The Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championship rose to another level in season 2019, off the back of a 2018 UIM World Championship campaign that netted Australia’s first ever Unlimited Superboat title, it also served as a real lesson for much of the Australian team about how far ahead the New Zealanders were.
That saw plenty of head scratching during the off-season, but a new level of performance from many of the teams once the new year fired into gear at Keith all the way back in March.
Since then the Penrite Series has delivered some of the best racing in the history of the sport, some serious competition at the leading edge of the Unlimited class, arguably the most competitive field in the history of Group A (400-Class) and a new generation of drivers in the emerging LS-Class that are all laying the foundations for a strong future for the category.
With all that said, you’d expect a battle royale for outright honours during the season finale, but such has been the performance of the top teams in each category, that all three titles have effectively been settled for 2019 on a dropped round point scoring system.
Two-time World and former Australian Group A champion Slade Stanley put the Unlimited Superboat title out of reach last time out at Temora, the Wagga native claiming his fifth consecutive win to amass enough points to displace Phonsy Mullan from the top step of the Championship podium for the first time in seven years.
In 400-Class, defying just how close the field has been all season, Paul Kelly delivered a flawless season to date, winning every one of the previous six finals to be undefeated in the tightly regulated category with a performance that showed just how dedicated he has been to his sport this season, his approach akin to that of some of the world’s best teams.
His only challenge this weekend, keeping the momentum alive to achieve something no other driver in the modern era has managed to experience – a perfect undefeated score – seven from seven..!
For newly crowned LS-Class champion Kyle Elphinstone, he has his own demons to battle at Cabarita during the season finale, having suffered his only setbacks of the season across the last two rounds, ending what to that point had been a flawless record.
In another class where there is little room for movement in the power stakes, Elphinstone has delivered some outstanding drives, but as the category has grown, so too has the competition, former 350-Class champion Andrew Medlicott and rising star Dwayne Mezzadri two drivers that have turned up the heat in recent rounds, bridging the gap to Elphinstone ahead of what promises to be an epic title fight in season 2020.
With the Championship wrapped up and the season coming to a close, it’s a subdued Unlimited Superboat field that will line up at Cabarita, but despite the numbers, it features the top teams of the season.
Having dominated much of the 2019 Penrite season, Slade Stanley will start the undeniable favourite, his big challenge, keeping his undefeated record since Keith alive – a technical issue with the boat his only hurdle in an otherwise perfect season, but whilst at times he has extended his advantage over the field to three seconds or more, there would be no surprise if some of his rivals arrived with something a little extra this weekend..
As the standout performer in the category for six long seasons culminating in his maiden world title – which came at Cabarita late last season – Phonsy Mullan can never be discounted.
Always on the cutting edge of technical innovation with the ‘RAMJET’ team, Mullan has suffered his first losses this season, the reigning World Champion having started on a development program for the next World Series, but with the bespoke nature of the equipment, few of the parts that are needed to develop the next level of performance are ‘off the shelf’ forcing Mullan and his team to have to design and develop them in house.
The cost of that lack of parts has seen Mullan well off his customary pace, and campaigning equipment that has been unable to match the pace of the ‘Hazardous08’ team, whilst he has also been regularly under fire from the twin-turbo boats of Daryl Hutton and co-2018 Australian champion, Scott Krause.
Krause will be one of the boats that will miss the Cabarita round, but the revitalised Daryl Hutton, who has been slowly bridging the gap to Stanley across the year, will be back in action with his twin-turbo Farr Faster built machine, and the two-time Australian Champion can see the top step of the podium looming in the distance – you can be sure that the closer he gets, the more exciting he’ll be..!
Local driver Daniel deVoigt will wave the flag for the Queenslanders, the DEVO Racing machine having emerged as a regular top five finisher, the twin-turbo LS-powered package having tagged on to the tail of the leading pack in recent rounds, deVoigt’s smooth style – developed from many years in the 350-Class – and the reliability of his engine package seeing him right in the box seat when any of the outright contenders stumble, and ‘at home’ he always steps up another gear.
Throw in crowd favourite Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts and ‘Blown Budget’ and you have a prime field set to entertain what is expected to be another strong crowd at Cabarita across both Saturday and Sunday.
400-CLASS (International Group A)
Despite having wrapped up the 2019 title with his sixth consecutive win at Temora last time out, the pressure has by no means relented on Paul Kelly, the popular Queenslander intent on a record seventh win this weekend to cap off what has been an outstanding year for the crowd favourite.
Whilst that motivation might deter his opponents – many of whom have become his closest friends – it has actually had the opposite effect, with many of them desperate to ensure Kelly’s winning streak comes to an end.
Leading the charge will be Justin Roylance and reigning AUS#2 Ben Hathaway, the pair having gotten closer to Kelly than any other this season, Roylance last time out having actually topped the time sheets in the second final, forcing Kelly to push outside his comfort zone to take the win.
Hathaway too as a former champion understands just what it takes to win at the top level, but like Roylance, Jody Ely, Mark Garlick and Brett Thornton, he is just as motivated to close out the season with a warning shot fired across Kelly’s bow that he isn’t unbeatable..
It’s this battle that will be the focal point this weekend, and with at least six boats capable of taking the win, there’s absolutely no guarantee it will be an orange ‘4Zero Racing’ machine that holds the chequered flag aloft on Sunday afternoon, but there’s also every chance it will…!
It’s a stellar field of 400s that will close out the 2019 season, in stark contrast to the Unlimited field, 14-boats, four national champions and a string of emerging drivers all looking for valuable miles around the Tweed Coast venue.
Former AFJSA President Greg Harriman returns in the ‘Pink Boots Racing’ machine he shares with Hugh Gilchrist, the team having recovered from some big off track excursions across the season, but both have found impressive pace in recent rounds, they have every chance of breaking into the top six, so too Sam Everingham who returns to drive his old boat alongside new owner Ron O’Day (Agro-vation).
Local favourites Peter Monger and Phil Weinthal will be back, Weinthal praying that Monger doesn’t provide a repeat dose of his past crowd-pleasing performances in ‘Black Dog’ – the two drivers capable of rattling the cage of the contenders on their home circuit, whilst Darrin Kesper will be another who will be looking to avoid the Cabarita bank after some big off track excursions at the venue over the last 12 months.
As the new LS-Class has emerged this year the competition has gotten hotter and hotter, so much so that many of the teams are already planning upgrades in equipment for the 2020 season, but whilst that’s still months away and the 2019 title is already settled, the final round of the season will provide an opportunity for some of them to stake their claim at the final round.
After hiccups at both Griffith and Temora after having set the fastest runs of the day, Kyle Elphinstone suffered setbacks at both events after failing to finish his final rotations.
That opened the door for former 350-Class champion Andrew Medlicott – who went on to win both those events, whilst Dwayne Mezzadri – who emerged as a future champion with a pair of second-placed finishes last time the championship visited Cabarita – extended his podium run at the two southern rounds, but you could expect the ‘Unleashed’ driver has eyes for a bigger prize this weekend and will be sure to go after the top spot from the outset.
Dave Bray returns in ‘Bear Necessities’, the local driver keen to return to the podium after repeat visits at Cabarita earlier in the year, whilst Graham and Kyle Reynolds will be looking to stamp their mark on the championship after some stellar performances through the year.
Robert Westerink too will be looking for a return to the podium in ‘The Contractor’ in his battle to maintain second in championship points, although his advantage over Graham Reynolds and Dwayne Mezzadri is just two points, whilst Andrew Medlicott is just seven points back, so the round will see an epic fight over the remaining places on the season podium.
The final round of the 2019 Penrite Australian V8 Superboat Championships will be contested at the Tweed Coast Jetsprint Club across two days (16-17 November), with gates open at 8:00am on both Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets are available at the gate or here.
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 here.
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.