After a dramatic opening round to the 2022 season, the Australian V8 Superboats Championship presented by Penrite returns to the Tweed Valley on August 27-28 for the second round of the season buoyed by an increase in entries including the return of a popular local champion.
Those that witnessed the opening round just five weeks prior were treated to some fantastic racing, and some big offs, one of which was replayed on Brisbane television for a number of days after the event, the subject of that incident – Goondiwindi’s Chris Edmonds – continues to play a part in the coming round, having recently taken delivery of one of the fastest boats in the world, Slade Stanley’s appropriately named ‘Hazardous’.
Edmonds had made no question of the fact that once the Stanley’s had put the 2019 title-winning Unlimited boat on the market, that he was keen to take delivery, and after damaging Daryl Hutton’s ‘Phoenix Lubricants’ boat during the opening elimination final, he felt compelled to ensure that his fellow expat New Zealander had an alternative ride to continue his championship assault – and what better alternative than the most successful boat of the last three seasons!
For his part, Hutton and his team have been working tirelessly to get their twin-turbo Unlimited machine back on the water, and whilst the boat has been repaired, the technical nature of the engine has meant a few more delays in ensuring everything is ‘ship-shape’ ahead of a return to the water, Hutton instead taking the helm of ‘Hazardous’, an experience he’s looking forward to, although the two-time Australian Champion has warned not to raise expectations too high..
Coming back to Cabarita the field will be chasing eight-time AUS#1 Phonsy Mullan, the reigning World Champion claiming the top spot in July with a time that would have forced one of the greatest finals in the history of the sport had Stanley continued to compete, Mullan breaking Stanley’s ‘lap record’ on the same rotation the field contested back in June 2021.
Hutton had been on target to claim second, but his early retirement elevated 2018 co-Champion Scott Krause to the podium alongside Mullan and Cabarita favourite, Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts, the Superboat veteran suffering a litany of setbacks before graduating through to the final for yet another podium at his local venue (local being 1500-kilometres from home).
In 400-Class, 2021 vice-Champion Jody Ely once again outlasted good friend and rival Justin Roylance to claim his second victory at Cabarita, whilst Brendan Doyle and Danny Knappick filled out the top four places in the category’s transition year across to new rules in 2023. Sadly 400-Class also saw the retirement of former Champions Brett and Lin Thornton, the popular Queenslanders coming off at the notorious ‘Bennies’ corner in the final qualifier, the impact of the sudden stop seeing both transported to hospital with lower back pain – they were later released but have decided as a result to hang up the boots.
For the burgeoning LS-Class, a big field of entries was led by reigning Champion Bastian Mullan, the second-generation racer embroiled again in a great battle with 2021 rivals Matt Malthouse and Kyle Elphinstone before upping the tempo in the final to put the result completely out of question. This round though he’ll have West Australian Champion Daniel Salter back in the saddle, in what many hope will see a return of the combative 2021 season final at Keith earlier this year, an event which saw Salter set the pace right up until Mullan’s committed final lap.
And for reigning Junior Development Champion Koby Bourke, the Queenslander was at last able to race more than just the clock with the addition of Speedway Champion Connor Smith to the Championship last round, the two youngsters again doing battle for round two.
Unlike round one, the circuit rotation for the second round of the season will be a departure from those used in the past, a circuit which is expected to be more reliant on boat performance than engine performance, although that said, you would be remiss to rule out a result very similar to the opening round.
Yes, Daryl Hutton is likely to be back in the mix, but the experienced Superboat campaigner admits that jumping straight into Slade Stanley’s Championship winning package and finding his feet first time out is an unrealistic expectation, although typical of the racer in Hutton – a driver who has battled big horsepower supercharged and twin-turbo powerplants in the past – he’s intrigued about just how Stanley was able to raise the mark as high as he did with a lot less power. Watch this space!
For New Zealand’s Rob Coley, he will finally get his hands on his all new ‘Poison Ivy’ package, the brand-new twin-turbo Nissan powered ‘Sprintec’ he’d sent from New Zealand a number of weeks ahead of the opening round only to find a late shipping change had seen the new machine trapped in a shipping container, and still in New Zealand as July 23 came around. A quick deal with Daniel DeVoigt saw Coley campaign ‘DEVO2’ for the season opener, gifting him fifth place after a spin in the second elimination final, but valuable championship points in a season that will see at least one clash with his New Zealand campaign.
Coley could be expected to take the fight to Mullan, although his new package may take some sorting, whilst Mullan has proven more than comfortable with his new Australian-made ‘PULSE’ hull and his self-built 583ci powerplant, he’s also well versed with the Cabarita venue and a multiple race winner there, so Coley will have his work cut out.
Expect too that Tremayne Jukes will be back in the mix. Campaigning ‘The Girlfriend’ with the new iteration of 400-Class powerplant with alloy heads running methanol fuel and the methanol injection system. Jukes was typically impressive last time out, taking the fight to Hutton and Krause, the former Unlimited winner at Cabarita ultimately though forced to settled for fourth after hitting an island during the second elimination final, spinning an impressive 360-degrees but landing in the wrong channel, the renavigation costing him valuable seconds and an almost certain place on the podium. What he lacks in power against the Unlimited machines, he will certainly make up for with experience, so keep a close eye on the brilliant blue ‘PULSE’ machine.
For Chris Edmonds – who has contributed significantly to building the awareness of the sport in the ‘Sunshine State’ thanks to his opening round antics – he will arrive at Cabarita with yet another new package, his fourth in just over a year.. Sadly last time out he suffered an engine setback with the crowd-pleasing supercharged monster he calls ‘Yippee Ki-Yay’ whilst his round ending incident in Daryl Hutton’s boat saw him searching for two new boats to continue his season – one for Hutton, the other for him..
To be fair, he had already purchased Slade Stanley’s proposed LSA project, having taken delivery of the engine last June to run in ‘Solid Gold’ the Aitchison hull he’s now moved on to nephew Lance Edmonds (to run in LS-Class), whilst the engine will power Stanley’s second ‘Stinger’ hull which was purchased ahead of the start of this season, Stanley applying the finishing touches to the hull in recent weeks. Named ‘4 PLAY’, Edmonds admitted he has no idea how the boat will handle, but based on his most recent laps in the Unlimited category, you can guarantee they’ll be exciting!
Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts – like many of the drivers in the field – has endured a love-hate relationship with the Cabarita circuit, with it providing both his greatest moments and his toughest moments across a career that’s spanned almost 20 years in the sport.
Facing a third-placed finish in the Championship to close out the 2019 season, Roberts made heavy contact with the bank after running wide at ‘Bennies’ doing significant damage to his ‘Blown Budget’ hull, whilst the following two years saw that drama extend to residual mechanical and electrical issues that the predominantly self-funded driver had to resolve, a setback that often saw him miss valuable track time. Those issues continued into the opening round, but support from rival drivers Daryl Hutton and Scott Krause saw him back into the equation for the elimination finals, where one by one he outlasted many of them to once again finish on the podium, a fitting reward for never giving up, even when the odds were stacked against him.
This weekend Roberts will be back in action again, his 632ci big-block having received some more vital attention between rounds with Roberts intent on returning to the title battle, a big ask, but as the opening round showed, there’s never a ‘sure thing’..
400-CLASS (International Group A)
The big news ahead of the second round was the return of 2019 Champion Paul Kelly. Always a welcome addition to the 400-Class field, Covid setbacks and business commitments have kept the popular Queenslander away since his title winning season, but many expect to see the bright orange ‘4Zero Racing’ machine right back into the thick of the action from the outset, although that said, the pace at the front has certainly increased since he was last on the water!
Like Justin Roylance, Kelly will embrace the new look 400-Class formula that allows aluminium heads and methanol injection, Kelly joining Roylance in adopting the methanol injection system, both though having elected to retain cast-iron heads, the new formula a blueprint for the future of the class, although after a recent vote between stakeholders, it was acknowledged that all competitors will compete for Championship points this season.
After returning to the top step of the podium at the opening round, Jody Ely comes back to Cabarita as the points leader having won two of the last three races at the Tweed Valley circuit. This weekend he will look to consolidate his points lead, although he will be aware that it was actually Roylance who set the fastest time during the season opener, the reigning champion however failing to duplicate that mark during the all-important final. Kelly too is expected to present a challenge, although what three years out of the seat has done will quickly be evident, so too what is expected to be a very challenging track rotation.
Brendan Doyle’s podium finish in the new ‘PULSE’ hull was a welcome result during the opening round, a result which cements his reputation as a driver to watch this season, whilst Danny Knappick’s fourth placed finish likewise, is the result of some solid performances during the 2021 season, the ‘Tuff’n Up’ team finally starting to find form.
Whilst the burgeoning profile of the sport has attracted back a number of former competitors, the second round of the Championship may see the return of a former class champion, with two-time 400-Class title holder [2005-2006] Ken Kesper looking to jump back into the driver’s seat to sub for his brother Darrin who suffered a broken arm on the eve of the opening round, so keep a keen eye on the ‘Let’s Boogie’ machine.
Greg Harriman is another who will return to the fray, the ‘Apache’ driver though without team-mate Hugh Gilchrist who was expected to debut his own hull this weekend, work commitments however keeping him from the field, whilst Daniel Warburton rounds out the eight-boat field.
An impressive 18-boat field headlines the LS-Class for the second round, a record for the category despite a number of drivers still missing from the entry list promising a great future for the sport.
Leading the charge will be reigning champion Bastian Mullan, the 19-year old son of eight-time Australian Champion Phonsy Mullan, who has proven to be the new benchmark for the category, his pace at the opening round a real eye-opener for his rivals, although this weekend he will face another hard charger in West Australian Champion Daniel Salter.
Salter was slated to run at the opening round but a last minute setback saw the team sidelined, but this weekend he’s intent on reigniting the battle for the top spot on the podium having taken the fight to Mullan during the 2021 season final at Keith, Mullan sneaking through to take the round win by the narrowest of margins after Salter had led the timesheets for much of the day.
Whilst likely to put himself on the podium, laps at the notoriously tricky Cabarita venue may work against Salter, but the battle for a podium finish will certainly be something to watch.
Don’t discount 2019 champion Kyle Elphinstone either, victory over Mullan during the rain-shortened round at Cabarita earlier this year [2021 season] shows the New South Welshman has good pace at Cabarita, whilst Matt Malthouse has continued to prove that he is a contender and can never be discounted.
Throw in Paul Hill who despite his opening round crash at ‘Bennies’ is almost always a contender at his home track, the second of the Mullan brothers – Nate – who can turn on a stunning pace when he needs to, Jim Beaman, Lawrie Howlett and the O’Day father and son combination, and you have a strong field of drivers looking for any opportunity to sneak onto the podium, but behind them, the field is no less impressive.
Mike Hessell is always exciting to watch in ‘Borrowed Time’, and it’s only a matter of time before he makes his presence felt on the timesheets, whilst Darren Pollard – who debuted the ex-Justin Roylance ‘Stingray’ in the new look ‘Disturbed’ livery last time out – has the experience and the determination to make his presence felt as the team work to get themselves comfortable in the new package – although ahead of the round they were still battling technical challenges. They’ll also have their hands full as they campaign again their second hull ‘Twisted’ which was run by Matt Riley during the opening round as he waited for his new engine package to come together, sadly ‘Toe Cutter’ was a late scratching for this weekend, but will likely reappear at Keith for round three, the second boat instead run by Jade Atchison who will return to the seat for the first time after a practice crash at Temora earlier this year.
One driver who will make a popular return to competition is Cabarita’s Mitch Curtis, an important member of the Tweed Valley Jet Sprint Club who transitioned across from being a driver to managing the upkeep and maintenance of the Cabarita facility. Usually a man wearing a number of different hats across a race weekend, it’s great to see him get back to his passion and jump behind the wheel of ‘Smoke & Mirror’ again. Knowing the circuit as well as he does, he could provide a few surprises this weekend.
And then there’s the rookies.. Noel Verning and Rodney Norton made solid starts to their Superboat careers last time out, Verning in particular coming to grips with the sport quite quickly, whilst Lance Edmonds moves from supporting his Uncle’s efforts in ‘Yippee Ki-Yay’ to the driver’s seat of Chris Edmonds’ former ‘Solid Gold’ package. Throw in Luke Walters who makes his debut in ‘Spartan’ and you have a big field of drivers all intent on putting on a show across the two days of competition.
The opening round of the 2022 season also saw a welcome challenge to reigning Junior Development champion Koby Bourke – rising speedway star Connor Smith transitioning across from four corners to the challenge of navigating a multi-corner V8 Superboat circuit, but he did so with great commitment and despite a few early setbacks, started to make gains on Bourke late in the weekend before the reigning champion threw in a blinding lap in the final to take the win.
Smith is back in action this weekend, and the ‘Drop Bear’ supported driver is already talking about a full-time transition across from Speedway to focus on building a career in the sport. Keep an eye on the 13-year old this weekend as he looks to take another step forward in his progression and apply more pressure to the reigning title holder.
For those that can’t be at the Tweed Valley venue, action from Sunday (August 28) will be streamed LIVE on YouTube (the link will be posted on www.facebook.com/V8Superboats) whilst a post-produced highlights package will be released on 7mate, and then 7+ in the weeks following (the opening program is scheduled for Saturday, September 24).
Tickets are available at the gate or via; https://www.ticketebo.com.au/v8superboats