Temora’s Lake Centenary could be the turning point in the 2019 Penrite Australian V8 Superboat Championships with the possibility that two of the three titles could be decided this weekend.
In a season that has seen some of the closest racing on record in the 400-Class, Brisbane’s Paul Kelly is in the box seat to wrap up his maiden Superboat title after a stunning season that has seen him recover from a lacklustre World Series campaign at the close of last season to dominate this year’s national championship – so far the bright orange 4Zero Racing machine has been undefeated in the five prior rounds to give Kelly a strong points lead heading to Temora.
Should he win his sixth straight final on Saturday night – under a dropped round points system which allows teams to drop their worst point scoring round of the year – Kelly would put the title completely out of reach.
In a season where his approach and demeanour have been unflappable, should the Queenslander withstand the undoubtable pressure of a pending title win this weekend, he will have elevated himself to a status rarely seen outside of the elite Unlimited category, with no 400-Class driver in the last decade having proven so dominant in a single season.
Speaking of domination, the LS-Class category too could see it’s 2019 champion crowned this weekend, with Kyle Elphinstone on track to collect his fifth win of the year – the only setback in an otherwise flawless season having come last time out at Griffith, leaving it as the only round in which he didn’t take the top step of the podium. Such has been his consistency and success this season, it’s very likely he will be the first champion in the new era of LS-Class competition.
Which leaves the elite class of competition – the thundering Unlimited Superboats..
Local fans will be treated to a spellbinding weekend, with Wagga’s Slade Stanley coming into the round as points leader, and on a winning streak that began at Temora back in May during the Colin Parish Memorial.
Joining him will be local hero and [co] reigning AUS#1 Scott Krause, who returns to his home track after an early season setback sidelined him and kept him from a title defence – last time out at Griffith the KAOS driver returned to the field to take the biggest scalp in the sport – defeating the man he battled for the 2018 title, Phonsy Mullan, to make the podium, although both were forced to watch Slade Stanley’s ongoing domination of the category.
The big show this weekend will undoubtedly come from reigning world champion Mullan. The seven-time, and reigning Australian and World champion needs a win this weekend to stay in the title race. A tough season has seen him fail to record a single victory, but if there’s one thing his rivals know only too well, it’s that you discount the bright yellow RAMJET machine at your own peril.
Stanley has been the standout this year with a stunning display that has seen him dominate like no other outside of Mullan, but critically for his title defence, Mullan is always building points, and any setback for Stanley this weekend would likely see Mullan emerge once more as a contender for what would be a record seventh-straight Unlimited title..
With a resurgent Daryl Hutton and the returning Scott Krause also expected to figure in the result at Temora, the fans are in for one hell of a night under lights at Lake Centenary..
If the Penrite Series’ visit to Temora in May was any indication, the fans should be set for another incredible night of competition – the main focus will be for the outright battle where victory to Slade Stanley would just about put the 2019 championship out of reach for his rivals and end the record winning streak of Phonsy Mullan – a streak that has seen the ‘RAMJET’ team hold the coveted #1 plate since 2013..
Mullan though is never one to stand down. Even a medical setback a couple of seasons ago that saw him break both legs failed to stall his title run, and whilst he has not made the top step of the podium this year, he can never be discounted and is just as likely to turn up with a revised twin-turbo setup to take the fight right back to Stanley at home.
Daryl Hutton too is finally on the sweet spot of a development curve that has taken almost six years to uncover.. Now with his own twin-turbo unit, in a package similar to that with which Dean Finch and Tremayne Jukes used to take the fight to Mullan in past seasons, Hutton is once again making his presence felt, although like Mullan and local hero Krause, they have a big void to breach with Stanley’s current control of the category.
Don’t discount Glenn Roberts either, the Shepparton local is a crowd favourite, but always struggles under lights – that said he enjoyed one of his best night-time performances last time out at Griffith and will always rise to a challenge, whilst the returning Michael Cunningham will be looking to get back into the action, the Sprintcar regular more than capable of taking the ‘True Blue’ machine to the podium.
Throw in the ever consistent Daniel deVoigt and Shellharbour’s Starr Kopa, and you have a recipe for a methanol fuelled night of fireworks..
400-CLASS (International Group A)
Despite the tightly controlled nature of the 400-Class boats – all of whom campaign identical 400 cubic-inch V8 powerplants with a regulated carburettor – Brisbane’s Paul Kelly has been able to dominate the 2019 season with an epic performance that has seen him land on the top step of the podium in all five races to date – in part, thanks to the thumping the New Zealanders gave the Australian teams at home during last year’s World Series.
As dedicated to his approach as a Phonsy Mullan, Slade Stanley or Daryl Hutton, Kelly has pushed himself a step further than his rivals all season, and in Mullan-esque form, always holds something in reserve in case anyone is able to get close – just as they feel they are able to steal victory from the bright orange ‘4Zero’ machine, Kelly pounces and throws down a flawless lap that puts any chance of a rival victory completely out of question.
This weekend you could expect the same, whilst you could also expect that Kelly’s rivals will throw everything they have at him and push him to see if they can find any chink in what has so far this season proven to be impregnable armour..
To discount his rivals though would be a mistake.. Unlike the Unlimited class where pace-setter Slade Stanley often holds a three-second advantage over his rivals, for Kelly, a tenth of a second in the regulated 400-Class is often a huge margin, such is the tight nature of the category, and with three former champions in the field all taking the fight to the points leader during each and every session, it only further highlights how outstanding Kelly’s 2019 run has been.
It doesn’t hurt either that ‘Hollywood’ is one hell of a nice guy, and already encapsulates what a true champion should be – fast and humble. As a result there’s likely to be an endless line of congratulations for Kelly if he claims victory on Saturday evening because that will give him an untouchable lead in the title race and ultimately his maiden championship, and no-one would deny him the adulation.
All that said, he will have his work cut out for him, not the least from the three former champions – reigning AUS#1 Mark Garlick (a four-time Australian champion), Ben Hathaway (2017 Champion) and Brett Thornton (2016 Champion), but also from emerging stars Justin Roylance and Jody Ely.
Roylance has arguably been the best placed to upset the points-leader with some epic performances in the Spitwater/Auto One ‘Outlaw67’ machine this year, but whilst capable of matching – and at times bettering – Kelly’s performance, he often falters at the final hurdle in shades of Kelly’s 2018 performances..
Campaigning an identical Jetspeed hull to two-time Temora winner Jody Ely, Roylance and Ely will form a two-tiered assault on Kelly’s lead this weekend, with both capable of matching the pace of the ‘4Zero’ entry, whilst former champion Ben Hathaway will also be keen to push for his first win of the year and force the championship into overtime at Cabarita next month.
Like the Unlimited class, there will be no shortage of challengers pushing for a place in the finals. Greg Harriman and Hugh Gilchrist will be sure to figure in the finals, whilst Ron O’Day and Darrin Kesper will be back looking for more valuable miles and Mark Connolly returns in ‘G Force’ making it another solid field of entries for the penultimate round.
Like the 400-Class, Temora’s return could also see a title settled in the LS-Class, with second-generation racer Kyle Elphinstone in the box-seat to take out the #1 plate in the ‘Blackout Racing’ machine.
After an early head-start with victory at the opening round at Keith in March, Elphinstone has been able to weather the storm from the growing horde of LS entries over subsequent rounds, his only setback coming at Griffith last month where he failed to make the podium, after a rare setback during the second final.
That allowed former 350-Class champion Andrew Medlicott to take the win with the ever-present Dwayne Mezzadri second again, whilst LS regular Graham Reynolds was well rewarded with third.
Mezzadri has been a thorn in Elphinstone’s side over recent rounds, his back-to-back second placed finishes at home at Cabarita marked him as one to watch, the New South Welshman then going on to claim a third consecutive runner-up finish at Griffith to add further weight to a likely challenge at Temora.
Last time out at Temora, many of the LS-Class entries were making their Series debut, giving the more experienced Elphinstone an opportunity to cement his position at the top of the time sheets, his win over Medlicott coming by almost two seconds with Graham Reynolds third.
That was then, and this is now, and off the back of defeat at Griffith, we may have seen the first sign of weakness in Elphinstone’s otherwise impressive 2019 display.. His rivals will certainly hope so if they are to have any chance of taking the title fight into Cabarita’s final round..
The penultimate round of the 2019 Penrite Australian V8 Superboat Championships will be contested at the Kennards Hire Park at Temora’s Lake Centenary on Saturday 19 October, with opening qualifying at 2:00pm ahead of the finals which will begin under lights from 7:30pm.
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) or online: