After an impressive start to the 2019 Penrite Australian V8 Superboats season, the first ‘winter’ round at the Tweed Coast Jet Sprint Club’s Cabarita circuit presented even more intrigue, and some more impressive performances by Temora stars Slade Stanley, Paul Kelly and Kyle Elphinstone.
In the end, Slade Stanley continued his impressive return to the sport to claim his second consecutive victory in Unlimited Superboats, the two-time Group A World Champion at times three-seconds clear of the field, before a late race resurgence from New Zealand sensation Rob Coley saw the final concluded with Stanley 67 one hundredths clear, whilst reigning Unlimited world title holder Phonsy Mullan was forced to settle for third place, two seconds back from Stanley’s time.
In 400-Class [International Group A], points leader Paul Kelly countered every challenge to claim his third consecutive win, in the end the local [Brisbane] driver was more than two seconds clear of former champion Ben Hathaway who suffered a torrid weekend leading up to the finals, with Jody Ely third, just four tenths down on Hathaway’s time.
Cabarita’s return also presented the biggest field in the short history of the LS-Class, but despite the nine boats gunning for victory, points leader Kyle Elphinstone managed to weather the storm, holding out rookie-sensation Dwayne Mezzadri for his third win of the year, whilst David Bray held on for third place after a solid run through the finals.
Always a challenge, the Cabarita rotation claimed a number of high profile victims across the weekend, including 400-Class favourite Justin Roylance, reigning champion Mark Garlick, Hugh Gilchrist, Darrin Kesper and Starr Kopa, all suffering the wrath of the difficult Tweed Coast venue across the two-day event.
Having smashed the Unlimited field at Temora, Slade and Vanessa Stanley put everyone on notice right from the get-go at Cabarita, the ‘Hazardous’ machine punching out an opening qualifying time that was so fast, that outside of his own improvements, only one driver would improve on his stunning 47.224 opener, and that came in the final round of the event..
Ultimately Stanley’s opening salvo was three second faster than former Cabarita Unlimited runner-up Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts, whilst title rival Phonsy Mullan was five seconds off the pace.
Typically Mullan found further improvement with every run to get to within 1.5-seconds by Sunday morning’s third qualifier, but after that Stanley continued to improve, ultimately dropping his best to a 45.900 by the final of five qualifying sessions, all five rotations within 1.3-seconds..
Second by the close of qualifying was Rob Coley, the New Zealander though still more than 2.2-seconds slower in the boat that took Peter Caughey to the fastest laps of the 2018 UIM World Series.
Glenn Roberts was all smiles after the qualifiers having graduated to the third fastest time, bettering reigning world title-holder Mullan by six one hundredths of a second, whilst points leader Mick Carroll and Daryl ‘Nutsy’ Hutton were all within reach, positions second through six separated by just nine tenths of a second.
Daniel de Voigt too was enjoying a solid run, but sadly a small fire in the boat at the end of the fourth qualifier escalated as they came into the spin out pool, damaging much of the boats delicate electronics system in the process, forcing the popular local team into retirement with no injury to driver or navigator.
Canberra’s Paul Burgess was next quickest, although he was suffering his own issues in the ‘Daly Transport’ machine, whilst Starr Kopa’s second event in the ‘WIKID’ machine ended in tears during the opening qualifier with a rollover just after the opening corner, the supercharged machine ending up sinking in the channel which ultimately forced the team’s retirement from the event.
As Stanley continued on his demolition of the Unlimited field, so too Paul Kelly continued to pave the way in 400-Class, the popular local auto electrician dominating the opening qualifier by 1.7-seconds over two-time 2018 winner Jody Ely, but it wasn’t the Victorian, nor former champions Ben Hathaway, Mark Garlick nor Brett Thornton who would put him on notice, rather World Series sensation Justin Roylance in his ‘new’ Jetspeed hull.
Working alongside fellow ‘JRE’ pilot Slade Stanley, Roylance and the ‘Outlaw67’ team worked feverishly through the opening qualifiers to tweak the former Peter Huijs ‘rotor boat’ ultimately getting the Spitwater/Penrite/Auto One supported machine to within 81 one thousandths of a second off Kelly by Sunday’s final qualifier.. Things were starting to get interesting!
Ultimately Kelly and Roylance completed the five qualifying rounds more than a second and a half clear of the pack, which was led by Ely, Thornton and Garlick.
Sadly for 2017 champion Ben Hathaway, the ‘Warren & Brown Tools Racing’ machine spent much of its time in the pit area with the driver and the crew chasing a gremlin in the electrics of the boat. Enter the very nature of V8 Superboats which saw almost every one of Hathaway’s rivals rendering assistance by way of parts, knowledge and manpower – everyone from points-leader Paul Kelly who was actively making changes to the electrics on Hathaway’s boat, to Mark and Jake Garlick, Justin Roylance, Jody Ely.. it was fantastic to see and a big reason why the sport continues to thrive.
In the end their combined efforts saw Hathaway punch out a qualifying lap, albeit more than 17 seconds slower than Kelly, but he’d completed a single rotation and qualified, leaving the team with a lot of work to do ahead of the finals..
Sadly the pace of the field claimed a number of victims, amongst them reigning champion Mark Garlick, the Queenslander making a rare error at the notorious ‘Hardy’s corner’ (also known to local fans as Benny’s) to see himself out of the water, up the bank and fairly hard into the earth embankment on the outside of the corner. Fortunately he and wife Kerry were unharmed, whilst ‘Grumpy on Edge’ had a nasty hook in its nose, although vitally there had been little damage to the sides and bottom of the hull, the four-time Australian champion soon back in the water for the final qualifier.
They weren’t the only victims, Darrin Kesper and navigator Kayla Foote who had been involved with their own heavy contact with the Cabarita earth embankment during the World Series also came out of the water during their fourth rotation, riding well up the damp bank and into the trees close to the finish line, prompting a lengthy recovery, but like the Garlick team, they too were back for the final qualifier.
Sadly ‘Pink Boots Racing’ team-mates Greg Harriman and Hugh Gilchrist were not, after the latter had a huge off mid-lap in the second qualifier on Saturday afternoon, the boat ending up inverted in the channel where the safety crew assisted both driver and navigator safely out. Unfortunately the hull was badly twisted during the incident forcing its immediate retirement ending one of Greg Harriman’s best runs in recent rounds, the former Jetboat president just over a second slower than reigning title holder Mark Garlick.
Heading into qualifying Brendan Doyle was next best having hovered around the 60-second mark for much of qualifying alongside locals Phil Weinthal and Peter Monger – who were rarely separated by more than a few tenths – and, like Darrin Kesper, they would also qualify for the finals.
In the emerging LS-Class, points leader Kyle Elphinstone continued his title assault comfortably topping all but the second round of qualifying which allowed Andrew Medlicott through for the top spot, but by the close of the five sessions, Elphinstone emerged as number one qualifier ahead of Paul Hill who put down a blistering time in Q5 after failing to finish every other run apart from Q2.. Elphinstone though was still more than three and a half seconds faster heading into the finals forcing his rivals to dig deep.
Behind Hill, rookie Dwayne Mezzadri emerged as third fastest, just quicker than former 350-Class champion Medlicott and Graham Reynolds, whilst David Bray, Kyle Reynolds, Lawrence Howlett and Robert Westerlink ended the qualifiers separated by just three seconds, paving the way for a spirited opening finals round.
After such a stunning run through qualifying, the big Cabarita crowd stood mesmerised as Slade Stanley put down a time in the opening final, and it was a cracker – faster than his final qualifying run, the ‘Hazardous’ machine set the mark at 45.895, his fastest of the weekend.
New Zealander Rob Coley emerged as next quickest, dropping into the high 47s, whilst Phonsy Mullan also found some additional pace, although he was still unable to find the valuable tenths and seconds he needed to take the fight to Stanley, his 48.625 mere thousandths faster than his qualifying best and just half a second faster than Cabarita favourite Glenn Roberts.
The pace was so impressive at the front of the field that points leader Mick Carroll just snuck into the second final after losing almost two seconds on his qualifying best, he fell almost a second and a half back from two-time Unlimited champion Daryl Hutton, but with a championship lead to defend, his rivals knew he could never be discounted heading into the final six..
As he had done for much of the event, Stanley attacked from the front as first boat out, again laying down a time that pushed his rivals to find the limit, this time a 45.748 – his fastest of the event. Rob Coley again found time, to come to within 1.8-seconds of Stanley, but for reigning champion Phonsy Mullan, he was forced to endure a tough few minutes as his rivals laid down their best despite finding an impressive six tenths of a second himself.
Ultimately Mullan snuck into the final by less than three tenths of a second, his 48.089 holding out Daryl Hutton (48.379), Glenn Roberts (48.702) and Mick Carroll (48.854) for one of the most closely fought Unlimited finals in recent history.
Not surprisingly, Slade Stanley was first to set a time in the final three although he dropped almost half a second from his Top 6 best to set the mark at 46.225, a mark that came under attack for the first time all weekend after Rob Coley found more than six tenths of a second to also break into the 46s, although in the end, Stanley’s margin of victory was still almost seven tenths of a second, Mullan holding on for third with a 48.211.
Like Stanley, Paul Kelly kept his momentum going through the finals to claim the 400-Class round win with a trio of 50-second laps. In the end he was forced to contend with former champion Ben Hathaway who mounted a Herculean comeback to shave 16-seconds off his qualifying best to challenge Kelly all the way to the final lap having improved by the final to a 51.783 to claim second from Jody Ely.
The battle for the top spot may have been a whole lot different if not for Justin Roylance’s opening salvo in the Top 12. The ‘Outlaw 67’ machine fired out the gate like a bullet, but he suffered a little wiggle on the entry to the infamous ‘Hardy’s corner’ which saw the boat thrown out of the water and into a spin that saw Roylance and navigator Michelle Hodge hard into the tyres. Fortunately despite being shaken, neither were injured, but Roylance’s run at the top spot was over..
Brett Thornton was ultimately fourth after running as high as third in the first final, although he fell just shy in the second final, with both he and Mark Garlick within mere tenths of Ely’s 52.374 best, joining the impressive Brendan Doyle on the bank for the final, Doyle having out-run the experienced Weinthal-Monger-Kesper trio in the second final to join some of the best in the sport.
All though were ultimately forced to play passengers to Paul Kelly’s continuing domination of the category, a domination that defies just how close the 400-Class field has become over recent years, the Queenslander showing just how much of a class act he has become as he has weathered everything his experienced rivals have been able to throw at him this year. It is however time for the mid-season break, and you can never guarantee anything in motorsport..!
Like Stanley and Kelly before him, Kyle Elphinstone led the way through the three finals to record his third win of the year, although it was the emergence of Dwayne Mezzadri that had everyone talking, the ‘Unleashed’ driver working his way carefully through each of the final three runs to find a tenth or two with each rotation to close down Elphinstone’s advantage to just 2.7-seconds by the final round.
The pair were joined on the podium by David Bray whose consistency gave him the opportunity to compete in his first final after Kyle Reynolds suffered a DNF in the Top 6, joining Lawrence Howlett and Robert Westerink on the bank to watch the final run.
The Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championships now enjoys the annual mid-season winter break ahead of a return to Cabarita Beach and the popular Tweed Coast Jet Sprint Club on the north coast of New South Wales for the fourth round of the season – again over two days – on 10-11 August.
TOP 3 FINAL
1. 08. Slade Stanley/Vanessa Stanley (Hazardous) – 46.225
2. 111. Rob Coley/Cody Munro (Poison Ivy) – 46.897
3. 1. Phonsy Mullan/Madeline Chorley (RAMJET) – 48.211
400-Class (Group A)
1. 40. Paul Kelly/Naomi Gow (4Zero Racing) – 50.491
2. 2. Ben Hathaway/Lisa Oppes (Warren & Brown Tools Racing) – 51.783
3. 33. Jody Ely/Greg Blaz (Rampage) – 52.150
1. 219. Kyle Elphinstone/Ryan Burke (Blackout Racing) – 57.729
2. 380. Dwayne Mezzadri/Mitch Curtis (Unleashed) – 1:00.435
3. 85. David Bray (Bear Neccesities) – DNF
TOP 6 FINAL
1. 08. Slade Stanley/Vanessa Stanley (Hazardous) – 45.748
2. 111. Rob Coley/Cody Munro (Poison Ivy) – 47.528
3. 1. Phonsy Mullan/Madeline Chorley (RAMJET) – 48.089
4. 28. Daryl Hutton/Mick Parry (Phoenix Lubricants) – 48.379
5. 888. Glenn Roberts/Tiarna McGifford (Blown Budget) – 48.702
6. 41. Mick Carroll/Daniel Kelly (Excalibur) – 48.854
400-Class (Group A)
1. 40. Paul Kelly/Naomi Gow (4Zero Racing) – 50.166
2. 2. Ben Hathaway/Lisa Oppes (Warren & Brown Tools Racing) – 51.908
3. 33. Jody Ely/Greg Blaz (Rampage) – 52.374
4. 53. Brett Thornton/Lyn Thornton (2Obsessed) – 52.759
5. 1. Mark Garlick/Kerry Garlick (Grumpy On Edge) – 52.935
6. 214. Brendan Doyle/Rory Doyle (The Girlfriend) – DNF
1. 219. Kyle Elphinstone/Ryan Burke (Blackout Racing) – 57.733
2. 380. Dwayne Mezzadri/Mitch Curtis (Unleashed) – 1:00.640
3. 85. David Bray (Bear Neccesities) – 1:06.780
4. 14. Lawrence Howlett/Karen Howlett (Drop Bear) – 1:07.401
5. 17B. Kyle Reynolds/Brendan Young (Red Rum) – DNF
6. 64. Robert Westerink/Ben Gillespie (The Contractor) – DNF
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.