After an outstanding start to the 2019 Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championship, the crowd-pleasing category returns to the Tweed Coast Jet Sprint Club this week to greet the mid-point of the season, and with three national titles on the line and very little separating the contenders, fans will be treated to some of the best racing of the year.
Since the opening round of the season the Unlimited Superboat class has delivered some incredible racing with reigning world champion Phonsy Mullan facing one of the toughest challenges he’s experienced in recent years in two-time Group A world title holder Slade Stanley.
To this point in the season Mullan has been winless, a scenario which doesn’t sit well with the seven-time Australian champion.
Stanley though has been flawless in recent rounds after a technical setback at the season-opener in Keith – from that point on he has been without peer, and if he can continue that trend to take back-to-back wins at Cabarita, he will take a comfortable points lead into the second half of the season.
Like the Unlimited category, 400-Class too has seen some outstanding racing, and another flawless performance, Queensland’s Paul Kelly now an impressive three-from-three to head back to Cabarita undefeated in season 2019.
It’s likely the short break between the northern rounds will see a greater challenge for the bright orange 4Zero racing machine, with Justin Roylance – the pace-setter through qualifying two months ago likely to head the challenge in the absence of Jody Ely, whilst former champions Ben Hathaway, Mark Garlick and Brett Thornton will also be pushing for victory.
The LS-Class continues to grow with round three providing the strongest field yet. This weekend is likely to see that momentum continue, with points leader Brett Elphinstone looking to continue his winning streak.
With the June event still fresh in everyone’s mind you could suggest that reigning world champion Phonsy Mullan – who claimed the title last November with victory at Cabarita – is behind the eight-ball coming into the fourth round of the season with a 0-3 record so far this year, but if there’s one thing you can never do, it’s discount the yellow ‘RAMJET’ machine..
As has been the case in past seasons, Mullan is on another developmental program that sees him testing and building new components for almost every event, a process that has provided great benefits in past seasons with a reliability record that is almost unrivalled.
This year though his challengers have upped the game, with former world title holder Slade Stanley leading the charge with back-to-back wins at Cabarita and Temora.
Two-time Australian champion Daryl Hutton too is getting closer to the sweet spot in the Farr Faster built twin-turbo charged 400ci powered ‘Phoenix Lubricants’ machine, the expat-New Zealander finding form again after a number of years in the wilderness with his former supercharged package.
New Zealander Rob Coley is another who will set the cat amongst the pigeons, the owner of arguably the quickest naturally-aspirated Unlimited machine in the world (ex-Peter Caughey) is looking to make up for a lacklustre six months, a period which saw a potential world title challenge fade, ahead of a string of technical setbacks during the early rounds of the Penrite Series. He made amends last time out at Cabarita to be Slade Stanley’s closest rival, although Coley admits that he still has some work to do to breach the gap.
Mick Carroll is another who is looking for a return to form after claiming the win at Keith to kick off the season, the South Australian carrying the points lead into Cabarita before just falling short of a berth in the final – he will be out to regain the coveted red points leader’s plate and could be expected to shake up the order.
So too Victorian Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts, the popular ‘Blown Budget’ pilot is a local favourite and always rises to the occasion at Cabarita, famously pushing Phonsy Mullan to victory a season ago, falling just short of an historic Unlimited Australian round win.
Daniel de Voigt is always a top five contender at Cabarita, the experienced local driver could be expected to again push the podium challengers and should any of them falter, he will be right in the mix in his twin-turbo LS-powered ‘Devo Racing’ machine.
Sadly work commitments have robbed the field of a number of likely contenders including Michael Cunningham and Paul Gaston, whilst WA’s Jamie Welch has conceded that he will sit out the remainder of the 2019 season to focus the ‘Natwel Racing’ team on 2020.
400-CLASS (International Group A)
Paul Kelly’s rivals will have done plenty of homework after the June round looking to counter the points-leaders impressive speed, but it would come as no surprise to find that the popular auto-electrician had been doing exactly the same thing..
12-months ago he showed signs that he could take the fight to the points leaders, but he hadn’t been able to put a whole weekend together, often showing flashes of brilliance followed by a technical issue or an off whilst within reach of victory – this year though there has been no such flaw, Kelly putting his rivals on notice that to win the 2019 400-Class title that his challengers will need to be on their A-game.
Whilst victory last time out at Cabarita came with a stunning 1.3-second domination, Kelly wasn’t the fastest through the qualifiers – that honour went to Justin Roylance in the Auto One/Outlaw 67 machine.
Roylance had shown great promise through the closing stages of the 2018 Australian Championships and was ranked top Australian after the opening leg of the UIM World Series late last year before graduating to a new Jetspeed hull earlier this year.
That combination together with a JRE powerplant rocketed Roylance to the top spot after five rounds of qualifying eight weeks ago, but an off during the finals saw the boat sidelined after an error whilst pushing to extend his advantage even further – keep an eye on the New South Welshman this weekend as he looks to return to the podium and challenge for race wins.
Sadly Jody Ely will be absent this weekend due to work commitments, the Victorian likely to return with a revised package, whilst for Ben Hathaway, an electrical setback thwarted much of his weekend in round three, only a late charge in the final qualifier sending him to the finals where he was able to recover with second behind Kelly and just clear of Ely.
A number of teams were forced to spend the ensuing two months between rounds to effect repairs, the most dramatic of them the ‘Pink Boots Racing’ pairing of Hugh Gilchrist and Greg Harriman, whilst for Mark Garlick (Grumpy), Darrin Kesper (Let’s Boogie) and Justin Roylance the repairs were not quite as dramatic, but all four will be set for battle come Saturday afternoon.
Local legends Peter Monger and Phil Weinthal will again share driving duties in Weinthal’s ‘Black Dog’, Brendan Doyle will return in ‘The Girlfriend’ and Mark Connolly will make his debut in ‘G-Force’ making it another impressive field of 400-Class machines entertaining the fans.
The June round of the Penrite Australian championships saw a record field entered for the emerging LS-Class and whilst Kyle Elphinstone emerged with his third win of the season, to see nine boats battling for honours was a great boon for the category after a number of years with little new blood into the sport.
A mix of former competitors and new teams highlighted what was a great battle for the final two podium positions behind the points leading ‘Blackout Racing’ machine, with rookie Dwayne Mezzadri ultimately getting the better of the battle with David Bray in the final to take the runner-up position, but not before an epic fight through the qualifiers and the finals which saw the result see-saw between a number of competitors.
Kyle Reynolds, Lawrence Howlett and Robert Westerink were in the mix up until the second final, with Reynolds missing an almost certain berth in the final after an off prematurely ended his event – he, and father Graham – will be looking to right that wrong this weekend, as will former champion Andrew Medlicott in the ex-Justin Roylance Mackraft.
The fourth round of the 2019 Penrite Australian V8 Superboat Championships will be contested at the Tweed Coast Jetsprint Club across two days, with gates open at 10:00am on both Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets are available at the gate.
For those of you unable to make the event, this weekend a live stream, and a range of interviews and videos will be made available via www.facebook.com/V8Superboats where results and updates will also be posted, but if you live in the area, do yourself a big favour, and drop down to the Tweed Coast Jet Sprint Club on Round Mountain Road, Cabarita Beach to take in some of the action live, you certainly won’t be disappointed!
Photo: Russell Puckeridge, Pureart Creative Images
Sean has experience in everything from motor sport news releases to on-track commentary, graphic design, magazine and TV production.
He is based in Australia.