The glorious weather drew thousands of spectators all the way from Eleebana, through Warners Bay, thence onto Speers Point, and also back at both the start/finish line and pit area located at Marmong Point. This certainly underscored the natural amphitheatre nature of the delightful Lake Macquarie.
Hovering around the pit area you did notice the inquisitive onlookers who all commented on how much they enjoyed on being able to get close to the boats and the teams alike.
Overnight, and even into the morning, many teams worked to repair/replace items so as to get back out racing. Shan Racing put a new drive shaft in one of their gearboxes, and Skater 28 corrected why a spark plug insisted on popping out at every opportunity.
Alas, it was the team spearheaded by Birthday Boy and engine builder, John Barbagallo, that extracted the totally blown motor in Superbad, swapped the left one over to the right hull as pumps and lines aligned more correctly, and then placed the ‘spare’ motor from fellow competitor, 222 Offshore Racing into the now vacant left hull that was the talking point of the day. What a great effort, and what wonderful sportsmanship, all round.
Now there were winners on the day, as indeed there were for the season overall, but it was perhaps the number and severity of issues out on the water that added drama and quick recalculations to some of the standings.
One of the crowd favourites, The Sting, actually put a connecting rod through the block in the first race of the day, thereby ensuring they would stay ashore for the rest of the day. In the last race of the day, 222 threw a blade off the right side propeller, which came off so violently it not only put a gash in the hull, it also bent a seriously thick steering plate and stainless steel bolt!
All of it served to make sure it was as exciting on shore as it was out on the water, where teams like Gigglin’ in the SuperSport 65 class did more than enough to secure the season win. Mark Sutherland said, “It’s a great feeling. Two years in a row. It’s pretty amazing. I hope we are ready for next year’s first round back in Victoria (Wyndham Harbour) in February because they’ll be coming for us. New boats, new set-ups, and with more horsepower… We’re going to stick with tried and true, but it will definitely be a challenge. Hope the wind blows and evens out the field.”
Andrew Pike from Slick 21 clearly wants to go one better for 2024 in SuperSport 65 after placing second this season. “We’re pretty happy with that. A bit disappointed today, as we were a bit behind the field, but we finished the race. We’ve got a new boat and motor to run for 2024, so we’ve got to get some time in the seat with that, but we should be good to go. Our eyes are on the top prize, that’s for sure.”
The Colonel has looked good all season in SuperSport 85, so despite being challenged a lot more at this final round at Lake Macquarie, they still grabbed the silverware. Jason Kelly said, “We’re a little bit undecided about the 2024 season, so we’ll see what’s going to happen as far as the northern Queensland races go, but we’ll certainly sort out what rounds we will be at anyway.”
“This will include the Melbourne races, and if potential sponsors or something like that want to come on board, we might be able to make our way up there. The boat’s going well, and we are stoked. Hats off to Jesse (King), as it was his first time getting in the boat this season, and he’s adapted to it really well. He’s turning that boat like a professional. I think we’ve got a very competitive boat and we’re where we want to be, so hopefully the future is good.”
Day Racer, Skater 28, may well turn into season participant for 2024, and some very good results at Lake Macquarie will have absolutely spurred them on to do so. The boat looked good all weekend. Aaron Panozza said, “Not sure if I can give all the credit to the boat or Dale (Sawkins), but we certainly had a good time out there.”
“Everything ran perfectly to plan, and we had some amazing racing out there with the Colonel boys. I do think our extra 200 horsepower sort of helps us get out of those corners just that little bit quicker, even though we’re all held back to 85 miles an hour. We did see a maximum from us of 83.5mph during one race, and are thrilled to have got two race wins from three starts.”
“We’d love to come down do a few more events. There’s a bit of a drive, but you know, it’s worth it. The Victorian Rounds are only a few weeks apart, and with a potential round at home on the Gold Coast, I think we should drive down, as they’ll drive up to us.”
Mixed emotions is the best way to describe The Sting camp. Yes they won the season, and circulated here at Lake Macquarie with new engines until they could no longer, so they are happy, but also know just how much work they have to do in order to get ready for next season now they have a broken motor, and there are supply issues.
Karl Wall said, “Yesterday we were super excited and high fiving at each other after ensuring the win, as this is a big deal. Then we thought let’s finish on a high, we’ll race on Sunday and win both races to really come home with the gold. Alas, that did not happen. On the fourth lap of the first race we became very sad puppies.”
“We really do thrive on the energy, especially of our fans, and we have given away more posters than ever to all of the kids, which is great. The love The Sting and the whole bee thing. It definitely helps with the motivation to get ready for 2024. We’ve got a lot of speed to find in this boat to get up with the Mantis now. They’ve really developed their engines really well.”
“So the next three or four months is going to be big for us. We are looking at Wyndham Harbour to take the first win like we did this year and continue the wins through the year just to show the dominance of the Hornet against the Preying Mantis”, said Wall highlighting the great banter between the two teams.
In Supercat Extreme, crowd pleaser, Superbad, finished out their rookie season so well, after such sorrow the day before. So it was good to see Superbad perform a victory lap to finish the day and season out.
Steve Jellick commented afterwards, “It’s been a long season. A lot of work. A lot of heartbreaks and fails. Despite all of it, the sportsmanship shown by 222 is fantastic, and we love it.”
Superbad’s own trials and tribulations after securing a boat that had sat for a while include repairing manifolds, cleaning out fuel tanks, and a list as long as your arm, but no matter what, there they have been come the start of each round.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re getting the boat to some sort of spot that we want it to be, and all the smaller stuff is becoming more reliable. Now we just need to get some good power into it, and then hopefully we’ll be away. They should be here by Christmas, which will give us a bit of time to set the boat up with the new gearing and everything.”
“Ryan (Coleman) just loves it. He has learned so much over the year, and is just driving better and better all the time.”
There can be no doubt that 222 Offshore Racing are one very polished team, and so very sporting in their endeavours. To take home both Supercat Extreme and the Class One Championships is a mark of that, and it comes only a month after securing the World title, as well.
Darren Nicholson may not have liked not finishing the last race, but categorically enjoyed racing on home waters. “It is very nice to have the finale here at the Lake, the place where I grew up. It’s a fabulous venue, and the crowds love it. There was music around the place, there were some old cars, but it’s hard to beat a little bit of noise, and these boats certainly deliver that.”
“Today, we started off with five blades (on the propeller), we came in with four, and after presentations here, we end up with three on the wonderful Australian Class One Championship trophy. We were surprised the prop broke, as it’s only six races old, which is a bit frustrating.”
David Randall from Empire Marina said, “We do look forward to having the Superboats here. It’s always a juggle to free up the space, but everyone is so professional, which was highlighted by the way 222 lent Superbad a motor to keep the show alive. Wonderful stuff. It demonstrates what sort of people are involved in this sport. They want everyone on the water, and we want to help showcase this great lake.”
The Offshore Superboat Championship would like to thank Lake Macquarie City Council, NSW Maritime, Wilson Lifts, and Empire Marina, and we do very much look forward to being back here in October of 2024.
Further information, pictures and videos at superboat.com.au
By Wally Tench