The Australian V8 Superboats Championship returns for season 2018 with arguably the toughest test of the calendar to open the ledger for the new year – Griffith’s notorious Lake Wyangan circuit.
One of the sport’s longest standing facilities, Griffith is always popular with the fans, but regarded as one of the most testing challenges for teams and drivers especially under lights, conditions in which the finals are usually contested.
There are a string of new teams coming into the new season – a season which will conclude with a two round UIM-sanctioned World Championship event starting late October, so the national championships provide an ideal proving ground for what promises to the toughest contest in the world of jetsprinting.
Five-time – and reigning – Unlimited Superboat champion Phonsy Mullan starts as the undeniable favourite for victory at Griffith, not the least because of his 2016 and 2017 finals victories – but because of his almost complete domination of the series over the last five season, his 2017 title continuing a streak that began in 2013!
Sadly Mullan’s greatest rival Tremayne Jukes won’t be back to add to his four outright wins in 2017. During the off-season he relinquished ownership of ‘Maniac’ to former New Zealand regular Paul Gaston – a name that won’t be unfamiliar with V8 Superboat fans – taking over the multiple race winning machine campaigned initially by former Australian champion Dean Finch (Finch taking it to Griffith victory in 2014).
Now renamed ‘Heatseeker’, the exciting 1600hp twin-turbo V8 powered machine will make it’s debut at Griffith with Gaston tipped to continue the pressure that Jukes applied to Mullan and RAMJET Racing in 2017, as the teams battle out the six-round Australian championship.
For Jukes fans though, there are rumours that the popular Victorian will make a number of cameo appearances in 2018, however he will also be on hand to assist Gaston’s transition across to his exciting new machine.
Sadly, the opening round of the new season will see a number of high profile absences.. Ted and Darek Sygidus have been starring in the New Zealand championship over the off-season with an all-new Sprintec hull, the two Victorians were faced with a clash of events between the two national championships this weekend, but have ultimately been forced to withdraw from both due to business commitments.
Business has also impacted Tony Giustozzi and Mick Carroll, forcing the popular ‘Excalibur’ machine to stay at home in the shed, whilst for ‘Natwel Racing’ a technical issue with their new powerplant has forced the West Australian crew to wait for parts ahead of an expected return at Keith in a month’s time. Also waiting on parts is long-time Unlimited Superboat campaigner Paul Burgess who will also be a rare omission from the field.
Former Group A (400-Class) world champion Slade Stanley is another who was expected to make a return in 2018 however delays in sourcing vital parts have kept the #Hazardous08 team from the Griffith field, with a potential return at Temora in April.
Whilst Mullan has the runs on the board, a ‘new’ Sprintec hull, his impressive LS527ci naturally-aspirated powerplant and immense experience under his belt, the six-time Australian champion knows that he needs to be on his A-game at Griffith as there will be any number of drivers looking to unseat him from the top step of the podium.
Leading the charge alongside Gaston will be two-time Unlimited champion Daryl Hutton. ‘Nutsy’ – as he is known to his legion of fans – has been working feverishly to get on top of the new hull and jet unit package (468ci supercharged V8 with 9” Hydro jet unit) that he debuted more than a year ago.
A consistent podium finisher and a multiple race winner, Hutton endured a tough 2017 season, but his ‘never say die’ approach to the sport kept fans around the country entertained with his on-the-edge driving as the New Zealander tried everything he could to extract pace from the ‘American Automotive’ supported machine. A champion in every sense of the word, Hutton won’t be down for long, and you can expect he will want to have everything sorted by the time the world titles arrive in October.
Glenn ‘Spider’ Roberts was one of the revelations of the 2017 season, the ‘Blown Budget’ driver a podium finisher during the final round at Cabarita and with a big off-season rebuild behind him, he will be hoping to press for more podium finishes this season.
Former 350-Class champion Jeremy Kincaid too has had a big off-season rebuild after a technical failure mid-way through 2017, the lone Ford powered entry will be looking to again impress upon his rivals the agility of the supercharged 302 – Griffith the ideal venue for ‘Rogue’.
Whilst there may be a number of Unlimited boats missing from the season opener, there will be another returning former champion in the guise of Phil Dixon’s ‘True Blue’ Unlimited machine, complete with 410ci naturally-aspirated powerplant in the hands of new owner Michael Cunningham. An experienced Sprintcar pilot, Cunningham is no stranger to action, and he’s bound to get plenty of that this weekend as he comes to terms with his new steed.
Add in former 350-Class champion and V8 Superboats ‘veteran’ Daniel deVoigt – who has come off his best ever season in the Unlimited class – and Temora’s Scott Krause who has also undertaken an off-season change with his supercharged powerplant replaced by an ex-Slade Stanley Farr Faster built twin-turbo small-block Chevrolet V8, and you have all the ingredients for a night of pure horsepower and endless action under lights.
But wait, there’s more…
Whilst the Unlimited Superboat category has been the star performer of the Australian V8 Superboats championship in recent years, the 400-Class (aka International Group A) has seen an off-season resurgence with a strong field of entries at Griffith, including drivers with no less than seven V8 Superboat titles between them, including reigning champion Ben Hathaway. If you throw the success of Hathaway’s Sprintec hull into the equation (it took Brooke Dixon to two national titles), plus that of Mark Garlick’s ‘Grumpy’ – the list of title wins extends to 11 national championship wins – a sure indication that season 2018 is going to be hard fought.
Hathaway comes into the season as champion, although his victory came by just a single point over 2016 champion Brett Thornton (2Obsessed) and only 13-points clear of 2015 champion Mark Garlick, so consistency and podium finishes are going to be key factors.
Last year’s leading drivers won’t have it all their own way though, with a string of likely contenders, including a number of drivers returning to the sport.
Mitch Roylance was a star performer in season 2016, taking out the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title as well as his maiden season victory in Temora, his results earning him third in season points despite missing an entire round. The ‘Black Jack’ driver sat out season 2017 and returns looking to make an impression once again on the leading pack, as will former race winner Shane Loughnan (Vicious) and David Moodie (Jackhammer).
Jody Ely was one of the stars of season 2017, the former Unlimited driver campaigning ‘Rampage’ with great success, the Victorian looking to take his late season form into title contention in 2018.
So too Justin Roylance, the ‘Spitwater Team Outlaw’ driver on a big push in season 2018, focusing on preparations for the forthcoming world titles, the Forbes local also looking to employ a second team entry this year, in the shape of former national champion Daniel James – sadly vital mechanical parts for James’ entry were delayed ahead of the start of the season, the JRE Engines pilot expected to make his season debut in Keith.
Griffith has always thrown somewhat of a curveball at the 400-Class regulars in past seasons, the fact that the almost identically powered machines are on the limit for much of the lap forces the drivers to be on the ragged edge extracting the maximum from their machines, something which often ends in victory or dramatic defeat..
12-months ago Queenslander Paul Kelly made his first trip to Griffith claiming the win in the final from team-mates Daniel James and Justin Roylance, whilst two years ago, Griffith delivered Brad Marsden his maiden success in the 400-Class, the Queenslander outlasting a string of rivals to defeat champion-elect Thornton and Ben Hathaway to claim the win. Both former race winners will be in the Griffith field this weekend and looking for a return to victory.
Throw in former 350-Class champion Andrew Medlicott (Gone Nutz Again), Darrin Kesper (Let’s Boogie) and ‘Pink Boots Foundation’ pairing Greg Harriman and Hugh Gilchrist and you have an action-packed 400-Class field that will surely keep the fans on their feet.
The LS-Class too will be back in action, with reigning champion Ivan Safranek in ‘Katana’ waving the flag for the new entry-level category which was first introduced into the V8 Superboats program in 2017 as a replacement for the outgoing 350-Class category, the LS powerplant providing teams with a cheaper and more consistent level of performance with which to gain experience.
Bottom line this weekend is that Griffith under lights is an event to behold – it will be fast, it will be furious and you won’t want to miss it..
However if you can’t make it to the race, we have you covered. A range of interviews and videos will be made available on the sport’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/V8Superboats where results and updates will also be posted – so too the LIVE STREAM, but if you live in the area, do yourself a big favour, and drop down to Lake Wyangan to take in some of the action live, you certainly won’t be disappointed!
The opening round of the Australian V8 Superboats Championship will be a single-day event at Lake Wyangan, Griffith. Gates open at 3:00pm with qualifying rounds getting underway at 4:00pm. The circuit is located at the Griffith Boat Club, off Lakes Road (via Borga Road or Kidman Way), 10-kilometres north of the city.
Tickets are available at the gate.
Rnd#1 2018 Australian V8 Superboats Championships
Lake Wyangan, Griffith, NSW
24 February, 2018
1. Phonsy Mullan/Kelsie Gill (RAMJET)
10. Michael Cunningham/Narelle Grayland (tba)
28. Daryl Hutton/Mick Parry (American Automotive)
37. Scott Krause/Narelle Pellow-Djukic (Krause Auto & Marine – KAOS)
48. Paul Gaston/Louise Blythe (Heatseeker)
86. Daniel DeVoigt/Vicki Burrell (Devo Racing)
302. Jeremy Kincaid/Miles Kincaid (Rogue)
888. Glenn Roberts/Tiarna McGifford (Blown Budget)
400 CLASS (GROUP A)
1. Ben Hathaway/Lisa Oppes (Weapon)
2. Brett Thornton/Lyn Thornton (2Obsessed)
3. Jody Ely/Greg Blaz (Rampage)
21. Mitch Roylance/Matt Cullen (Black Jack)
34. Shane Loughnan/tba (Vicious)
40. Paul Kelly/Matthew Gow (4Zero Racing)
43. Darrin Kesper/Baz Taylor (Let’s Boogie)
62. Andrew Medlicott/Phil Shead (Gone Nutz Again)
66. Brad Marsden/Jarrod Nobrega (Allcott Transformer)
67. Justin Roylance/Tracey Little (Spitwater Team Outlaw)
95. Mark Garlick/Angel Brennan (Grumpy)
333. David Moodie/tba (Jackhammer)
360A. Greg Harriman/Sammy Leonard (Pink Boots Foundation)
360B. Hugh Gilchrist/James Parsons (Pink Boots Foundation)
7. Ivan Safranek/Chris Guerin (Katana)
Saturday, 24 February;
3:00pm – Gates Open
3:00pm – Practice Lap (60-minutes)
4:00pm – Qualifying #1 (45-minutes)
4:45pm – Qualifying #2 (45-minutes)
5:30pm – Qualifying #3 (45-minutes)
6:15pm – Qualifying #4 (45-minutes)
7:00pm – Dinner break (60-minutes)
8:00pm – LS Class Top 3 FINAL (10-minutes)
8:10pm – 400 Class Top 12 Final (25-minutes)
8:35pm – Unlimited Class Top 12 Final (25-minutes)
9:00pm – 400 Class Top 6 Final (15-minutes)
9:15pm – Unlimited Class Top 6 Final (15-minutes)
9:30pm – FINALS (400 Class/Unlimited)
V8 Superboats and Griffith
2017 Australian V8 Superboats Championship
15 April, 2017
1. Phonsy Mullan (RAMJET) – 37.008
2. Tremayne Jukes (Maniac) – 37.572
3. Ted Sygidus (Frankenzstain) – 39.160
400 Class (Group A)
1. Paul Kelly (4Zero Racing) – 41.685
2. Daniel James (Spitwater Team Outlaw) – 42.867
3. Justin Roylance (Spitwater Team Outlaw) – 43.000
2016 Australian V8 Superboats Championship
26 March, 2016
1. Phonsy Mullan (RAMJET) – 37.350
2. Jamie Welch (Natwel Racing) – 38.715
3. Darek Sygidus (Frankenzstain) – 39.802
400 Class (Group A)
1. Brad Marsden (Allcott Transformer) – 43.391
2. Brett Thornton (2Obsessed) – 44.116
3. Ben Hathaway (Weapon) – 44.956