The hotly anticipated 2020 Penrite Australian V8 Superboats Championship gets underway this coming weekend with the annual ‘Colin Parish Memorial’ event under lights at Kennards Hire Park in Temora, New South Wales.
It has been more than three months (15-weeks) since the final round of the 2019 season, and typically, the off-season has thrown out a few curve balls, forcing a number of teams on the back foot heading into the opening round.
The 2019 season saw some incredible racing, which defied the ultimate results, results which saw just six drivers share the 21 finals wins across the year. In the Unlimited Superboat class, Slade Stanley delivered on his promise that he would be able to develop a package capable of beating the best in the world, and with long-time rival Phonsy Mullan having claimed Australia’s first ever Unlimited crown at the end of the 2018 season, he was able to do just that – Stanley carving out six round wins across the year.
Paul Kelly overcame his frustrating 2018 season in 400-Class to turn in an almost perfect score-card last year, the Queenslander looking every bit the champion from the opening round. He looked set for a clean sweep too before a late season charge delivered Justin Roylance his first ever outright win during the season final at Cabarita.
And whilst the action in the Unlimited and 400-Class fields kept everyone on their feet, the LS-Class emerged as the story of 2019, with a single boat at the start of the year evolving into nine boats by season’s end, with second-generation racer Kyle Elphinstone prevailing for his maiden V8 Superboats title.
So let’s take a look at who’s entered for this year’s season opener and who to keep an eye on!!
Perhaps the biggest name to be facing a stalled start to the season is seven-time Australian champion and reigning Unlimited Superboat World title holder Phonsy Mullan. A week out from the event the ‘RAMJET’ team are still awaiting an engine block to return their naturally-aspirated package to full working order, the rumour circulating Mullan’s home town of Melton, was that he may well be forced to ‘B’ drive at Temora, and perhaps in an LS-Class machine.
2019 opening round winner Mick Carroll is in a similar situation, the South Australian still waiting on a new crankshaft to clear customs, a scenario which has already seen him declare his inability to start at a circuit where he is part of Superboat legend.
Slade Stanley’s proposed new package too is understood to be awaiting parts, although for the man who dominated season 2019 on his way to his maiden Unlimited Superboat crown – his backup plan includes using the ‘Hazardous08’ naturally-aspirated 480ci machine that gave him six straight wins last year.
Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts was on task to claim a top three finish to the 2019 season, before a late off at Cabarita saw significant damage to the hull of ‘Blown Budget’. The crowd favourite was more disappointed to have lost a chance to join Stanley and Mullan on the outright podium than he was to have damaged the boat, but he also knew the off-season would present a big challenge. Some significant work in the ensuing three months has seen Roberts and his hard-working team rebuild the boat ready for season 2020, and you could expect that the setback has only made the Shepparton local hungrier than ever.
He may start favourite after his stunning run last year, but Slade Stanley won’t be without opposition..
Local hero and co-2018 Unlimited champion Scott Krause will return to wave the flag for Temora, and he has shown that he’s up for a fight, especially in his own backyard. Likewise two-time Unlimited champion Daryl Hutton – the expat New Zealander has been getting closer and closer with his Farr Faster built twin-turbo 400ci powerplant, and after a few years in the wilderness, he’ll be doing everything he can to get himself back onto the top step of the podium.
Former 350-Class champion Daniel deVoigt too will present an ongoing challenge across the season with his twin-turbo LS powered machine, the always consistent Queenslander has been getting quicker with each passing season, and whilst without the budget to tackle the outright leaders, he can never be discounted and is rarely faced with an early drive home. He, alongside former 400-Class race winner and new Unlimited recruit Mitch Roylance (BlackJack), will be well worth watching as the season unfolds.
As for Mullan – with son Bastian progressing to driving duties in the LS-Class, you could expect that if nothing else presents itself, that the seven-time champ will make the most of any setback to ‘RAMJET’ and card some valuable points from which to launch his title assault across the coming rounds. It’s a strategy he’s used in the past, and if there’s one thing you can bet on – it’s that you can never discount the seven-time champion!
The biggest news in 400-Class is the absence of the last three season champions. Commitments for reigning title holder Paul Kelly and four-time V8 Superboats champion Mark Garlick see them off the entry list at Temora, whilst for Ben Hathaway, a late setback for his 2017 title winning ‘Weapon’ sees him jump back into the ‘green machine’ in which he contested the 2018 UIM Worlds. He will share the drive with boat-owner Matt Malthouse during the team’s LS-Class debut.
Seemingly that would give Justin Roylance and the ‘Outlaw67’ team top billing for the season opener, the popular Forbes local who has been an instrumental part of the growth of the category in recent years, has seen his boat enjoy a ‘birthday’ during the off-season, and with his maiden win at the 2019 season finale in the bag after going head-to-head with Kelly and Hathaway, he is full of confidence, but he will have a couple of high profile challengers..
Jody Ely is a two-time winner at Temora, and like Roylance campaigns a Jetspeed hull. His 2019 season – off the back of a frustrating World Series plagued by technical issues – was without the spark we’d seen from the ‘Rampage’ machine in 2018. He’ll be keen to right that this year, but both Aussies will have a challenge, and that will come in the form of New Zealander Sean Rice – the current NZ#2 in Group A is looking to take the fight to the Australian teams ahead of the next World Series and he could prove the ‘Monster’ in the pack!
Throw in 2016 champion Brett Thornton, and team-mates Greg Harriman and Hugh Gilchrist in the newly re-liveried ‘Apache’ and you have a battle on your hands. For the locals, Kayla Foote jumps back into the hot-seat alongside Darrin Kesper in ‘Let’s Boogie’ whilst Brendan and Rory Doyle will make a welcome return in ‘The Girlfriend’ after suffering a big crash during the fifth round of the season at Griffith last year, the team looking to shake up the established order after claiming a top six finish at Cabarita in June.
Round one of the 2019 Penrite V8 Superboats saw a solitary LS-Class entry at Keith, but by the end of the season there were regularly eight or nine boats in the field, whilst this year, the developmental class will see the season kick off with a record 12 boats!
Emerging across the last 18-months, the popularity of the sport with fans has seen a number progress from the banks around the circuit, to the navigator’s seat and ultimately into the driver’s seat, whilst others have moved from being sponsors to competitors, injecting new life into the sport and delivering some of the best racing at each round.
With the beauty of a low-cost engine (some have even been recovered from auto wreckers and bolted straight into the boat) and the availability of older boats, the category has blossomed and as a result we have an incredible field to start the new year.
Leading the charged will be reigning champion Kyle Elphinstone who during the off-season gave the ‘Blackout Racing’ machine a big birthday in preparation for the forthcoming onslaught. Reigning #2 Dwayne Mezzadri undertook a similar program in his efforts to go after his maiden title, whilst two-time 2019 winner and former 350-Class champion Andrew Medlicott also lines up looking for the top spot in the title race.
With Robert Westerink, Graham Reynolds, Lawrence Howlett, Rob Johnston and Paul Hill starting their second season, Elphinstone will have no shortage of challengers, but there’s a couple of additional entries that will also fire up the outright action.
Bastian Mullan – son of reigning Unlimited Superboat World Champion Phonsy Mullan – will make his debut in the LS-Class and after almost ten years of watching his father in action, he is likely to prove a challenger once he has dialled himself in, and you can be sure with the might of ‘GM Motorsport’ behind him, the boat will be immaculately prepared.
Additionally, a late setback for 2017 400-Class champion Ben Hathaway sees an opportunity for him to join Matt Malthouse behind the wheel of the new-look ‘NudeNutz Racing’ entry – the Stinger that Hathaway used during the UIM World Series. This time though the boat is powered by an LS-Class engine, the multiple race winner taking the chance to repay Malthouse’s generosity to drive alongside him as the Keith local takes in his first laps of V8 Superboat competition.
They won’t be the only 400-Class regulars in the field, with WA’s Daniel Salter returning to V8 Superboats action, this time with an LS-Class powerplant in the boat, and after claiming a podium finish [400-Class] during his sole appearance in the East last year [Keith] you could be forgiven for expecting a fantastic battle for the top of the LS-Class podium this weekend!
The Temora round will also see the eastern-states debut of the new Junior Development category for which more details will be released soon. Koby Bourke – son of former AFJSA President Grant Bourke – will contest a number of display laps across the event ahead of the likely introduction of the category – designed for younger drivers – to compete across the latter rounds of the season.
The opening round of the 2020 Penrite Australian V8 Superboat Championships will be contested at the Kennards Hire Park at Temora’s Lake Centenary on Saturday 29 February, with opening qualifying at 3:15pm ahead of the finals which will begin under lights from 7:50pm.
The circuit is located at Lake Centenary, 3.0-kilometres north of Temora on Barmedman Road – diagonally opposite Temora Airport. Tickets are available at the gate (EFTPOS available on-site).
Photo: Russell Puckeridge, Pureart Creative Images