The Griffith circuit can shake up a championship and stall a title run, although this year it was well and truly dominated by two teams who are at the peak of their powers.
Slade Stanley and Paul Kelly carrying on their outstanding form in the Unlimited Superboat and 400-Class categories respectively to all but put the championship out of question with just two rounds remaining.
Their efforts across an afternoon that typically took its toll were spellbinding to say the least, Stanley demolishing the field in the Unlimited class with a display of driving that had much of the watching audience holding their breath across the sub-40-second run, whilst for Kelly, it seemed he had an answer for anyone that wanted to challenge what has been a winning campaign that began at the start of the season and hasn’t let up since.
The only surprise result of the event was that runaway LS-Class points leader Kyle Elphinstone missed the final for the first time all season after a tough Top 6 rotation that saw him bouncing off islands in the precursor, before ultimately failing to rejoin the water after driving across the top of one last island with his fifth consecutive final within sight.
Reigning World Champion Phonsy Mullan too continued his difficult title defence to miss the final, the seven-time national champion falling an agonising one, one hundredth of a second shy of the man with whom he shares the 2018 AUS#1 title – Temora’s Scott Krause – in the final six.
For the Griffith rookies, the opening qualifier was a good opportunity to take a look at the circuit in anger for the first time, so it was no real surprise that the quickest of the four qualifying sessions came for just two boats, and both were returning entries from the Unlimited class; Scott Krause and Michael Cunningham.
Reigning AUS#1 (co-champion with Phonsy Mullan) Krause was making his return to the sport after being sidelined through recent events with the ‘KAOS’ machine suffering technical issues, but he showed in no uncertain terms that he was back with a storming drive to be second fastest in the opening leg to points leader Slade Stanley.. by a staggering 2.35 seconds, and that was closer than anyone would get to the ‘Hazardous08’ driver all day!
In the end Stanley would lower the mark to a best of 34.581 in the third qualifier to close out the four qualifying laps with the fastest time, 2.859 seconds faster than the next best qualifier, two-time Australian champion Daryl Hutton.
Krause looked like he had rediscovered his impressive early season 2018 form with another strong run in Q2, but in trying to close down Stanley’s staggering lead, he clipped the bank mid run in Q3 and inverted the boat in the water – fortunately he and James Parsons were quickly out of the boat, and fortunately for Krause, damage was minor and he was able to continue just an hour later into the final session – albeit more gingerly than he had earlier.
Despite the setback Krause qualified third a full second clear of Mullan and Glenn Roberts. Michael Cunningham was next ahead of Daniel deVoigt, with the returning Starr Kopa in Scott Krause’s supercharged ‘Soak’nFused’ next up in it’s ‘WIKID’ livery.
Whilst the Unlimited points leader continued his domination of the category, in the hotly contested 400-Class points leader Paul Kelly was under fire, the bright orange ‘4Zero Racing’ machine kicking off strongly as one of four boats under the magic 40-second mark at the close of qualifying.
This time though it was his round four rival Justin Roylance who was on top, the ‘Outlaw67’ driver lowering the mark to a 39.083 in the final qualifier to sit P1 heading into the first of the finals ahead of Kelly and Hathaway, the trio separated by just eight one hundredths of a second after four qualifiers… Jody Ely was fourth fastest on his return, with reigning champion Mark Garlick fifth with a best of 40.526.
Brett Thornton made it three former champions in the top six, whilst there was a significant gap back to Greg Harriman who had qualified the ‘Pink Boots Racing’ machine seventh, just three tenths faster than Brendan Doyle who would strike trouble in the final session.
On a solid run through the fourth qualifier, Doyle came unstuck mid run, hitting the bank hard enough to wind wife Rory. The recovery crew and medical staff were quickly on the scene with both declared okay, but sadly damage was too significant to repair and ‘The Girlfriend’ has been sidelined for the remainder of the season as a result, bringing to a close what had been a solid run to date in the ex-Sam Everingham machine.
Hugh Gilchrist set the ninth fastest qualifying time in his first run since his big off at Cabarita in round three, ahead of Ron O’Day and Darrin Kesper who rounded out the 400-Class field ahead of the finals.
Much like the 400s, the LS-Class too provided a sense of deja-vu with points leader Kyle Elphinstone battling Cabarita rival Dwayne Mezzadri at the top of the timesheets whilst behind them, Andrew Medlicott had emerged as a contender along with Kyle Reynolds.
Ultimately though it was Elphinstone who would claim the fastest qualifying time with a best of 45.014 in the third session ahead of a rare DNF in the final qualifier. Mezzadri would qualify P2 with a 45.833 whilst Medlicott (46.137) maintained a consistent pace through the final three sessions to see all three laps within 16 one hundredths of a second.
Kyle Reynolds threw down a blinder in the final session to be fourth, in the process leap-frogging father Graham [Reynolds], Robert Westerink and David Bray. Rob Johnston was next ahead of Lawrence Howlett who was lamenting a navigational error in his final run to close out another solid field of LS entries ahead of the first of the finals.
FINAL – TOP 12
If anyone thought Slade Stanley was going to ease the pressure in the finals, they were wrong – he signalled that in the Top 12 run to set a 34.871 to make it four consistent runs within three tenths of a second.. Daryl Hutton achieved a similar thing in the ‘Phoenix Lubricants’ machine to be second, albeit more than three seconds down on Stanley, whilst Phonsy Mullan turned in his quickest of the day to be fourth with a 38.775.
Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts was fifth in ‘Blown Budget’ ahead of Daniel deVoigt who continued his impressive 2019 form to be into the second final, whilst Michael Cunningham and Starr Kopa were out having failed to complete their laps.
As he has done all season, Paul Kelly was keeping a little bit in reserve for the finals, and he again put the field on notice with a 38.831 to go four tenths quicker than top qualifier Justin Roylance, the pair the only boats under the 40-second mark with Mark Garlick third after getting the better of both Jody Ely and Ben Hathaway.
Brett Thornton again broke into the six to make the cut for the second final, with both ‘Pink Boots Racing’ entries falling short despite Hugh Gilchrist upstaging team-mate Greg Harriman in their final rotation, Gilchrist showed that some time away from the boat was no bad thing to set the fastest time for the team all weekend.
Sadly they would join Ron O’Day (Agrovation) and Darrin Kesper (Let’s Boogie) on the bank to watch the conclusion of the finals.
Kyle Elphinstone again gave his LS-Class rivals a taste of what was to come in the finals with his fastest run of the night (44.560) to be almost a second quicker than his Cabarita rival Dwayne Mezzadri (45.425), whilst former 350-Class champion Andrew Medlicott was starting to work his way into a podium position to be just four tenths slower than Mezzadri.
Robert Westerink (The Contractor) was next in line with a best of 46.616, ahead of Graham Reynolds who took the point for ‘Red Rum’ after son Kyle made a navigational error and fell to last of the nine LS teams and miss an entry to the second final.
David Bray continued his strong form to be sixth and the final entry into the Top 6, leaving Lawrence Howlett and Rob Johnston to join Kyle Reynolds in retirement.
FINAL – TOP 6
As the field prepared for the second final of the night, the fans were wondering just how much Slade Stanley had in reserve after a night of blistering passes that were light-years faster than his rivals.
They didn’t have long to wait, the Wagga local and former Group A world champion smashing out a 34.447 to lower the mark again for his title rivals.
Daryl Hutton was again the driver to take the fight to Stanley although despite an impressive run that saw him shave almost a second off his previous best, he was still 2.7-seconds shy, but it was the fight over the third entry into the final run of the night that had the fans on their feet with the two drivers who fought out the 2018 title going head-to-head.
Having proven the ‘KAOS’ boat was okay after being inverted in the channel, Scott Krause threw caution to the wind punching out a 38.839, whilst Mullan too dug deep, but clearly his naturally-aspirated machine and his new jet unit package were at maximum performance, the yellow #1 ‘RAMJET’ machine setting another consistent time, but falling an agonising one, one hundredth of a second shy of Krause’s time to stop the clock at a 38.849..
Glenn Roberts too put in a stunning performance in the low light conditions to be just a third of a second slower than Krause, with Daniel deVoigt finding almost a second for more valuable championship points with sixth (40.298).
The second final in the 400-Class was the talking point of the night.. Former champion Ben Hathaway had been creeping up on the leaders and he was set to fire a final shot but the ‘Warren & Brown Tools Racing’ machine had other ideas with the starter-motor failing on the ramp where despite the best efforts of the team, they just couldn’t start the #2 boat..
That left Justin Roylance to take the fight to Kelly and whilst he looked the goods in the opening part of his run, a navigational error as he fought to find fractions of a second eliminated him from a berth in the final three..
That opportunity allowed former champions Mark Garlick and Brett Thornton through to take their place in the final, Thornton after finding almost half a second on his qualifying best to just shadow Garlick as they prepared for the final run of the night.
With his fifth consecutive victory within sight, Kyle Elphinstone was well off his best in the second LS-Class final with a ragged run that ended perched on top of an island after earlier shaving banks in an effort to find time. It was an unusual retirement that perhaps signalled just how close his rivals had been getting in recent rounds, with Medlicott (45.352) and Mezzadri (45.401) making the most of the opportunity.
Graham Reynolds continued his solid return to form to make the final three after finding more than a second to put Robert Westerink and David Bray back on the trailer ahead of the final.
FINAL – TOP 3
The crowd all stood and held their collective breaths as Unlimited Superboat points leader Slade Stanley rolled out for the final, many wondering just how far the two-time world champion could push the ‘Hazardous08’ machine.. In the end they only needed 33.928 seconds to find out, ahead of a roaring cheer that signalled one of the best laps of the year.
For Daryl Hutton and Scott Krause, they knew they were only racing for second, but with Krause’s form on his return, Hutton knew he’d have to put everything into it and the expat New Zealander did just that, finding almost half a second for a 36.790 and his best run of the night, whilst Krause delivered a fast but safe 38.549 for third.
Stanley wasn’t the only driver to deliver a knockout blow in the final, Paul Kelly finding another quarter of a second to lay down a 38.425, in the end a full second and a half clear of Mark Garlick, and interestingly, just four and a half seconds shy of Slade Stanley.. Brett Thornton rounded out the podium with another strong run to claim third.
With Kyle Elphinstone’s retirement, Dwayne Mezzadri could probably have expected to see the top step of the podium, and with little separating he and Andrew Medlicott he knew he needed a solid final to push the former 350-Class champion to find his best.
His 45.366 was his best of the day, but whilst just what the doctor ordered, Medlicott put the ex-Justin Roylance Mackraft on the top step of the podium with a staggering 44.678 to claim his first win of the season, relegating Mezzadri to the runner-up position for the third consecutive round, whilst Graham Reynolds was the deserving recipient of the third placed trophy.
The Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championships now heads back to the Temora circuit in central-western New South Wales for the penultimate round of the season in another day/night event on October 19, an event that could well declare the first of the champions for 2019.
Round #5 2019 Penrite V8 Superboat Championships
Griffith Boat Club, Lake Wyangan, Griffith, NSW
21 September, 2019
TOP 3 FINAL
1. 08. Slade Stanley/Vanessa Stanley (Hazardous) – 33.928
2. 28. Daryl Hutton/Mick Parry (Phoenix Lubricants) – 36.790
3. 01. Scott Krause/James Parsons (KAOS) – 38.549
400-Class (Group A)
1. 40. Paul Kelly/Naomi Gow (4Zero Racing) – 38.425
2. 1. Mark Garlick/Kerry Garlick (Grumpy On Edge) – 39.980
3. 53. Brett Thornton/Lyn Thornton (2Obsessed) – 40.553
1. 62. Andrew Medlicott/Phil Shead (Gone Nutz Again) – 44.678
2. 380. Dwayne Mezzadri/Mitch Curtis (Unleashed) – 45.366
3. 17A. Graham Reynolds/Chloe Reynolds (Red Rum) – 48.351
TOP 6 FINAL
1. 08. Slade Stanley/Vanessa Stanley (Hazardous) – 34.447
2. 28. Daryl Hutton/Mick Parry (Phoenix Lubricants) – 37.120
3. 01. Scott Krause/James Parsons (KAOS) – 38.839
4. 1. Phonsy Mullan/Madeline Chorley (RAMJET) – 38.849
5. 888. Glenn Roberts/Tiarna McGifford (Blown Budget) – 39.211
6. 86. Daniel deVoigt/Vicki Burrell (Devo Racing) – 40.298
400-Class (Group A)
1. 40. Paul Kelly/Naomi Gow (4Zero Racing) – 38.709
2. 1. Mark Garlick/Kerry Garlick (Grumpy On Edge) – 39.890
3. 53. Brett Thornton/Lyn Thornton (2Obsessed) – 40.634
4. 33. Jody Ely/Greg Blaz (Rampage) – 55.551
DNF. 67. Justin Roylance/Tracy Little (Outlaw)
DNS. 2. Ben Hathaway/Michelle Hodge (Warren & Brown Tools Racing)
1. 62. Andrew Medlicott/Phil Shead (Gone Nutz Again) – 45.352
2. 380. Dwayne Mezzadri/Mitch Curtis (Unleashed) – 45.401
3. 17A. Graham Reynolds/Chloe Reynolds (Red Rum) – 45.782
4. 64. Robert Westerink/Ben Gillespie (The Contractor) – 46.135
5. 85. David Bray/Jess Thatcher (Bear Neccesities) – 46.645
DNF. 219. Kyle Elphinstone/Beau Warden (Blackout Racing)