The opening round of the 2020 Penrite Australian V8 Superboats season in front of a big, passionate, Temora crowd saw fantastic racing across all three classes with some standout rookie performances, but under lights no-one could stop local star Slade Stanley from amassing his seventh consecutive Unlimited finals victory, whilst in 400-Class, Justin Roylance weathered an all-out assault from current NZ#2 Sean Rice to claim his second ever outright victory.
The stars of the show though were the LS-Class entries, with 12 boats doing battle across the day, the victory in the end going to ‘super-sub’ Ben Hathaway, the 2017 400-Class champion actually out-pacing his 400-Class rivals in all but one round to claim the top step of the podium with a time 18 one hundredths faster than Justin Roylance’s top three benchmark, to take his first outright win in two years..
There were a number of impressive performances across the weekend, the return of local hero Scott Krause, the co-2018 Unlimited champion claiming second behind Stanley, whilst second-generation V8 Superboats driver Bastian Mullan debuted in LS-Class, setting a time that was good enough to elevate him to the final before a setback on his debut night run in the closing stages dropped him down the order – he’d done enough though to put his rivals on notice!
Typical to the nature of the sport – more specifically the Unlimited category – off-season setbacks take a toll, often keeping likely contenders from making a start during the opening round. Such was the case with multiple Unlimited race winner Mick Carroll, the South Australian still waiting on engine parts to repair ‘Excalibur’ from the middle of the 2019 season, whilst for seven-time Australian champion Phonsy Mullan, he suffered a nervous wait for an engine block to arrive so that he could bolt his 583ci naturally-aspirated powerplant back together in preparation for the season opener.
Fortunately it arrived in time, but he could do little about Slade Stanley’s ongoing pace, the 2019 Unlimited title holder sitting out the opening qualifier before smashing out a 39.105 in Q2.
As it turned out, that one lap was good enough for the top qualifying slot, with no other Unlimited team able to dip below the 40-second mark at any other points across the day..
By the close of qualifying for the Unlimited class, Stanley emerged quickest, with a fantastic battle brewing between former AUS#1 Scott Krause and two-time champion Daryl Hutton, the pair separated by just half a second after four rounds, whilst reigning world champion Mullan was battling to find a workable blade combination, he was at his consistent best though, all four rotations separated by just 0.185-seconds..
Former 400-Class race winner Mitch Roylance was the best of the rest with his new JRE-tuned 410ci Sprintcar engine, the laconic Forbes truckie just over a second slower than Mullan at the close of the four sessions with a narrow advantage over Daniel de Voight in his twin-turbo LS-powered machine.
Sadly for crowd favourite Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts, teething issues with ‘Blown Budget’ – which had seen extensive work since the team’s season-ending crash at Cabarita late last year – saw them chasing issues across the qualifying rounds, not the least of which was the steering wheel coming off in Roberts’ hands as he started his opening run – fortunately he was able to quickly reattach it, but he admitted afterwards, it woke him up pretty quickly.
With 400-Class champions Paul Kelly (2019), Mark Garlick (2018) and Ben Hathaway (2017) absent from the field, Justin Roylance was looking good to start the season favourite off the back of his maiden V8 Superboats win over Kelly during the final round of the 2019 season at Cabarita.
Ahead of the season-opener though, New Zealand’s Sean Rice submitted his entry, the reigning NZ#2 (in points with two rounds still remaining) looking to take the fight to the Aussies in preparation for the next UIM World Series. With Rice one of the fast Kiwis that hammered the Australian teams in late 2018, Roylance had every reason to be concerned, but pretty quickly he showed that he was equal to the challenge, setting the fastest time in the opening two qualifiers despite missing a practice laps due to his late arrival at the track.
Rice quickly came to grips with the Temora rotation to punch out what would be the fastest time of the day for 400s, his Q3 42.938 putting him more than a second clear of Roylance before topping the timesheets again in the final qualifier.
Third by the close of qualifying was 2016 Champion Brett Thornton in the new ‘Still Obsessed’, the Queenslander though unable to breach the more than one second gap to the leaders, but comfortably clear of ‘Apache’ team-mates Greg Harriman and Hugh Gilchrist who were battling over fourth place, Gilchrist carrying the advantage into the finals with a time four tenths faster than former AFJSA President Harriman.
Darrin Kesper held on to a place in the top six in ‘Let’s Boogie’ whilst former Temora winner Jody Ely was an early retirement in ‘Rampage’ the Victorian suffering from overheating which the team put down to the change from avgas to leaded fuel, electing to play it safe and avoid serious damage as they prepare to take on a fresh new engine and potentially a new hull by mid-season.
Whilst the pace in 400-Class was impressive, LS-Class front runner and 2017 400-Class champion Ben Hathaway was faster in every session, the multiple race winner campaigning the Matt Malthouse-owned (re-liveried) and newly rebranded ‘NoodNutz Racing’ entry, in part repaying Malthouse for the favour of providing him a lifeline in the boat at the UIM World Series in late 2018.
Impressive from the opening session, Hathaway battled hard with experienced West Australian Daniel Salter in ‘The Hustler’ the pair rarely more than a few tenths apart throughout qualifying to end the four sessions at the top of the timesheets.
Hathaway may have been fast, but of particular note was second-generation driver Bastian Mullan in the ‘RIPSHIFT’ entry, the son of reigning world title holder Phonsy Mullan settling into his debut event with strong pace, the 16-year old qualifying third fastest in just his final session to be within a second of Salter and more than two seconds clear of the next best entry, it was an impressive debut.
Dual 2019 round winner Andrew Medlicott qualified fourth with a tight group of boats covered by less than a second close behind – Paul Hill (Slicer), Lawrence Howlett (Drop Bear), Dwayne Mezzadri (Unleashed) and Robert Westerink (The Contractor) making up the top eight.
Behind them Wagga’s Graham Reynolds (RedRum) was next from Rob Johnston (Almost There) and ‘NoodNutz Racing’ boat owner Matt Malthouse who spent a couple of sessions exploring the limits of the track, although he would very quickly become a feature in the finals.
As to reigning champion Kyle Elphinstone – sadly technical issues with the electrics of the ‘Blackout Racing’ machine saw him fail to finish a couple of runs before ultimately retiring the boat having failed to pinpoint the issue. Andrew Medlicott immediately threw Elphinstone a lifeline and a chance to ‘B’ drive in ‘Gone Nutz Again’ allowing the reigning #1 to qualify and ultimately make the final.
FINAL – TOP 12
Not surprisingly Slade Stanley kept the pressure on during the first final although he ultimately turned in his second slowest run of the day with a 38.980. That was still two seconds clear of Krause who was still embroiled in a terrific battle with Daryl Hutton, the two separated by just a quarter of a second with Mullan a further second back in fourth.
Mitch Roylance too was caught up in his own battle with Daniel de Voigt whilst Glenn Roberts joined the fight too, although in the end he fell half a second shy of de Voigt to sit out the second final and lament what had been a challenging return to competition after his big crash during the final round of the 2019 season, the popular Victorian admitting he had some work to do before Keith.
Keen to press the pace advantage he had in the third qualifier, Sean Rice was looking for a repeat during his formative laps under lights, the 400-Class front runner though dropping time whilst Justin Roylance actually found time to break into the 43s extending his advantage to more than 1.2 seconds.
Brett Thornton’s qualifying times would have put him hot on Rice’s heels but a tough rotation saw him drop almost a second, whilst for Hugh Gilchrist a horror run saw a navigational error and an early night whilst seemingly on track to make the final three. That elevated team-mate Greg Harriman to fourth to make the second final along with Darrin Kesper.
Whilst the first Unlimited and 400-Class finals saw very few retirements, the LS-Class saw three boats out early, with Lawrence Howlett, Robert Westerink and Graham Reynolds suffering setbacks during their laps, in the end they would be joined by Rob Johnston and a disappointed Bastian Mullan who ran too long on the clock, to miss the cut. Sadly Paul Hill, who had also shown consistent top six pace in the qualifiers also narrowly missed a place in the second final, leaving Hathaway, Salter, Elphinstone, Medlicott, Mezzadri and Malthouse to fight it out for a position in the final three.
FINAL – TOP 6
Stanley again set the pace with another sub-40 second lap, stopping the clock with a best of 38.719 whilst behind him Daryl Hutton was one of few boats going faster under lights, the expat Kiwi throwing caution to the wind in an effort to breach the gap to Krause, his top six time showing some improvement with Hutton closing the gap to within two tenths of a second.
Mullan too upped the pace to find half a second, but the seven-time champion would miss the final, lamenting a lack of props, but overall he confirmed he was happy with the performance of the boat despite the last minute engine setbacks.
Mitch Roylance also found some improvement in his final run to card his best time of the night promising bigger things as the season wears on to comfortably out qualify Daniel de Voigt although both would join Mullan on the bank for the final.
The pace at the top of the 400-Class timesheets also saw improvement, Justin Roylance again finding time to lower the mark to a 43.517 with Sean Rice gaining in confidence under lights to fall just a tenth of a second shy of Roylance’s mark, whilst Brett Thornton rediscovered his qualifying form to comfortably outpace Greg Harriman, the ‘Apache’ chief joining Darrin Kesper in early retirement.
The pace was slowly improving in LS-Class too, the biggest improvement coming from Hathaway’s team-mate and boat owner Matt Malthouse, the former Jetboat regular finally getting back into the rhythm to find nearly two seconds to leapfrog 2019 sensation Dwayne Mezzadri and claim fourth for the round behind Medlicott who was beaten into the final by new team-mate Kyle Elphinstone.
Hathaway though continued to set the pace, carding a 43.655 to head into the final as favourite with Elphinstone taking Medlicott’s ‘Gone Nutz Again’ to second with a stunning 44.484 pushing Salter back to third.
FINAL – TOP 3
Daryl Hutton was first out for the Unlimited teams, the ‘Phoenix Lubricants’ boat carding a consistent 40.825 a time that would force Krause to deliver his best, which is exactly what the local driver did, to the celebration of the big Temora crowd.
Then it was Stanley’s turn, the reigning champion delivering another stunning drive to set a blistering 38.642, 1.1-seconds quicker than Krause whose consistency also handed him his second Colin Parish Memorial perpetual trophy.
“There was a little left, but we didn’t really need to push any harder, it felt pretty comfortable although the last run was pretty ragged – I cut one of the corners and wanted to push to make up some time, but all in all the boat was great, the team was great – just a good day,” Stanley said afterwards.
Then came the 400-Class boats, Brett Thornton out first with an impressive opening time – his best of the day – 44.865. That forced Rice and Roylance to dig deep, Rice smashing half a second off his Top 6 time to be within a tenth of his best time of the night – 43.095, a full half second faster than Roylance had delivered all day..
The Outlaw driver though put in a stunning drive to be up on Rice at the first split then across the line with his best, just three one hundredths of a second faster – 43.061, for his second ever outright win and the top spot in the points standings.
“We’ve had the month from hell with work and everything going on, so it’s a little surreal that we ended up on the top step,” Roylance admitted. “But, we’ve worked really hard the last couple of years and been developing these packages, and it’s finally starting to come to fruition. We didn’t actually get the drive we’d normally expect from our go-to setup, we just didn’t get that clean break, so Sean Rice was able to push us the whole way.”
Sadly for reigning LS-Class champion Kyle Elphinstone, his challenging weekend continued in the final. A strong lap in ‘Gone Nutz Again’ had him within striking distance of Salter’s 44.262, but across the closing stages of the run, his borrowed boat flamed out beaching him on an island and out of the final.
That left Hathaway who stunned the crowd with a Stanley-esque 42.888 run across the final rotation to take top honours, much to the delight of team-mate Matt Malthouse.
“It’s actually two years to the day since my last win, so nice to be back in the winner’s book but very pleasantly surprised by how the boat went,” Hathaway said. “It’s crazy, the boat is down big numbers compared to my 400-Class boat – I was just blown away by how well it went, it was very easy to drive. Usually by the end of the night I’m right on the edge pushing with everything I’ve got, but just then, I felt like I was on a Sunday drive – it was that easy..”
The Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championships continues in just three weeks with the -now – annual Diesel & Dirt Derby at Keith in regional South Australia for a single day event on Saturday, March 28.
2020 Penrite V8 Superboat Championships – Round 1
Kennards Hire Park, Lake Centenary, Temora, NSW
29 February, 2020
TOP 3 FINAL
1. 08. Slade Stanley/Vanessa Stanley (Hazardous) – 38.642
2. 37. Scott Krause/Rachel Parsons (KAOS) – 40.706
3. 28. Daryl Hutton/Mick Parry (Phoenix Lubricants) – 40.825
400-Class (Group A)
1. 67. Justin Roylance/Michelle Hodge (Outlaw67) – 43.061
2. 3. Sean Rice/Tracey Little (Cosa Nostra 2) – 43.095
3. 53. Brett Thornton/Lyn Thornton (Still Obsessed) – 44.865
1. 69B. Ben Hathaway/Lisa Oppes (NoodNutz Racing) – 42.888
2. 26. Daniel Salter/Mitchell Hade (The Hustler) – 44.262
3. 6B. Kyle Elphinstone/Rob Wells (Gone Nutz Again) – DNF
TOP 6 FINAL
1. 08. Slade Stanley/Vanessa Stanley (Hazardous) – 38.719
2. 37. Scott Krause/Rachel Parsons (KAOS) – 40.708
3. 28. Daryl Hutton/Mick Parry (Phoenix Lubricants) – 40.904
4. 23. Phonsy Mullan/Leigh Stewart (RAMJET) – 41.946
5. 21. Mitch Roylance/Matt Cullen (BlackJack) – 43.443
6. 86. Daniel deVoigt/Vicki Burrell (Devo Racing) – 44.425
400-Class (Group A)
1. 67. Justin Roylance/Michelle Hodge (Outlaw67) – 43.517
2. 3. Sean Rice/Tracey Little (Cosa Nostra 2) – 43.643
3. 53. Brett Thornton/Lyn Thornton (Still Obsessed) – 45.613
4. 360. Greg Harriman/Andrew Stewart (Apache) – 47.304
5. 43. Darrin Kesper/Tayla Foote (Let’s Boogie) – 51.916
1. 69B. Ben Hathaway/Lisa Oppes (NoodNutz Racing) – 43.655
2. 26. Daniel Salter/Mitchell Hade (The Hustler) – 44.562
3. 6B. Kyle Elphinstone/Rob Wells (Gone Nutz Again) – 46.484
4. 6A. Andrew Medlicott/Phil Shead (Gone Nutz Again) – 47.352
5. 69A. Matt Malthouse/Leighton Collins (NoodNutz Racing) – 48.669
6. 380. Dwayne Mezzadri/Mathew Wall (Unleashed) – 48.787
2020 Penrite Australian V8 Superboat Championships – Series Points
Unlimited Superboat – Driver (after round one of seven)
1. Slade Stanley (Hazardous) – 36-points, 2. Scott Krause (KAOS) – 33, 3. Daryl Hutton (Phoenix Lubricants) – 30, 4. Phonsy Mullan (RAMJET) – 28, 5. Mitch Roylance (BlackJack) – 26, 6. Daniel de Voigt (Devo Racing) – 24, 7. Glenn Roberts (Blown Budget) – 22
400-Class – Driver (Group A) (after round one of seven)
1. Justin Roylance (Outlaw67) – 36-points, 2. Sean Rice (Cosa Nostra 2) – 33, 3. Brett Thornton (Still Obsessed) – 30, 4. Greg Harriman (Apache) – 28, 5. Darrin Kesper (Let’s Boogie) – 26, 6. Hugh Gilchrist (Apache) – 24, 7. Jody Ely (Rampage) – 22
LS-Class – Driver (after round one of seven)
1. Daniel Salter (The Hustler) – 36-points, 2. Kyle Elphinstone (Gone Nutz Again) – 33, 3. Andrew Medlicott (Gone Nutz Again) – 30, 4. Matt Malthouse (NoodNutz Racing) – 28, 5. Dwayne Mezzadri (Unleashed) – 26, 6. Paul Hill (Slicer) – 24, 7. Bastian Mullan (Ripshift) – 22, 8. Rob Johnston (Almost There) – 20, 9. Robert Westerink (The Contractor) – 18, 10. Graham Reynolds (Red Rum) – 16, 11. Lawrence Howlett (Drop Bear) – 14
Unlimited Superboat – Navigator (after round one of seven)
1. Vanessa Stanley (Hazardous) – 36-points, 2. Rachel Parsons (KAOS) – 33, 3. Mick Parry (Phoenix Lubricants) – 30, 4. Leigh Stewart (RAMJET) – 28, 5. Matt Cullen (BlackJack) – 26, 6. Vicki Burrell (Devo Racing) – 24, 7. Tiarna McGifford (Blown Budget) – 22
400-Class – Navigator (Group A) (after round one of seven)
1. Tracey Little (Outlaw67) – 36-points, 2. Michelle Hodge (Cosa Nostra 2) – 33, 3. Lyn Thornton (Still Obsessed) – 30, 4. Andrew Stewart (Apache) – 28, 5. Kayla Foote (Let’s Boogie) – 26, 6. Narelle Pellow (Apache) – 24, 7. Greg Blaz (Rampage) – 22
LS-Class – Navigator (after round one of seven)
1. Mitchell Hade (The Hustler) – 36-points, 2. Rob Wells (Gone Nutz Again) – 33, 3. Phil Shead (Gone Nutz Again) – 30, 4. Leighton Collins (NoodNutz Racing) – 28, 5. Mathew Wall (Unleashed) – 26, 6. Kiri Marshall (Slicer) – 24, 7. Kaine Henman (Ripshift) – 22, 8. Grant Dodd (Almost There) – 20, 9. Ben Gillespie (The Contractor) – 18, 10. Chloe Reynolds (Red Rum) – 16, 11. Karen Howlett (Drop Bear) – 14
Junior Development (after one round of seven)
1. Koby Bourke (Lil Psycho) – 36-points