The Cabarita round of the Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championship provided plenty of surprises across the two days of competition.
Arguably the greatest of those surprises came in Unlimited Superboat, with runaway points leader and reigning champion Slade Stanley coming unstuck for the first time since the debut of his new package at the World Series in 2018.
The ‘Hazardous’ driver inverted his boat whilst holding a comfortable advantage over title rival Phonsy Mullan in the second final.
That was the only invitation Mullan needed, the seven-time AUS#1 taking his first win since he wrapped up the 2018 UIM World Series title at Cabarita in late 2018, the final though presenting a significant challenge with former champions Daryl Hutton and Scott Krause also taking a forward step in performance.
Mullan’s win wasn’t the only one for the Victorian-based team, team-mate Jody Ely finally broke Justin Roylance’s stranglehold on 400-Class, whilst Mullan’s eldest son Bastian claimed his second consecutive LS-Class win with a dominant display in the final to draw equal in the points race with Keith winner Matt Malthouse.
Supported by a new look Tweed Valley Jet Sprint Club committee, the event was an unmitigated success with sell-out crowds on both days of racing, whilst the media exposure for the sport also rated off the charts, laying more solid foundations for the ongoing growth of the sport.
The big news of the Cabarita round was the debut of Sam Everingham’s ‘Thirsty Merc’, an all new package powered by a twin-turbo 6.3-litre Mercedes-AMG V8 powerplant and fibreglass ‘Sleekline’ hull.
Resplendent in a dark grey Mercedes paint with brilliant orange flashes within the engine bay, the big concern ahead of the boats debut was whether it would run as planned, but with an experienced team onboard, the new machine was soon fired up and running perfectly on the water, Everingham focusing on returning to the wheel after a lengthy sabbatical away from the seat in preparing the new boat for its debut.
Another driver coming back from a lengthy period away from competition was Mildura’s Andrew Page, the popular Unlimited driver unsure about how he would fare after more than five years out of the seat to return one of the most dramatic boats in the sport’s history to the water, a big crowd circling ‘Kamakazi’ as it was fired up for the first time, the supercharged 427 with more than 1850-horsepower making the ground shake as it started.
With the engine firing Pagey’s second concern was remembering how to steer it.. “I’ve been away from the sport so long I’m past rusty, I’m corroded..”, he quipped.
Ultimately it all came back to him, the thunderous Unlimited machine raising the big Cabarita crowd to their feet every time it circulated.
Sadly we weren’t without casualties, the first of which was Adam Fairbairn who failed to make the event, such is the temperamental nature of the Unlimited boats, whilst for crowd favourite Glenn Roberts, he completed the third qualifier with smoke pouring from the rear of ‘Blown Budget’. Initially it looked to be just an oil leak, but the team discovered a bigger issue with the number two cylinder, retiring the boat from the round, although in true V8 Superboats fashion, the six foot, eight Victorian was soon offered options to continue his weekend, in the end, stepping in with former champion Daryl Hutton.
“There’s been times across the years when ‘Spider’ [Roberts] has come to our aid and offered me not just a boat to drive, but also an engine, in some cases that loan has led to a win, so there was no question we’d make the offer,” Hutton confirmed.
Andrew Page was another to offer Roberts a lifeline, but on jumping in the boat it was pretty clear that major modifications would need to be made, Roberts quipping that he could drive ‘Kamikazi’ but with one hand on the wheel and the other operating Pagey’s [foot] throttle..!
Coming into the Cabarita round, reigning Unlimited World Champion Phonsy Mullan confirmed he’d made further changes to his ‘Jetspeed’ hull since the second round, the ‘RAMJET’ team leader hoping to further close down Slade Stanley’s advantage, and whilst happy with some more gains, the track rotation really suited Stanley’s style, the points leader quickly circulating in the 41s, his best qualifying time in the end 2.2-seconds clear of Mullan.
By the close of qualifying, former 400-Class Champion Ben Hathaway had thrown down the gauntlet to his rivals to be third fastest in Matt Malthouse’s ‘NoodNutz’ LS-Class machine, although the result didn’t come cleanly, a reverse bucket failure in the final qualifier landing him hard on the bank below the control tower, fortunately without too much damage, although it wasn’t to be the last time the orange ‘Stinger’ would end a session that way.
With a best of 44.224 in Sunday’s fourth qualifier, Hathaway went into the finals third, mere tenths clear of Scott Krause (44.443) and Daryl Hutton (44.657), whilst Mitch Roylance (45.222) and Daniel de Voigt (45.298) weren’t far behind.
Times continued to improve in the first final [Top 12], Stanley coming ever so close to breaking into the 40s, his 41.108 blitzing the field, with everyone else left to fight over second, Mullan holding the advantage with a 44.213, but only just, with Hutton improving by four tenths to set a 44.237, the closest he’d been to his long-time rival for many years.
Scott Krause was fifth fastest behind the giant-killing efforts of Ben Hathaway, but only just, with Daniel de Voigt – who had recovered overnight from an engine fire post Q2 which fried some vital electrics – claiming fifth, his 45.085 just three one hundredths slower than the former champion, the pair just four tenths faster than Mitch Roylance.. It was getting tight at the top!
Sadly though, despite being within reach of a podium finish, Mitch Roylance missed the cut for the second final, joining Sam Everingham (49.406), Glenn Roberts (50.926) and Andrew Page (55.145) on the bank to watch the final two runs play out – and they were certainly entertained..
The action came thick and fast, with first Daniel de Voigt out after an issue in the closing stages of the run, ending up on top of an island after a relatively innocuous off pushing for time, fortunately with little damage.
Scott Krause was out next for his run in the new look ‘Burson Auto Parts’ machine, to go top with a 45.112, three quarters of a second off his best, putting him within striking distance of Daryl Hutton and Ben Hathaway.
Hathaway was next up, the 2017 400-Class champion just running wide after recording the first split time, a time which may well have put him into the final three, but unfortunately his weekend was over despite a less aggressive exit than his final qualifier, the team’s biggest concern being the condition of the boat ahead of Matt Malthouse’s run in the LS-Class final.
That brought Daryl Hutton to the line, the expat New Zealander running a slightly longer pedal than usual after modifying the boat to allow Glenn Roberts to ‘B’ drive, but the change had done him no harm, Hutton putting down a blistering lap of 44.695 to go P1, with Mullan and Stanley to come.
Phonsy Mullan (above) was next out, the reigning world title holder returning to the 43s to put Scott Krause on the bubble, with points leader Stanley yet to record a lap.
Sadly though for the husband and wife team, their nine-race winning streak was to come to an end after just two corners, Stanley running wide on the exit of the left-hander immediately after the opening 180-degree turn, to roll sideways across the island and gently roll upside-down into the channel.
The experienced Safety Crew were quickly on the scene, Slade emerging first whilst Vanessa was out soon after, the team’s run at a tenth straight win and their ongoing lead of the championship coming to a sudden end.
“It wasn’t part of the plan, but anyway, it’s all part of racing,” Stanley lamented afterwards. “I’ve been cutting the banks all day [and] just cut it a little fine and it bounced me off – I expected it to bounce me off and run wide, then get back on it, but it just kept sliding and over we went. I was keen to drop down into that 40-second bracket – but it just wasn’t to be. I went in a little hard – didn’t need to, but I’m here to race, so I’m always pushing.”
With Stanley out, that gave Scott Krause a reprieve and entry into the final three, the Temora local needing no second invitation to close out the day with his fastest run of the weekend and put his rivals on notice – the bar set at a 44.408.
Relishing a much nicer hull and coming to terms with his twin-turbo powerplant, Daryl Hutton admitted to dialling down the boost for the finals at Cabarita making the boat easier to drive, the ‘American Automotive’ machine too carding its best time of the day to go sub-44 with a 43.855.
Needing to find the form he showed during the final qualifier, Phonsy Mullan pushed just hard enough to take the top step and return to victory lane for the first time since November 2018, in the process taking the championship points lead, albeit by just two points over Slade Stanley.
“Pretty happy overall we got it done,” Mullan admitted afterwards. “To get three boats here and get three wins was just amazing at the end of the day, especially with everything we had to go through with Melbourne’s Covid restrictions, but we made it with all three teams, so thanks to everyone involved both here and back at the shop.”
400-CLASS (GROUP A)
The 400-Class field was buoyed by the addition of reigning World#3 Daniel James just days out from the Cabarita event, the former 350-Class champion joining Brendan Doyle in ‘The Girlfriend’ to build on data for the introduction of a second ‘PULSE’ hull for round four.
Sadly though their event was short-lived after Doyle suffered a big exit from the track during the third qualifier whilst fighting Brett Thornton for the third fastest time, the impact whilst slightly bending the deck of the hull upward, also saw a 9000rpm rev on the engine, JRE’s Brad James suggesting the safest option was to retire the boat, leaving his brother with just a single run to his name in the opening session.
They weren’t the only casualties either.. Hugh Gilchrist also suffered a big off during Sunday’s final qualifier, the notorious ‘Benny’s’ corner claiming him on the run into the corner – fortunately he and Narelle Pellow-Djukic were okay, but the ‘Apache’ boat was forced into retirement, ending the weekend for both he and team-mate Greg Harriman.
By the close of qualifying a pattern had emerged, and that pattern had a familiar feel to it, with Jody Ely (below) and Justin Roylance separated by mere hundredths, the pendulum swinging both ways all the way up until the final session, Ely ultimately grabbing the top spot with a best of 45.512, Roylance close behind with a 45.682, the pair holding an advantage of more than a second over Brett Thornton’s 46.853.
With the ‘Apache’ and ‘The Girlfriend’ teams both sidelined, that paved the way for former ski-race regulars Danny Knappick and Darren Tickell to break into the finals, the rookie team carefully negotiating the challenging Cabarita layout to gain valuable experience and championship points before sadly coming to a premature stop in the Top 6 with a technical issue, smoke pouring from the rear of the boat, but not before claiming fifth for the round.
Despite Justin Roylance’s best efforts, he couldn’t top his rival at any stage throughout the three finals, Ely ultimately extending his advantage in the final three to claim the win by the biggest margin of the season to date, his blistering 45.018, nine tenths faster than Roylance’s 45.969.
Behind them former champion Brett Thornton had thrown his hat into the ring to comfortably out-pace four-time AUS#1 Mark Garlick, the ‘Still Obsessed’ team making it into the final three where he fell eight tenths shy of Roylance after closing the gap to less than half a second in the Top 6.
An elated Ely celebrated finally breaking through to end Roylance’s four-race winning streak, the Victorian claiming his first win since back-to-back Temora victories in 2018..
“It’s been a hard year but we’ve certainly been working very hard for this,” Ely admitted. “Consistency has been the key, if you’re not consistent, you’re not going to be there, but we’ve thrown everything at it to get here so I’m very happy to be back on top of the podium.”
The biggest challenge to the LS-Class field at Cabarita was the efforts of local drivers Dwayne Mezzadri and Mitch Curtis, the two drivers having spent countless hours working on behalf of the Tweed Valley Jet Sprint Club towards what quickly became their biggest event in recent years with sellout crowds on both days – their challenge, juggling driving with countless hours behind the scenes organising the event.
That ultimately had an impact on both their performances, reigning AUS#2 Mezzadri suffering the greatest setback after a big rollover in the final qualifier brought a premature end to the round in what so far has been a very frustrating season for the popular ‘Unleashed’ driver.
Sadly Mitch Curtis didn’t fare too much better after a strong showing at Temora, ‘Smoke and Mirror’ though making it through to the Top 12 unscathed to grab some more valuable championship points, but it was clear in both counts their efforts to ensure a great event had come at a cost to their performances on track.
For Mike Hessell he too had a weekend to forget, mechanical issues sidelining ‘Borrowed Time’ on Saturday afternoon, to join Mezzadri in retirement ahead of the finals.
Despite the setbacks for the local drivers though, the LS-Class racing continued to impress with a mix of solid performances from the points leaders – all of whom were rookies at Cabarita – whilst some of the locals who were returning to the Penrite Series at their ‘local’ circuit, put in their own strong performances to mix it with some of their more experienced rivals.
Ultimately though the battle for class supremacy continued between points leader and Keith round winner Matt Malthouse, and rising star Bastian Mullan, the teenager looking to add to his Temora victory with a win at Cabarita on his 18th birthday.
Both teams though were mindful they were new to the demanding Cabarita layout and mindful too that any setback could have a big impact on the championship, especially with such a big field of entries.
Ultimately it was Bastian Mullan who emerged fastest after the five rounds of qualifying, the ‘RIPSHIFT’ driver setting his best lap during Sunday’s final session to be comfortably clear of the field, with Nick Druery an impressive second, the ‘Hazzmat’ driver able to put prior Club Day experience at Cabarita to good use, although his 49.673 was down on Mullan’s impressive 46.747.
Behind Druery things were tight, reigning champion Kyle Elphinstone (49.936), points leader Matt Malthouse (49.990) and Darren Pollard (50.241) making it four boats within half a second all vying for a position in the top six.
Heading into the Top 12 things started to heat up with Matt Malthouse stepping up another gear to close to within 37 one hundredths of Mullan, whose 47.225 saw him continue to hold P1. Nick Druery continued his impressive form to be third, ahead of Kyle Elphinstone and ‘Solid Gold’ team-mate Chris Edmonds, whilst local driver Paul Hill put in a stunning drive to claim the final position in the Top 6, the ‘Slicer’ driver finding form at the right time of the day.
By the second final we were right in the thick of the title fight with Mullan continuing to set the pace, dropping back into the 46s, but his margin over title rival Malthouse had dropped to just 13 one hundredths, whilst Paul Hill caught the field by surprise to find almost two full seconds and claim a position in the final despite improvements from reigning champion Kyle Elphinstone and Chris Edmonds. Nick Druery sadly fell marginally short of his best, but in the battle with employer Edmonds, was able to hold onto fifth for the weekend and work his way forward in the championship standings.
Heading into the final the fans were ready for another great battle between Mullan and Malthouse, but whilst both ran near flawless laps, it was Mullan who proved to have more in reserve, the teenager claiming a dominant win on his 18th birthday to carve 1.2-seconds off his best to join Malthouse at the top of the championship points table.
Malthouse meanwhile was able to continue his finals consistency to claim second, whilst sadly for Paul Hill, he made a navigational error in his final run but nonetheless impressed to claim third on his return to the championship.
“It was a good run, the boat felt good all weekend, I’m just really happy with the result for all three of us [GM Motorsport team drivers],” Mullan said. “I just said to myself that I needed to keep it in the middle of the track and creep up on it and it should be alright.”
Unfortunately for the Junior Development class, the second driver expected for the Cabarita round was a last minute cancelation, leaving Koby Bourke to again fly the flag for the juniors, the Queenslander mixing football commitments with his efforts in the boat on what was a big weekend that saw a rare error that very nearly inverted him on an island during qualifying. Once on top of that though he was again a picture of consistency.
2021 Penrite Australian V8 Superboat Championships – Series Points
Unlimited Superboat (after round three of seven)
1. Phonsy Mullan (RAMJET) – 102-points, 2. Slade Stanley (Hazardous) – 100, 3. Scott Krause (KAOS) – 90, 4. Ben Hathaway (NoodNutz Racing) – 80, 5. Daryl Hutton (Phoenix Lubricants) – 77, 6. Mitch Roylance (BlackJack) – 72, 7. Glenn Roberts (Blown Budget) – 62, 8. Mick Carroll (Excalibur) – 28, 9. Daniel de Voigt (DEVO Racing) – 24, 10. Sam Everingham (Thirsty Merc) – 20, 11. Andrew Page (Kamakazi) – 16
400-Class (Group A) (after round three of seven)
1. Justin Roylance (Outlaw67) – 105-points, 2. Jody Ely (Rampage) – 102, 3. Brendan Doyle (The Girlfriend) – 78, 4. Greg Harriman (Apache) – 74, 5. Hugh Gilchrist (Apache) – 68, 6. Brett Thornton (Still Obsessed) – 58, 7. Mark Garlick (Grumpy) – 54, 8. Danny Knappick (Tuff N Up) – 44, 9. Ron O’Day (Agro-Vation) – 26, 10. Daniel James (The Girlfriend) – 22, 11. Tyler O’Day (Agro-Vation) – 20
LS-Class (after round three of seven)
1. Matt Malthouse (NoodNutz Racing) – 102-points, 1. Bastian Mullan (Ripshift) – 102, 3. Nate Mullan (Ripshift) – 81, 4. Chris Edmonds (Solid Gold) – 76, 5. Kyle Elphinstone (Blackout Racing) – 72, 6. Jim Beaman (JB Racing) – 64, 7. Dwayne Mezzadri (Unleashed) – 42, 8. Robert Westerink (The Contractor) – 42, 9. Nick Druery (Hazzmat) – 40, 10. Mitch Curtis (Smoke & Mirror) – 38, 11. Matt Riley (Toe Cutter) – 32, 12. Paul Hill (Slicer) – 30, 12. Bill Biggin (JB Racing) – 30, 14. Darren Pollard (Toe Cutter) – 28, 15. Rob Johnston (Almost There) – 22, 16. Mike Hessell (Borrowed Time) – 18
Junior Development (after round three of seven)
1. Koby Bourke (Lil Psycho) – 108-points