it work though, now I just hope it all goes together because it hasn’t even been in the water!”

Sadly a couple of teams failed to appear at Temora, one of those, Mildura’s Andrew Page who suffered from an engine setback whilst in the final stages of plumbing up his engine, a long delay in parts sidelining the popular Unlimited driver, a similar issue also delaying the maiden appearance of Adam Fairbairn in his boat ‘A.C.E.’ although both are looking to be on the grid for Cabarita.

Under near perfect sunny conditions the teams contested qualifying with few setbacks, although local driver and 2018 champion Scott Krause did fail to complete the opening qualifier after an electrical failure shut off the engine, fortunately without any damage.. the fix was simple and ultimately did little to slow his pace at the tail of the top three.

With so many new entries and the understandable navigational failures that accompany them, there was no real surprise that there were a number of forced delays to retrieve boats during practice, so Slade Stanley elected to sit it out, turning his first lap in the opening qualifying session – and what a lap it was, setting the bar at a 39.862, three and a half seconds faster than the next best boat, Ben Hathaway in Matt Malthouse’s ‘Nood Nutz’ LS-Class machine.

By the close of qualifying – which was limited to just four rounds with all the delays – Stanley improved the mark to a 38.882 (set in Q2), with Krause ultimately leaping up to second with a best of 40.384 under lights in the final session to eclipse reigning world champion Phonsy Mullan’s 40.471.

Daryl Hutton – after some very nervous moments early with the engine unable to fire after a software shutdown – much to the frustration of their mechanically able crew – took very little time to show the potential of his new hull to be fourth fastest with a 41.624 heading into the finals and improving with every run.

Ben Hathaway again showed the potential of a lightweight package to card the fifth fastest time in his enthralling battle with Mitch Roylance, the ‘Black Jack’ pilot pushing his little 410ci naturally-aspirated machine to within half a second of Hathaway, whilst Glenn Roberts’ ‘Blown Budget’ big-block was facing his own challenge, setting himself a goal of breaking into the 45s, something he achieved in the second qualifier despite the challenges to his vision.

As expected, Slade Stanley continued to set the pace in the opening final, his 39.045 all but matching his qualifying best, but what perhaps was unexpected, was Phonsy Mullan’s improvement to decrease the advantage to Stanley to just over a second, the ‘RAMJET’ team finding a better foundation for their ‘Jetspeed’ hull.

Scott Krause too continued his strong form at home to be just three tenths shy of Mullan, with Daryl Hutton just over a second further back, whilst the great battle between Ben Hathaway and Mitch Roylance continued, the pair separated by just 16 one hundredths heading into the second final. Sadly for Glenn Roberts his day was done despite another consistent lap in the 46’s.

With Stanley’s ongoing domination of the category, no-one expected him to drop more than a second in the second final to record a 40.331 – his slowest run of the day – putting him right into the firing line against Mullan and Krause. Krause got to within a third of a second to post a 40.710, whilst for Mullan, he went into the final as fastest of the three, improving Stanley’s time by 18 one thousandths of a second to be classified P1..

Ben Hathaway again carded an impressive lap to be fourth fastest, but more than a second and a half slower than Krause, his lap though under assault from Mitch Roylance who stopped the clock just 24 one thousandths of a second slower, Daryl Hutton rounding out the six with a rare navigational error, one of very few in 20 years of competition..

The big question after Stanley’s setback was whether his impressive run at the top had finally broken, but a post-run investigation revealed that he had dropped onto seven cylinders during the lap with a melted plug lead. A quick replacement had the team running again for the final, but the dramas continued..

For those on the hill and those in the pit area, no-one expected the delay to their start of the final three was any more than gamesmanship, a tactic used by some of the teams to use their time advantage to unsettle their rivals and run on a smoother ripple-free surface, but little did anyone know, that the team needed almost all of their five minute allocation just to make the boat run, an electrical issue stalling the reigning title holder, this time a starter motor issue.

With just seconds remaining the ‘Hazardous’ machine roared into life, and in true Stanley form, he threw caution to the wind, stopping the clock with a stunning 38.107, seven tenths faster than his best of the night to put the win out of question.

Phonsy Mullan too had improved, closing the deficit to just over 1.6 seconds, whilst Scott Krause settled for his third ‘Colin Parish Memorial’ trophy win, awarded to the most consistent driver across all classes in the three finals.

“We’d been battling an intermittent starting issue,” Stanley explained. “We thought it was the starter motor, so we changed that, then the batteries. In the Top 6 we dropped a cylinder and found a melted plug lead, but fortunately there was a crash in the LS-Class final and that gave us enough time to find the problem and make repairs.

“The dramas continued in the final though because we got to the ramp, went to start it and it just wouldn’t wind over. We were on the clock with probably a minute to spare when we found a loose earth lead and got fired up, just in time.”

For Phonsy Mullan he too was happy with the end result, having built some valuable data with his new boat and engine combination.

“Overall, I’m pretty happy, we’ve made some progress, we found 2.3 seconds over the last time we were here in just this boat’s third meeting, so let’s see where it goes from here.

“Since last meeting I’ve modified the front of the boat, cut some strakes, changed the front shape – first time I’ve used the wing for many years and it actually settled the boat down in the last few runs – so [I’m] quite happy with that. We’re slowly bridging the gap – percentage wise, I think we’ve made a gain on him [Stanley].”

400-CLASS (GROUP A)

The opening round of the 2021 season provided a good insight into the likely outcome of the 400-Class season, with ‘Jetspeed’ team-mates Jody Ely and Justin Roylance going head-to-head throughout the day, well clear of their rivals, although there was a significant lack of those come finals time at Keith..

This time around though, two former champions returned to the fold, with four-time Australian title-holder Mark Garlick, and 2016 champion Brett Thornton looking to make a return to the podium, although all four would be faced with an additional challenge, a challenge supported by two of the sport’s risings stars in the field of boat and engine development.. Brendan Doyle.

After Doyle’s big off at Griffith in 2019, reigning 400-Class world#3 Daniel James rebuilt Doyle’s hull ‘The Girlfriend’ turning it into a hybrid machine that encompasses a lot of what James is putting into his new Australian-built ‘Pulse’ hull. Alongside his brother, JRE Race Engines’ Brad James, who worked with Doyle to develop a cutting-edge 400-Class powerplant that is easily the class of the field, the duo were instrumental in getting the stunning blue machine up to speed.

A setback at Keith with a faulty engine sensor sending signals of imminent failure forced an early retirement, although fortunately there were no such issues, although with a condensed field, the hit to Doyle’s championship hopes was relatively minor, and with both James brothers in his corner at Temora, he was looking to make amends..

From the start of qualifying things picked up as they were left at Keith with Justin Roylance and Jody Ely going head-to-head, in the end the pair closed out the four sessions 1-2 with Ely holding an advantage of exactly one tenth of a second. Behind them Brett Thornton quickly dialled himself in to be third fastest, but more than a second back from the leaders, meanwhile Brendan Doyle, Mark Garlick and the impressive Greg Harriman were embroiled in a great battle for fourth, the trio separated by just three quarters of a second heading into the finals.

With nine boats in the field, all teams made the opening final [Top 12] where they all played second-fiddle to Jody Ely, the ‘Rampage’ pilot laying down a stunning 42.866, the first boat under the 43-second mark. Justin Roylance meanwhile could do no better than a 43.853, just four tenths off his best, but a full second behind his rival.

Brett Thornton set a 44.7 to put himself clear of Garlick and Harriman, but by that stage Brendan Doyle was starting to turn up the wick, ‘The Girlfriend’ finding half a second to move into P3.

Sadly with an elimination final, three teams would fail to advance, in this instance it was rookie Danny Knappick in ‘Tuff N Up’ after a solid debut that delivered a strong consistent run with just a single navigational setback in the second qualifier, fellow rookie Tyler O’Day – who made the transition from navigator to driver in ‘Agro-Vation’ and Hugh Gilchrist who was shadowing team-mate Greg Harriman’s pace for much of the day before falling just shy of the second final.

After failing to break into the 42s in the first final, Justin Roylance joined Ely in the sub-43s in the Top 6, only to see his rival improve again, the margin though just a quarter of a second, Ely running to a 42.636. Behind them Brendan Doyle went better again to reduce the margin to the leaders to just eight tenths of a second and eclipse Brett Thornton by six tenths to ensure his berth in the final.

Sadly for the returning Mark Garlick, his run at a podium return came to an early end despite a big improvement in his final run, with Greg Harriman joining him back on the trailer despite another solid run in ‘Apache’.

As slowest of the three Brendan Doyle debuted in his maiden final as the first boat on the water, and he showed immense maturity despite his relatively short time in the sport to throw down the gauntlet, setting a 43.646 to put his rivals on notice.

Justin Roylance was next out, and despite needing to find at least a quarter of a second, he pushed himself across the final lap to set the bar at a 42.287, a quarter of a second quicker than Ely’s best.. Then it was down to the ‘Rampage’ team and the man who had conquered Temora in 2018, Jody Ely.

Ely turned in another exceptional lap, but it wasn’t quite enough, his 42.368 his fastest of the night, but an agonising 81, one thousandths of a second slower than Roylance..

“What a day,” Ely beamed afterwards, such is the camaraderie at the top of the 400-Class field. “That was awesome, but the gap’s getting closer..!”

Roylance too was glowing of his rivals performance, the two enjoying the battle for class supremacy this season, but mindful that there are a number of teams in the wings capable of raining on their parade..

“Jody pushed us hard that time around, I was hoping he’d stuff something up and he was hoping I’d stuff something up, but we both put in the best we had, and it was close,” Roylance lamented. “It’s going to be like this all season I reckon, you just have to be on your game, one small slip up and that could be the difference in this championship. It’s bloody exciting!”

LS-CLASS

After a lethargic start to the emergence of the new LS-Class concept a couple of years ago, it has emerged as the most popular in the sport, Temora delivering a 15-strong field of entries, a record for the new developmental category.

Leading the charge at Temora was new points leader Matt Malthouse who survived the onslaught from second-generation drivers Bastian and Nate Mullan at Keith despite them both crashing our of the final in spectacular fashion. The Mullan bothers were back at Temora with a boat sporting a new side and rear, team-boss Phonsy Mullan suggesting there was no need to paint it, ‘just in case’.. prophetic words again as it would turn out.

Reigning LS-Class champion Kyle Elphinstone too was back, sporting a completely rebuilt powerplant after the engine ran at Keith without oil pressure after a dry-sump drive belt came off in his first qualifier, doing significant internal damage on an engine that had only recently been rebuilt.

Aside from the contenders, a number of new and returning boats joined the field at Temora promising a great night of action, and potentially a number of out-of-water journeys..

Ultimately the LS-Class would see many of the teams feature on the bank, although most were related to electrical setbacks, with quite a few boats finding the bank after their engines cut out after completing the lap, the sudden drop in throttle application seeing a handful of boats recovered by the first-class Temora Safety Crew.

In the end though, qualifying was predictably dominated by the favourites, with Elphinstone leading the charge, setting the bar at a 45.580 in the final session in daylight to be eight tenths of a second up on points leader Malthouse, and just over a second on Bastian Mullan.

The surprise package of the round was Nick Druery, the ‘Hazzmat’ driver having missed a debut at Keith due to rising floodwaters across northern New South Wales, was right on the money despite his rookie status – he emerged from qualifying as fourth fastest having just pipped reigning LS-Class#2 Dwayne Mezzadri in the final qualifier – Druery’s first under lights!

They were able to qualify ahead of the returning Robert Westerink (The Contractor), Rob Johnston (Almost There) and Jim Beaman (JB Racing) whilst rookie Mitch Curtis (Smoke & Mirror) carded the ninth fastest time ahead of Chris Edmonds (Solid Gold) and Nate Mullan who was dialling himself back in after his big Keith finals exit.

Rookie Darren Pollard was next quickest in ‘Toe Cutter’, whilst his navigator Matt Riley also took a turn at the wheel as ‘B’ driver, setting the next quickest time, the pair battling with fellow debutante Mike Hessell in ‘Borrowed Time’ and Bill Biggin in ‘JB Racing’.

Sadly 15 doesn’t go into 12, with Riley, Hessell and Biggin forced to call it a night early as their rivals hit the water for the opening final, a round which saw the contenders step things up another gear..

In the end Matt Malthouse claimed the top spot with a 46.146, but his lead was cut to just a tenth of a second by Bastian Mullan, the pair a full second clear of Kyle Elphinstone who was suffering from an intermittent electrical issue. Robert Westerink quickly settled back into a rhythm that often saw him fighting for a position on the podium in the 2019 season to be fourth fastest ahead of Nate Mullan who found more than two seconds on his best run to be P5. Chris Edmonds too found a significant improvement in the opening final to be more than a second up on his best, usurping Rob Johnston, Jim Beaman and Mitch Curtis to make his way into the second final.

The trio were joined by Darren Pollard, the frustrated Nick Druery – who lost significant time in righting a navigational error – and the luckless Dwayne Mezzadri (navigation) on the trailer.

After a cat-and mouse battle through the qualifiers and into the opening final, the contenders threw caution to the wind in the second final, the leading trio finding as much as two seconds per lap improvement, led by Matt Malthouse who set a blistering 43.873, 2.3-seconds up on his previous best. Bastian Mullan achieved a similar feat to be just half a second slower, having improved by 1.9-seconds, whilst his brother Nate improved 2.7-seconds to make his second LS-Class final in only his second start in the sport..

Behind them Robert Westink again improved to his best time of the night, with Chris Edmonds fifth whilst for reigning champion Kyle Elphinstone his challenging season continued after the engine shut down part way around his lap whilst on track to challenge for a place in the final, his ongoing electrical issue bringing his night to a premature end.

The final then had a very familiar feel to it, with all three teams the same as those that made the dramatic Keith final, and to increase the sense of deja-vu, it had a similar outcome..

Bastian Mullan was out first, the older of the two Mullan brothers setting a stunning 43.548, his fastest lap of the night by three quarters of a second in what was a fast but very controlled run.

Matt Malthouse fired out the gate for his run, the Keith local only managing to improve by just over a tenth of a second to fall two tenths shy of Bastian Mullan’s time ahead of Nate Mullan’s assault on the final.

From the opening corner it was clear Nate Mullan was looking to take the fight to his older brother, the attitude of the boat showing he was giving it everything he had, and he very nearly pulled it off before just clipping an inside edge three quarters of the way around the lap, throwing himself and navigator Coda Kolak hard into the barriers at the top of the circuit, the engine giving a cough and an impressive flame out before the boat came to a rest.

Both driver and navigator exited safely, Nate clearly frustrated to have exited his second final in much the same way – dramatically and with a badly damaged boat.

“I pushed it pretty hard – I thought I was keeping it in the middle of the track, but I clipped the bank,” Mullan admitted afterwards. “I’m pretty disappointed.”

For brother Bastian – who was forced to run the chequered flag around the circuit on foot, he was understandably elated. “I’m stoked to have won my first final, I can’t believe it, it feels great.”

Despite the setback, and some question about the viability of the return of the ‘RIPSHIFT’ hull after its second big off in as many races, the Mullan boys are both right in the title race, Matt Malthouse though continuing to lead the way just three points clear of Bastian Mullan, with Nate Mullan just three points further back in third. Chris Edmonds moves to fourth, just four points further back, with Jim Beaman holding fifth, just ahead of Kyle Elphinstone.

JUNIOR DEVELOPMENT

Whilst there were plenty of cheers for the young stars of the LS-Class, the Junior Development final saw plenty of support from the big vocal Temora crowd, with Koby Bourke putting in a great effort to improve by almost four seconds across the day in the single-seater hull designed for kids between eight and 16 years of age, the 12-year old impressing everyone with his maturity.

There may just be a single entry at the moment, however the category has promoted a lot of interest, with an additional hull already on its way to join the Series, whilst enquiry levels have been high, suggesting that we will see a stream of new teams entering the sport in the coming months.

For the Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championships the season now ‘heads north for the winter’ with back-to-back rounds at the Tweed Coast Jet Sprint Club at Cabarita Beach on the north-coast of New South Wales for rounds three (June 19-20) and four (August 07-08).

And for fans of the Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championship, you can also catch all the action this year on Fox Sports Australia and Kayo Sports (check local guides for times). The Keith round of the season is currently airing with the ‘Colin Parish Memorial’ round scheduled for early June.

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