by Dave Conole
Australian Formula Powerboat GP first round got underway in Taree, NSW. Saturday was practice and qualifying day for the main categories; the Formula Futures once again stepped up and ran first. The entry level part of the Futures, the J1 and J2 sections, have been hurt by migration to the J3 with a dozen or so J3's against a solitary J2.
Australian Formula Powerboat GP 2012 in Taree
The F3's showed both class and numbers, with early indications from 2011 champ, Dave Connolly, that he’ll be on track to repeat a stellar season. With Connolly qualifying on pole, he went on to win the three races scheduled for the F3s, with young gun Will Parker his nearest threat. Parker was in a quick boat however it needed a few extra horses to keep pace with Connolly’s white rocket ship. His father, Kevin, was in the points just ahead of Greg Banks. Greg’s boat suffered an unusual failure on Saturday, with the engine refusing to trim down and switch off. The issue with the trim was traced back to a relay switch whilst the electrical issue took some more time to sort out.
Corey Davoll had a spectacular start to the series, with a high flying roll heading into the breeze. Coming into the left hander to exit the back straight, Davoll hit some dirty water and, combined with a good turn of speed, had his starboard sponson bite hard, with the momentum enough to roll him one and a half times. Although he was shaken, the boat itself was only slightly damaged. Peter Phillips, Alec Robinson, Jake Greentree and Andrew King made up the rest of the field.
In the F2 category, it was a surprise in qualifying to see Michael Page not take pole. The Port Macquarie based pilot was third on the dock, behind Tim Bollins, however came out of the blocks to win race one on Saturday and claimed first in race two on Sunday. In race three, there was high excitement with a lap or two to go with the Malaysian Powerboat champion, Yanto Kadri, getting to within a few boat lengths of Page for eight of the ten laps. On lap nine, Page slowed in the water on the eastern end of the circuit after losing momentum from the turn. Kadri seized on this and with the door open, dove underneath Page to take the lead and ultimately claimed the prize for his breakthrough win in Australia. Unfortunately for Bollins in race one, the engine didn’t fire off the start and relegated him to rear of field. Newcastle’s Matt Smith finished third overall ahead of Jason King, Bollins, a late arriving but very quick Chris Kuznetsof (fourth and third in the two races he contested) and young Tasmanian driver, Scott Cleary. Cleary, settling into the series with an adjustment to the longer races, used his time on the water to fine-tune both boat and tactics.
Numbers for the Six Litre ProStock class were hit by both mechanical issues prior to the weekend and parts not arriving in time. Lindsay McMillan was gracious enough to use the time allocated to demonstrate his craft.
The Formula Futures were also down on numbers overall, however there was nearly a dozen that contested the J3 class. Makayla Cornall ran the sole J2 boat and was given handicap starts to give a fair chance overall. Her brother, Kye took out third spot in the J3 class with Brock Cohen and second and Kaine Casson in the number one spot!
The Formula 1 boats started off with seven boats for the meeting and finished with four, courtesy of Shane Vella’s engine detonating and a collision between Brian Armstrong and Dave Ainley.
In race two and with space at a premium between three evenly matched boats heading left into the first turn from the front straight, Ainley jinked right to avoid Gavin Simmons. Unfortunately for Ainley, his path was blocked by Armstrong, with Ainley’s craft impacting the left side of the blue Toll boat. Armstrong’s steering rack was broken and the hull, although not severely damaged, was hurt enough to not allow further racing.
Damien McKenzie (2011 F1 Champion) took out the round in the F1 Class with the superior performance that has, over the last two years, been unmatched by anyone in the field. Damien claimed the round with a three from three result demonstrating to all, from practice through to qualifying on pole, that his white rocket had a clear advantage of speed and experience over the rest of the field.
New kid on the block Paul Eade got of the dock like a rocket in all three races and looks to be a real contender in the race for the Championship if he can recover from points lost as a result of a crash out and DNF in race three. Vella, back and as intense as ever, had been hoping for a strong performance in Round one but a broken engine saw him finish well down in the field. Gavin Simmons (AFPGP President) was consistent all weekend to snag second place overall. Greg Banks, doing double Formula duty by racing Ron Beasley’s boat, took third for the round.
The series heads to Grafton for late mid April before moving onto Wagga Wagga and finishing the year at Port Macquarie.
Taree - Australian Forumla Powerboat GP
Australian Formula Powerboat GP 2012 in Taree
Australian Formula Powerboat GP website