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Sail-World.com : Aust Superboat Championships - Finchy wraps up Unlimited title

Aust Superboat Championships - Finchy wraps up Unlimited title

'2011 Tyreright Australian Superboat Championships'    Sean Henshelwood    Click Here to view large photo

How is it that with every passing year of V8 Superboats, the series provides an even bigger spectacle than the season before.. The 2011 Tyreright Australian Superboat Championships was no different, with two of the three classes again undecided until late on the final day of competition at Hi-Tec Oils Park in Temora (October 29-30).

After the mist had settled, it was Dean Finch (Loose Cannon) who prevailed for his second Unlimited Superboat crown (the first in 2007), dual reigning champion Daryl Hutton (Team Solo) unable to make any impact on the Mildura locals points lead in the end despite some inspirational laps.

And whilst the Unlimited class saw Finch pushing as hard as he needed to on the challenging Temora layout, it was the Group A class that [again] came down to the final race, and the very same protagonists as 2010 lining up one more time, with the title still undecided. Sadly on this occasion, Hi-Tec Oils Racing’s Brooke Dixon was outside of the points leaving the battle to brothers Ted and Darek Sygidus, but that didn’t stop her taking a dominant round win, the title though, going to Darek Sygidus, the Triple X team’s third Group A crown in four years..

And in the 350 Class, it was all but a foregone conclusion heading into the final round with reigning AUS#2 Daniel deVoigt (DEVO 2) having all but sealed the title prior to the season final. That didn’t mean he had it all his own way at Temora though, with reigning title holder Daniel James (Stingray Racing) returning to battle the champion-elect, the two going at it all day, with each taking a win; James on the day and deVoigt, the coveted 350 Class title.

2011 Tyreright Australian Superboat Championships -  Sean Henshelwood

Unlimited Superboat;

In the end the title went to the most deserving team, something outgoing champion Daryl Hutton was quick to acknowledge.

'Look I’m disappointed we couldn’t three-peat and take a third consecutive title, but at the end the day we just weren’t good enough,' the popular kiwi admitted. 'This was Finchy’s year, he’s been quick from the outset and if not for a hiccup at Caba in June, may have wrapped the title up earlier. It’s seriously starting to look like the only way you’ll compete now is to have twin-turbo injection..'

One man who would agree would be Phonsy Mullan, who was hot off victory at Melton during the AFJSA Cup with his [now] twin-turbo Chev LSX.

Quick throughout practice, Phonsy and team-mate Darek Sygidus were about the only boats to put a foot wrong all weekend, both thrown out of the water during the first practice session as they tried to negotiate the tricky hairpin that led back onto the front straight, fortunately neither suffered any serious damage.

Day one was slated for practice and two rounds of qualifying, with Hutton grabbing the advantage early in the ‘Team Solo’ entry to be quickest, half a second clear of Mullan (RAM-JET) and Jamie Welch (Skywest Racing).

Dean Finch’s title assault started with a scare, the points leader pulling out of the throttle in the closing stages of the opening qualifier to coast across the line. That saw plenty of discussion in the pits, and perhaps a momentary sign of hope for Hutton before it was revealed a turbo hose had come loose. A quick inspection revealed no dramas, and Finchy was soon back to business, topping Hutton’s opening qualifier by more than a second to sit on top of the timesheets at the close of the day (31.664).

Mullan remained second ahead of Hutton, Welch and a struggling Greg ‘Crusty’ Mercier (ACOL Skylights). 'There’s something not quite right,' he admitted, 'we’ll have a look at it tonight and see what we can find.'

What they found in the end was a screw had come loose in the butterfly of the throttle body for the #6 cylinder, which wasn’t allowing it to fully open. 'We’re on about seven and a half cylinders at the moment,' Crusty laughed, 'and fortunately the screw doesn’t seem to have done any damage.'

Across in the Skywest Racing camp though they were not quite as lucky.

'We had a simlar thing happen,' Geoff Welch admitted with a frown, 'but the screw has made a mess of the piston, so we’re keeping an eye on the damage and hoping we can hang in there until the finals, it’s not pretty..'

By Sunday morning Finchy was back on top, with Crusty recovering to be second, just three tenths off the pace, jumping Mullan in the process. Jamie Welch continued to hang on to fourth, but was under attack from another Finch, Tyler showing that all those years alongside his father were paying off, very reminiscent of the Garlick family..

For Tyler his result wasn’t doing anything to aid Daryl Hutton’s demeanor as the kiwi was relegated back to sixth, the younger Finch very happy with his efforts with another former champion - Phil Dixon (sharing ACOL Skylights with Mercier) - also qualifying behind the teenager.

2011 Tyreright Australian Superboat Championships -  Sean Henshelwood   Click Here to view large photo

Mullan and Mercier continued to battle over P2 and P3 in the final rounds of qualifying, but neither could match Finch’s best time; Q4 - 31.202, Mullan the next best with 31.914, Mercier 32.078, Hutton 32.630, Jamie Welch 32.849 and Dixon 32.987.

Behind them Tyler Finch was battling with Jody Ely (Jackhammer) who this time was without team-mate Adam Raverty (the 2010 rookie-of-the-year was the team’s crew chief for the weekend), Cheryl Welch, Glenn Roberts and Louise Dixon, although Roberts and Louise were soon out.

'I’m just not comfortable in the 400 boat,' Louise admitted, the matriarch of the Dixon clan forced to share daughter Brooke’s boat whilst Phil joined the Mercier’s in an Unlimited machine, Louise admitting to not enjoying a lack of horsepower. 'The Unlimited boat is just so good to drive, you can use the horsepower and torque to get you out of trouble - driving the 400 is a whole different discipline, and with Brooke doing so well, I don’t want to jeopardise her chances.'

In ‘Spider’ Roberts case his retirement sadly came as a result of metal in the oil after just the opening round. 'We’ve just had it rebuilt.. again!’ He stuck with it through the final rounds, but didn’t realise the full potential of the injected big-block project that promised so much when he debuted it more than two seasons ago.

By finals time the title battle had come down to Finchy’s consistency, as his dominance in the heats had all but put the title out of Hutton’s reach, all he needed was to make it through the Top 12 in one piece and the title was his.

'In the past he’s made mistakes when under pressure,' Hutton admitted, 'so I just have to keep applying more of the same and putting down the quick laps..'

Without needing to do anything dramatic, Finch put the title out of reach with another blistering time, 31.324 to Hutton’s second placed time of 32.188. Mullan grabbed third, with Tyler Finch a sensational fourth, less than second and a half off his father’s benchmark time, topping Mercier and Dixon in the process.

Due to his ‘restricted’ status, Tyler was unable to progress past the first final, elevating Jamie Welch into the top six, but he was soon out with a DNF as a result of the team’s earlier issue, whilst Dean Finch again topped the timesheets.

By the close of the top six the ACOL Skylights team were the ones celebrating hardest, with both Mercier and Phil Dixon relegating Hutton outside the final three, Phil Dixon’s time just one one hundredth quicker than the outgoing champion.. that was it, the title belonged to Finch..

In the end the final was somewhat of an anti-climax with Finch setting his second fastest run of the day (31.293) to eclipse both Mercier and Dixon, Crusty putting in a blinder (31.950) to finish second and move into third in the championship, a rewarding end to a second frustrating season in the Unlimited class.

'Not bad,' he admitted, 'but it would have been nice to start the season with all the bugs ironed out. At least we’ve got on top of things ahead of the world championships, so look out kiwis, here we come..!'

Post event Dean Finch looked like he’d been through the wringer, admitting he’d had to work pretty hard to keep on top of it all. The team also admitted that they’d run without their optimum jet unit setup after destroying a stata on Saturday.

'The boat was magic, we had to feather the throttle even in the last run, we couldn’t use all the power it’s got,' Finch admitted afterwards, and in a warning to his opponents he admitted there’s more to come.. 'The boats great and it handles brilliantly, but we still haven’t reached the full potential of this engine, there’s plenty more to come yet..'

For reigning title holder Daryl Hutton the weekend sadly didn’t deliver the dream, but he admitted that there wasn’t much he could do about the ‘little’ man from Mildura.

'I take my hat off to him, he’s been the form driver this year, and whilst we were quick, we just couldn’t match the power of the twin-turbo unit,' he admitted with disappointment in his eyes. 'Look I’d have loved to have given the team that third straight title because it’s as much about them as it is about me, they’ve worked tirelessly to extract the maximum from this boat, and even when we were down and having dramas they still rallied and got us back into the points.

'This has been the toughest of the three seasons and the competition has been tougher still, we seriously have the best Unlimited field in the world in Australia, so we’ll have to go away and do some homework, who knows, perhaps twin-turbo..'

For Greg Mercier the weekend provided the kind of result he’d been hoping for all season, and the normally wide smile was broader than usual post-race.. 'How’s that hey, two old blokes end up on the podium displacing the Fonz and Nusty.. Look we were charging pretty hard all weekend and had done some serious work on the boat after Caba, so I’m not too surprised, and I’m happy that we could bring Phil [Dixon] through as well.'

From Dixon’s perspective it was a nice end to a season that promised much early, and delivered a stunning victory at Cabarita in June.

'Thanks to Crusty for letting me have the ride, but there’s nothing like driving your own boat, you never go quite as hard. I wasn’t comfortable either because Crusty is a lot taller than I am, so I had to reach for the pedal and stuff a heap of towels behind me to keep me forward, so it wasn’t perfect, but all in all it was a good result for the team.'

International Group A;

The big news coming into the season finale was the addition of a new boat to the Triple X ‘fleet’ with reigning champion Ted Sygidus introducing a much modified Mackraft labeled ‘Frankenstein’ allowing younger brother Darek - the reigning World and AUS#2 - to campaign the boat that had taken the Triple X team to two Group A titles in three years.

'I proved last year I could win the title, so this year, with Dezi [Darek] and I on equal points heading into the final, I wanted to show that I was more than just a driver, and that I could build a winning boat as well,' Ted admitted pre-race.

And whilst the title battle would again come down to the final race of the season, this year Brooke Dixon (Hi-Tec Oils Racing) was outside the title fight thanks to a frustrating litany of mechanical gremlins, but that didn’t stop the crowd favourite from figuring in the results, in fact she not only figured, she won!

'If only I’d done that 12 months ago, and the title would have been mine,' she grinned post-race.

In the end though the title belonged to Darek Sygidus after Ted failed to get on top of the new boat, giving him the team’s third title in four years to join brother Ted and team-boss Phonsy Mullan as Group A national champions.

'It’s a dream come true,' Darek beamed afterwards. 'Thanks to Phonsy and Ted, and to Dave [Gill] for navigating beside me all these years. We knew we could do it, we knew the equipment was good, and we just had to be consistent. Brooke was too good today, there was nothing we could do about that, and we needed to stay clear of Ted.. we’re rapt!'

Despite last year’s top three (and as it happened - Dixon’s result returned her to the championship podium - the 2011 top three) again battling it out in the final, the qualifiers were a different story with Melton’s Shane Loughnan (Vicious) and former 350 Class champion Jake Garlick (321Ignition) mixing it with the leaders, in fact Loughnan surprised everyone with his pace, emerging from qualifying with the fastest Group A lap; 33.546 (Q3).

'We’ve done a lot of work on the boat over the last few months and it really comes alive at Temora, I don’t know what it is, but I’m happy that we’re on top of the timesheets,' he admitted.

Second after qualifying was Brooke Dixon (33.568), the Hi-Tec Oils machine well and truly in the groove. Darek Sygidus was next (33.672), with Ted right behind (33.721), and Jake Garlick (33.832) well within reach, the top five covered by just a quarter of a second.

And whilst times are important, the numbers everyone was looking at were not related to the clock, it was championship points that was the hottest topic.

Courtesy of two top qualifying results and a P2, Darek had amassed 29 points, Ted on the other hand had taken some time to come to grips with the new boat, accruing just 24.. The title battle wasn’t the only one going on either, with the final championship podium position being fought between Tremayne Jukes (159 points), Jake Garlick (158) and Brooke Dixon (136).

Sadly Jukes fell foul of his arch-nemesis again early on the weekend, having elected to share the drive with new boat owner Michael Darwen. Sadly a new jet unit that was fitted to the package sold to the West Australian wasn’t delivered in time for testing, TJ admitting that it needed far too much work for him to consider the boat worth pushing to the limit. Fortunately Brooke Lucas (Our Toy/EBSA) came to the party to allow Jukes to keep his points haul going, but TJ admitted that it [the championship] was well and truly over..

'I said at the start of the year that I wanted to just concentrate on my own boat and doing my own thing, but business got the better of me and I agreed to share the drive at the final, and that meant sourcing some new parts. Unfortunately we couldn’t fine tune the jet unit in time, and it wasn’t worth risking the boat for either of us, so that was that..'

With Jukes out of the equation, the fight came down Dixon and Garlick, the latter pushing the 321Ignition boat further with each session, sadly in the first final his podium run was over after pushing that little bit too far..

'I tried a different line through the tight 180 degree turn, and just hit the cross-wash the wrong way and it was all over,' Jake admitted afterwards, clearly frustrated to have missed the championship podium.

That left Dixon to battle the Sygidus boys through to the final for the second consecutive year, and this time she wasn’t going to be denied, setting a blistering 33.314 in the final to put the win and the final step of the championship podium completely out of reach.

For the title though it was a different situation with both Sygidus boys needing to make the final three if the battle was going to go all the way to the wire. Both drivers made the top six, and then followed Brooke into the top three. Should Ted win and Darek place third, the win would remain with the reigning champion, in any other order, the title would go to Darek.

In the end Dezi sealed the victory with second, albeit almost half a second in arrears of Dixon, with Ted two tenths further back, neither of them improving on their best lap times. The title was Darek’s..

Fourth in the end went to Rob Colman (Tunna-Guts), another of the drivers who was in with a mathematical chance of title victory 12 months ago, the Mildura ‘veteran’ doing another solid job to creep up on the leaders late in the finals, missing a top three berth by a mere 14 one thousandths of a second.

Fifth was the ever improving Damian O’Leary (Kryptonite), with Wagga’s Rodney Krause (Soak’n Fused) sixth. Krause had qualified fourth through the Top 12, but was unable to improve, whilst son Kieran narrowly missed advancing to the top six after clocking the seventh fastest time in the first final.

After doing such an outstanding job during the qualifiers, Shane Loughnan could do no better than eighth in the first final, dropping almost two seconds in his run.. 'I hit the cross-wash differently than I had before, but I didn’t think it would have cost me that much time,' he admitted afterwards.

Ninth was Brooke Lucas, who had found some pace in ‘Our Toy’, with Greg Harriman, Jukes and the hapless Garlick rounding out the Top 12.

Of those that missed the final, Mick Manini too was disappointed not to have progressed further after engine builder Darren Farr had made some modifications to the Cool Bananas in preparation for the final, Kev Laugesen (SpaNET) too struggling to make the final 12.

Brad Mardsen’s weekend too was over early, the 400 Class rookie breaking an engine on Saturday afternoon, forcing him into the backup seat of DEVO 2 with ‘B’ driver Blake Highland sitting alongside, they too failed to make the final 12.

2011 Tyreright Australian Superboat Championships -  Sean Henshelwood  
350 Class;

After having things pretty much his own way throughout the 2011 Tyreright Australian Superboat Championships, champion-elect Daniel deVoigt (DEVO 2) finally had some serious competition at the Temora final, with reigning champ Daniel James (Stingray Racing) returning for one last effort as AUS#1.

deVoigt was looking forward to an opportunity to go head-to-head with the man who defeated him in 2010, and elected for a more tactical approach during qualifying.

'I’ve noticed that Daniel only really pushes as hard as he has too,' deVoigt said, 'so I’ve detuned the engine a bit so that I don’t show my true pace too early.'

Whilst the ploy worked early with James just four or five tenths ahead, once the pace lifted on Sunday morning, deVoigt was unable to do anything about it, James running consistently into the 37.8s, all the way through to the top three.

deVoigt continued to find time, but not in big enough chunks, his final run looking to be his best before a drama coming out of the final turn.

'All of a sudden the throttle pedal went further than it had before, and at the same time the engine dropped to idle,' deVoigt admitted, 'so that was the end of that.

'In the end though he [James] was just too quick, I wouldn’t have caught him, but I’d have liked to have gotten closer.'

Third in the final, was series rookie Brett Thornton (Obsession) who very nearly took the second step of the podium after deVoigt’s drama, the margin in the end 17 one hundredths. It had been an outstanding debut by Brett Thornton and wife Lin, the pair of them conducting a first-class maiden effort in the national championship, the result just reward for their consistency and speed, the pair also awarded the AFJSA’s coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title across all three classes.

Fourth in the end was David Blake (IGA Racing), the Deniliquin local, together with boat owner Robert Hallum strong with their new Church built [Shepparton] powerplant, but not strong enough to contend with the series regulars, although they did trouble ‘Predator’ team-mates Troy McKenzie and Shane Allen, but could not stop the Victorian team from recording a popular 3-4 finish in the championship.

And whilst the ‘Predator’ team sadly failed to make the final, Jeremy Kincaid recorded one of his strongest runs of the year to make the top six in ‘Pheonix’, after a solid performance all weekend.

Now it’s world championship time with New Zealand hosting the two round world titles in February 2012, ahead of a full season of competition back in Australia with as many as seven rounds. Keep an eye on www.v8superboats.com.au or www.facebook.com/V8Superboats where all will be revealed.

2011 Tyreright Australian Superboat Championships -  Sean Henshelwood

2011 Tyreright Australian Superboat Championships
Championship points (adjusted points after five rounds of five)

Unlimited Superboat;
1. Dean Finch (Loose Cannon) - 268 points
2. Daryl Hutton (Team Solo) - 241
3. Greg Mercier (ACOL Skylights) - 219
4. Phil Dixon (Auspro Logistics) - 204
5. Phonsy Mullan (RAM-JET) - 199
6. Jamie Welch (Skywest Racing) - 190
7. Jody Ely (Jackhammer) - 153
8. Cheryl Welch (Skywest Racing) - 150
9. Tyler Finch (Loose Cannon) - 124
10. Adam Raverty (Jackhammer) - 115
11. Louise Dixon (Auspro Logistics) - 65
12. Glenn Roberts (Blown Budget) - 57
13. Peter Freckleton (Team Solo) - 31
14. Paul Burgess (Canberra Floorcraft) - 30?
15. Andrew Page (Kamakazi) - 14

International Group A (400 Class)?;
1. Darek Sygidus (Triple X) - 259 points
2. Ted Sygidus (Triple X) - 251
3. Brooke Dixon (Hi-Tec Oils) - 210
4. Jake Garlick (321Ignition) - 208
5. Tremayne Jukes (Stingray Racing) - 206
6. Robert Colman (Tunna-Gut’s) - 184
7. Damian O’Leary (Kryptonite) - 183
8. Rodney Krause (Soak’n Fused) - 135?
9. Shane Loughnan (Vicious) - 111
10. Greg Harriman (321Ignition) - 110
11. Brooke Lucas (EBSA) - 98
12. Kieran Krause (Soak’n Fused) - 92?
13. Mick Manini (Cool Bananas) - 68
14. Brad Marsden (Air8ed) - 66
15. Kevin Laugesen (SpaNET) - 58
16. Nathan Dickenson (Witch Bank) - 47

350 Class;
1. Daniel deVoigt (DEVO 2) - 270 points?
2. Brett Thornton (Obsession) - 238?
3. Troy McKenzie (Predator) - 187?
4. Shane Allen (Predator) - 130?
5. David Blake (IGA Racing) - 116?
6. Robert Hallum (IGA Racing) - 116
7. Betina Dickenson (Witch Way) - 84?
8. Jeremy Kincaid (Pheonix) - 83
9. Daniel James (Stingray Racing) - 76
10. Mark Garlick (Evil As) - 64?
11. Shane Brennan (Miztabanks) - 57?
12. Lauren Dickenson (Witch Way) - 52

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by Sean Henshelwood


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7:54 PM Mon 7 Nov 2011 GMT

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