After spending Saturday struggling with the rough water conditions Rhys Coles, the multiple Australian F1 Champion used all his experience to secure a victory the following day at Lake Mulwala.
Fierce winds across the lake were causing all sorts of issues for the organisers of Round Two of the Australian Formula Powerboat Grand Prix series. Fortunately, they were able to complete a Mono race on Saturday and to their relief the Formula GP Practice and Qualifying, although that was not without drama.
Sam Lucas topped the sheets for his groups Race 1 pole position and qualifying, with a sub forty second lap, which was a remarkable achievement after the problems the team had during testing just days before the event.
Lucas spoke to PRW and said
We took both boats out testing on Thursday only to have a trim issue with one and an injector issue with the other. So, we took the powerhead off the boat with the trim problem and put it on the boat with the faulty injectors to continue testing, only to have the trim pump come lose and short out some wiring. That meant the team had to rewire that trim system on Friday afternoon.
Due to the rough conditions in his qualifying session, the battery box broke loose in Lucas’s boat and caused the battery to short out in the sponson taking with it a large bit of carbon and foam from inside the sponson. Saturday night would see the team’s mechanics spending several hours repairing inside the sponson and battery box in preparation for Sunday’s race.
Rhys Coles was another driver struggling with the conditions as he went out for his groups Race 1 pole positions and qualifying.
Saturday for me was a complete disaster. When we went out for practise it was very rough and the boat is not great in those conditions. I was thinking to myself we’ve either got a problem with the engine or perhaps it’s me but we were a good ten seconds off the pace.
To make matters worse Coles boat was also taking on water through the deck hatches and nearly sunk. Fortunately, he manged to get it back ashore without too much damage.
Topping Coles group was Damon Cohen with a sub forty second lap time, just ahead of Ewen Bricker.
Meanwhile, Cohen’s brother Brock was back home in Sydney at the Bankstown Lidcombe Hospital where his wife Britney was about to give birth to their first child. That meant the teams reserve driver, Will Parker would be racing the DAC and was putting in an impressive performance with zero notice or testing.
Simon Troy was also putting in an impressive performance. He had opted to race his DAC knowing that it would handle the rough conditions and he wasn’t far off the time set by Lucas.
Much to everyone’s relief the weather on Sunday was a huge improvement, but there was going to be a packed schedule to get through commencing with Race Two Heat One. As the flags dropped Coles sped off into the lead, quickly followed by Cohen. Several times the spectators were treated to some high-flying BaBa action as Cohen tried his hardest to close the gap to Coles. Then with the clock ticking down and just one lap remaining Cohen tried to pass Coles in the turn but crashed out in the process. Fortunately, the BaBa safety-cell did a fantastic job of protecting him in what was a heavy and violent crash. Thankfully for Cohen the AFPGP rescue team and paramedics were on the scene within seconds to the extract the extremely disappointed racer, who was unhurt in the impact.
Coles went onto take the chequered flag and later admitted that the previous day the team had found a problem with his engine which they fixed overnight.
I thought I was down on power throughout Saturday, then we found that the fuel pump on the side of the motor had come loose and was not working correctly, so the number two cylinder was running very lean.
With that now fixed thanks to Sam Lucas, who lent him a whole fuel pump assembly, Coles was now on a hard charge for maximum points. The team had made a few minor changes to the boat from Aubrey to this round, one of which was swapping to a 24 Volt trim set up because they knew the Lake Mulwala course was going to be short one with a multitude of turns. The new trim plus a smaller propeller from Gavin Bricker certainly help him in the ‘reverse grid’ race, plus securing the all-important pole position for the Final.
Lining up alongside him on the grid would be Lucas, who had Greg Banks in the Octane Racing Machine next to him. Fourth on the grid was Troy, with Matt Smith alongside him in fifth and Matt Wastle rounding out the top six fastest drivers.
As the fourteen minutes, plus one lap Final got underway Troy made a lightning quick start but went too wide allowing Coles through, quickly followed by Lucas. After Smith had taken a turn mark out the fleet were reduced to crawling round the circuit as a replacement was hastily arranged. In the subsequent rolling restart Coles hit the front and once again Troy was back up to second place but that didn’t last long due an issue with his trim which would eventually see Lucas catch and pass him.
Back down the field Parker was keeping it clean and staying out of trouble for Cohen Brothers Racing. He managed to climb as high as seventh and when battling for sixth place the engine lost power with three laps to go which pushed him back down the order. The team believe it was an electrical issue which was causing the engine to drop a cylinder. With no further stoppages Coles took the chequered flag with Lucas and Troy comfortably in second and third places.
The delighted race winner said
The last time I competed in this championship was six years ago when I won the entire series. I really have that taste back and it’s a good one, so now I’m so looking forward to hopefully winning this series again. Sure, it’s not going be easy as both Lucas and Troy are always podium contenders along with the Cohen brothers who obviously didn’t have the weekend they were expecting, especially with Damon crashing out, but I’m sure they’ll both be back at the next round pushing harder than ever.
For Lucas, a second visit to the top three presentation seemed incredible.
It was an unbelievable effort put in by the team over the last five days. The resilience from the crew not to give up was incredible and it shows everyone just what we can do. The result in the final made it all worthwhile.
Simon Troy managed to hang onto to his third place even though one of the spokes snapped on one side of his steering wheel making it extremely difficult to drive the DAC.
It’s great to be back in the top three but at this stage I’m not thinking of the championship. I’m just taking each race at a time. We had great speed in the rough water but as the weather settled over the weekend, we lost that advantage. Like everyone here we had a few small issues, but the team did an excellent job all weekend.
AUSTRALIAN FORMULA POWERBOAT GRAND PRIX – Round Two – Lake Mulwala.
Final – Results
1- Rhys Coles
2- Sam Lucas
3- Simon Troy
4- Kaine Casson
5- Dean Allison
6- David Meades
7- Matt Wastle
8- Paul Sain
9- Will Parker
10 – Matt Smith
For Round Three, the series are heading just north of Sydney to Rathmines, a suburb of the City of Lake Macquarie in New South Wales, as part of the fast and loud festival taking place on Saturday 21 May & Sunday 22 May.
Photos: Tara B Photography.