After what can only be described as one of the most challenging seasons in the history of V8 Superboats, a season impacted by the ongoing effects of the global pandemic, record rainfall and a shortened calendar, comes one final chapter for the 2021 Championship that few saw coming.. The immediate retirement of one of the greatest drivers to have ever graced the sport..
After a year that ended with their boat parked on the bank at Keith as they looked almost certain to secure back-to-back Unlimited Superboat Championships, Slade and Vanessa Stanley have put all their Jetboat equipment – including the dominant ‘Hazardous’ ‘Stinger’ – up for immediate sale, Slade admitting that his heart just isn’t in the sport any more, and that they want to focus on other things..
“The result in the championship had no bearing,” he admitted. “Basically, once the boat slid off onto the grass I was already over it, I was already thinking – ‘thank god I don’t have to do another two runs and that’s that.’ I have never had good luck, I half expected it so when it happened it was like, here we go again.
“I’ve won championships, I don’t race to win championships, I race to go as quick as I can to get a buzz from the speed and the thrill of racing and to socialise afterwards.
“It wasn’t a decision that happened on the spot, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I love my racing, but I lost a bit of the passion – there’s not quite the camaraderie in the sport like there used to be within our category.. There’s just other things I want to do, our kids are at an age now where we do a lot of sports and stuff with them – it’s more taking the focus away from me and putting it on the rest of the family.”
Arguably one of the most gifted and natural drivers to ever compete in Jetboats, Stanley’s announcement comes with some level of scepticism, the two-time World Champion [400-Class] having taken a sabbatical from the sport in the past, before returning to contest the UIM World Series in late 2018. This time though Stanley concedes things are different.
“My current mindset is to go and do other things, but you never know what the future holds, he admitted. I would call it a retirement, but you never know, I could come back for a cameo now and then, but for now, I’ve got no urge to own a boat or look after a boat and get it ready for a race meeting.”
Sad news for fans of the sport who have been stunned with Stanley’s impressive outright pace over recent years, but good news for whoever picks up the nimble Unlimited package, complete with its naturally-aspirated 480ci powerplant, although just days after Stanley put the ‘Hazardous’ machine on the market, it’s still sitting in his garage..
“I’d bought a spare ‘Stinger’ hull which we were going to build into a different package, but that’s already gone, whilst there have been plenty of calls from other teams asking me what’s going on, but as yet, it’s [the boat] still here, but I have no intention of keeping it, I want it out of the shed so I can move onto other projects.”
A sad close to what had been a dramatic season of competition which saw yet another head-to-head battle between two of the sport’s best, two drivers who were indelibly linked across much of the last 15 years, sharing three World titles, and ten Australian titles between them. Our hope is that one day, we may see that battle resume, but for now – and potentially forever – it’s the end of a great era of Australian motorsport, although we’re likely not to have seen the last of the popular former champion.
“I don’t think I’m going to disappear from the sport completely, I really feel we’ll go to whatever events we can that tie in with whatever we’re doing to socialise. We’ve still got a lot of friends there that I’d like to catch up with.”
A competitor known as much for his laid-back style as he was for his immense pace, it’s perhaps no surprise that his humility sees him reflect on his time in V8 Superboats with a throw back to his endeavours to help the growth of the sport in his local area.
“To be honest, my contribution and my family’s contribution to Temora is perhaps my proudest moment,” he recalled. “We had a big part to play there, I know Phil Dixon took it over and the day to day running was done by him after Roy Long retired, but we put a lot of time in there to see the project come to life. For me the other thing that means the most to me is the friendships we formed and being able to travel around and see the countryside in the process as a family, it’s a time I will remember fondly.
“On that note, family is such a big part of my time in the sport. I met Vanessa through V8 Superboats, and my parents always came with us and supported my racing, so I have to thank them and the kids for allowing me to follow my dream of going racing, but now I have a chance to pay them back and focus on their activities as well.”
As they say, all good things must come to an end, but whilst one door closes, another invariably opens, and whilst we bid the Stanley’s a fond farewell, we look to the coming season with much anticipation of what will become a new chapter in this incredible sport!