The 2021 Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championship returns to the Tweed Valley on June 19-20 after more than 18-months away, the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic very nearly forcing another postponement after a recent Melbourne outbreak would have left many of the leading contenders caught up in lockdown.
Fortunately, despite forcing some teams to race against the clock to make the Cabarita round, we expect that all 37 teams will be in attendance, a field which will break most recent records, such is the momentum behind the sport after a long period in hibernation during 2020.
The Unlimited Superboat field will once more lead the way with an expanded entry list for the first of the back-to-back Cabarita rounds (the second scheduled for August 7-8), an entry which includes one of the most anticipated debuts in recent years, Sam Everingham’s ‘Thirsty Merc’.
Those fans of the sport who have been keeping a close eye on what’s been going on behind closed doors may have been party to some recently circulated images of an immaculate 6.3-litre twin-turbo Mercedes-AMG V8 powerplant, that will power an all-new hull, the new setup campaigned by V8 Superboats part-timer Sam Everingham.
The project has been a long time in development, the nature of most V8 Superboats being the many and varied bespoke parts in each package, Everingham adding another level of challenge by adopting a powerplant that has never seen Jetboat competition (certainly in Australia) before, the challenge of adapting parts as well as the twin-turbo induction system providing plenty of headaches.
That said, Everingham has made no secret of the fact that he would not debut the boat until he was satisfied it was right and that it not only performed, but in adapting the iconic German three-pointed star to V8 Superboats, it had to look the part as well.. Whilst Everingham’s debut will attract plenty of attention, arguably the greatest attention will be focused on the ongoing battle for the top step of the podium between reigning Australian Champion Slade Stanley and reigning World Champion, Phonsy Mullan.
Stanley has continued his impressive 2019 form into back-to-back wins to fire up the 2021 Penrite season, but Mullan has been slowly closing the gap, and whilst improving the new ‘Jetspeed’ package for Temora, he’s spent countless hours in recent weeks working to improve the boat even further, ahead of what could be a huge forward step for the fourth round of the season on our return to Cabarita. The seven-time AUS#1 has admitted to working on a backup project that may have been ready for the June event, however with a complete repair required on the ‘RIPSHIFT’ LS machine after another big off at Temora, the team just didn’t have the time to complete both projects ahead of round three..
With new entries in all four categories, and a record 14 teams for the LS-Class for this round, there will be no shortage of action across the two days of competition, with three rounds of qualifying set for Saturday, and two rounds and the finals scheduled on Sunday – all racing conducted between 10:00am and 3:00pm on both days.
For those that can’t be at the Tweed Valley venue, Sunday’s action will be streamed LIVE on Facebook (www.facebook.com/V8Superboats) whilst a post-produced highlights package will be released on Fox Sports Australia and Kayo Sports (running at the same time as Fox) a month afterwards, check local guides for details.
The Cabarita venue is arguably the most popular on the V8 Superboat calendar, not the least because of it’s coastal location, being situated just south of the iconic Gold Coast, providing an idyllic venue for the southern-based teams as they face the onset of winter..
Despite it’s popularity though, the relatively straight forward layout often provides some big moments for the teams, with the likes of Phonsy Mullan, Daryl Hutton and Glenn Roberts all falling victim to the demanding Cabarita layout in past seasons, whilst for those new to the sport, the nine-island layout presents its own challenge, regardless of the speed you’re traveling..!
He may have suffered a setback last time he was at Cabarita with his all-new ‘Jetspeed’ hull, and the subsequent mechanical issue that sidelined him ahead of the finals, but Phonsy Mullan returns to the Tweed Valley venue looking to make an impression on long-time rival Slade Stanley in the championship race. The team are hoping that further tweaks to the RAMJET hull and ongoing development with their jet unit will close the gap even further and spice up the competition.
The points leaders though won’t have things all their own way, as former champion Scott Krause will also be in the mix, whilst fellow former AUS#1 Daryl Hutton will be looking to improve on his Temora performance in his new ‘Stinger’ hull, having taken delivery of Slade Stanley’s spare after suffering that boat destroying off at Keith during the season-opener.
Sadly, a rare navigational error at Temora kept the two-time champion from an assault on the podium, although he’d already signalled that the new hull will significantly close the gap to the leaders, promising for a great fight at the top of the timesheets.
The leading quartet though won’t be alone, certainly not when it comes to Cabarita, which is a venue that is well known to Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts, the Victorian having placed second to Stanley in 2019, whilst he also claimed second in 2018 – the popular Unlimited driver always a threat at a circuit he regularly attends on Club Days, the fact that the races occur during daylight hours another advantage given his compromised eyesight.
Round three will also see a number of returning drivers, including Daniel deVoigt (DEVO Racing), Andrew Page (Kamakazi) and Sam Everingham (Thirsty Merc).
Page campaigns one of the most aggressive boats in the sport, a supercharged 427ci, 1400-horsepower monster that’s frightening at idle, much less at speed.. Pagey has been battling technical issues all season, but was entered to return to the seat at both Keith and Temora, with late setbacks keeping the boat from round two, but he’s all set for Cabarita and will surely entertain!
Everingham too is an entertainer, his new Mercedes-AMG powered machine though likely to see a conservative start, such has been the team’s investment in time and resources, seat time and the acquisition of data the main focus for round three.
With Ben Hathaway expected to push the top drivers in the underpowered ‘Nood Nutz’ LS entry of Matt Malthouse, and Mitch Roylance continuing to apply pressure to the leaders with his ‘little’ naturally-aspirated 410, there will be plenty to keep the fans entertained, whilst for Adam Fairbairn, his Unlimited debut will provide yet another element to what promises to be an outstanding weekend of competition.
400-CLASS (International Group A)
We had hoped that reigning 400-Class champion Paul Kelly may have returned for his ‘home’ round, but sadly work commitments off the back of a challenging 2020 will see the popular Queenslander miss yet another event, although it’s likely he’ll be part of the big Tweed Coast crowd cheering on his rivals, and the ongoing battle between ‘Jetspeed’ team-mates Justin Roylance and Jody Ely..
Roylance returns to the venue that handed him his maiden V8 Superboats victory at the close of the 2019 season as points leader. Since that first win, the ‘Outlaw’ driver has been undefeated, having won every 400-Class final since, Ely though getting closest last time out at Temora to miss the top spot of the podium by just eight one hundredths of a second!
This weekend they’ll continue the fight for the top step of the podium, but can expect to see increased challenges from former champions Mark Garlick and Brett Thornton, for which Cabarita is their home circuit, and a venue on which they have tasted success in the past.
Throw in the surprise package of the 2021 season in Brendan Doyle, and you have the potential of a five-way fight for victory with any number of drivers sitting in the wings to pick up a podium position should the contenders falter – and history has shown, they often do..!
Arguably the big story of 2021 has been the emergence of the LS-Class, a category that has developed it’s own following since the opening round of the season with some outstanding racing and some even bigger action..!
Whilst the reigning champion may well have started as pre-season favourite with a new multiple championship winning hull and updated engine package, for Kyle Elphinstone the opening two rounds have provided anything but joy.. A drive belt failure on his dry-sump engine system saw an expensive rebuild after just a single run at Keith, whilst a persistent electrical issue – which was a big feature for many of the LS-Class teams at Temora – sidelined him whilst in contention last time out, leaving him well behind in the points.
The drivers to take advantage though have been either end of the experience spectrum – former competitor Matt Malthouse, who has been sharing his ‘Nood Nutz’ machine with 2017 400-Class title holder Ben Hathaway, and brothers Bastian and Nate Mullan (the teenage sons of seven-time AUS#1 Phonsy) going head-to-head, the trio filling all three finals positions in both finals so far this year.
The outcome of those finals has been another story, the Mullan brothers both exiting in spectacular style at Keith, whilst Nate delivered another memorable exit in the final at Temora, providing the team with a second hull rebuild in as many months.
Malthouse meanwhile has continued to impress, using maturity to his advantage to attack when ready, with some measured drives across both events to lead the points coming into the third round, although it is Bastian Mullan who comes in as the most recent winner of a final, having topped the timesheets at Temora, to sit just three points off the championship lead.
How the Mullan brothers will fare at Cabarita will be the focus of much speculation, although both have shown they are not afraid to have a go, Bastian arguably the more experienced and measured, whilst Nate has shown that across an event, he is capable of adapting to the conditions quickly, and could be expected to deliver the same again this weekend – as to whether that’s good enough to deliver him his third final, time will tell. The other unknown is just how well the boat will fare, having been repaired in-house at GM Motorsport after a second big knock, whilst across the paddock, Matt Malthouse comes into the round with Ben Hathaway’s past experiences to call on, the Victorian also turning laps in the boat in the Unlimited category, so they will have plenty of data to call on.
Whilst the title contenders will be the ones to watch, a return to Cabarita also provides the local teams with an opportunity, whilst you could also expect that former round winner and reigning champion Kyle Elphinstone will be keen to get his title defence back on track.
Dwayne Mezzadri, Mitch Curtis, Chris Edmonds, Nick Druery and Paul Hill have all turned laps at Cabarita over the last 12 months during club days at the Tweed Valley circuit, so will have the jump on some of those teams who have not competed at Cabarita in the past, Mezzadri one who will be keen to revive his 2019 performances where he ran second to points leader Kyle Elphinstone in every round he entered.
On top of that, Robert Westerink returns to Cabarita having narrowly missed a podium berth at Temora, whilst Matt Riley, Darren Pollard, Mike Hessell and Jim Beaman will be looking to build on their experiences from Keith and Temora, Beaman this round running a single entry with Bill Biggin committed elsewhere for the weekend.
And for the fans of the new Junior Development concept, great news for Koby Bourke who will share the ‘Lil Pyscho’ machine with Slater Ruby this weekend, giving the points leader some additional motivation for the round.
The third round of the 2021 Penrite Australian V8 Superboat Championships will be contested at the Tweed Valley Jet Sprint Club across two days (19-20 June), with gates open at 8:00am on both Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets are available at the gate or via;
For those unable to make the event this weekend, a live stream can be viewed on Sunday, June 20 via 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 Valley Jet Sprint Club on Round Mountain Road, Cabarita Beach to take in some of the action live, you certainly won’t be disappointed!