image-2The Grand Final Round of the 2016 Australian Formula Powerboat Grand Prix Series certainly provided plenty of drama and spectacular action on the Hastings River at Port Macquarie on August 6 & 7.

With all, but one Formula Series Championship to be decided along with a record number of final round entries, the anticipation, tension and excitement levels were certainly at a high level.

Strong pre event coverage and promotions in the local newspapers, television stations, radio stations

image-3along with digital and social media added another level of expectation.

The gasps and cheers of spectators could be heard all weekend as they watched plenty of high speed thrills and spills - with five boats crashing out, close finishes and championships that came down to the final race of the season.

For the third time in 2016 a high incident rate and destroyed turn buoys, resulted in major program delays as craft were retrieved and their drivers were checked out by medical staff. The loss of time led to the second reverse grid races were cancelled to ensure the final race for each class would start with boats in pole positions relevant to their point standings for the weekend.

Formula 1
It was pleasing to see the AFPGP supporting the return of the Formula 1 class to the series with the added interest of four time New Zealand Formula 1 champion Luke Sharp (Promt Parts) taking up the challenge to the Australian teams.

It has been years since seven different Formula 1 teams fronted in a season to compete. Unfortunately high speed crashes and mechanical problems have sidelined teams throughout the season.

Huge interest surrounded the Formula 1 class heading into the final round with series leader Paul Eade (Budlight) ruled out of contention after damaging his boat in a high speed crash. This left the popular Doug Smith (DJ Contracting) heading the point standings courtesy of his underfunded team’s never give up attitude. Despite a huge early season crash between series rounds the team rebuilt the boat and he was the only driver to compete and finish at the first three rounds.

Sadly any hope of Smith claiming the Formula 1 Series Championship was brought to a sudden halt following a hard collision (and barrel roll) with Don Mc Clymott (TBR#66) at turn one of race 1. Mc Clymott’s return to the series was also halted as the boat sustained significant damage to the motor’s mid section.

The anticipated challenge by Greg Banks (RDM Engineering) did not last long after he stopped with mechanical issues during the practice session.

The championship then very quickly came down to a battle between just two - New Zealander, Sharp and David Minton (Speed & Leisure). Minton checking the points available realised he only had to finish the first two races in second place to claim the championship.

Having placed second in race 1, Minton took the lead at the start of race 2 and was pushing very hard to finish the season in style with a win. Eventually Sharp showed his speed and found a way past, just as engine problems struck Minton who almost stopped, but continued to limp around the course.

Minton knew that he needed to finish the race but with his engine about to expire his championship challenge hung in the balance. Fortunately after the checkered flag flew for Sharp, Minton was able to nurse his way around the course and cross the line to claim the 2016 Formula 1 Series Championship.

Sharp did not go back to New Zealand empty handed as he won the Formula 1 Pole Position trophy for the highest number of fastest qualifying times. Sharp also announced that he will return next season to challenge for the Championship.

Formula 2

Nine of the highly competitive Formula 2 teams faced the starter for race 1 on Sunday morning, ready to battle it out for Australian Championship honours.

This was a bit of a surprise as a day earlier, just as Saturday’s race program was getting back on schedule and the rescue team started to chat about getting through a day without being called into action Andrew King (Kings Motorsport) flipped his Formula 2 in spectacular, high flying, extended air time fashion whilst running his hot qualifying lap.

At the time it appeared unlikely that the series leader would make it back on the water in time for race 1, Sunday morning in full race trim to seriously challenge for the championship.

Thanks to some hard work overnight, right through to the call up to get on the water, the team managed not only to get to the start of race 1, but King managed to negotiate his way from the outside pole position through the field to grab third place and keep his championship hopes alive.

Race 1 had to be restarted after a collision between Brett Atkinson (Team Bar) and Shane Martin (MRT) resulted in Martin barrel rolling in the choppy conditions around the eastern end of the course.

Once the boat was recovered, the Martin Racing Team quickly got to work and remarkably was able to get their boat back up and running for their remaining events.

The defending 2015 Australian Champion Corey Davoll (KD Motorsport) had qualified on pole and was dominating the class out front, but he needed other championship contenders to keep King buried down in the field if he was going to claim the 2016 championship.

This resulted in some great action and intriguing battles between Simon Troy (888), Todd Leary (SPR-TR Marine) and King, while Matt Peck (Octane), rookie Lochie Vella (Crossy Express 2) and Matt Smith (Yellow Red Stripe) also chased hard.

In the end it all came down to their final race. If Davoll won then King needed to place a 8th or better. Davoll exploded away from the start and led the closely bunched drivers around from start to finish with.

King got the jump on Leary and slotted into third and held station behind Troy to the chequered, gaining enough points to claim the prestiqous Australian Formula 2 Championship along with the Formula 2 Pole Position trophy.

Formula Optimax

Local Port Macquarie powerboat identity Michael page (Port Carpet One) was going for three Formula Optimax Championships in a row and this helped to generate additional hype and promotion with the local media who were keen to follow his progress over the weekend.

With Grant Trask (Monster Homes) dominating the round ahead of Chris Kuznetsoff (Sportsfilm) it was the battle back in the field between the two championship contenders Page and Gavin Bricker (TBR#6) that attracted the interest.

Add in Stuart Jackson (Jackson Marine) who was having his best round to date, running among the front runners, it all got very interesting.

Unfortunately for Jackson his good performance came to a premature end when he flipped his boat over backwards right in front of the main spectator area. Jackson returned to the pit area in good spirits where he was interviewed by Prime 7 TV, who captured the incident and broadcast it around Australia. Jackson revealed that he had pressed the wrong trim button as the boat started to lift, resulting in the blow over.
With Page and Bricker having beat each other in the first two races it came down to the final Formula Optimax race to decide the championship.

Page got away brilliantly from the beach start to slot into third place ahead of Bricker fourth. Bricker threw everything at Page, trying different lines and tactics to close the gap, but it was to no avail and to the delight and cheers of the Port Carpet One Team and their supporters Page hung on to claim his third straight championship.

Bricker who claimed second won the Formula Optimax Pole Position trophy.

Formula 3

Only a complete disaster could prevent Formula 3 series leader Brock Cohen (CBR) from winning the championship. When Cohen’s boat stopped dead on the course during race 1 it was his closest challenger, Adam Breen’s (Cracka Racing) big opportunity. Unfortunately Breen was still stuck at the start line attempting to get underway.

When Cohen had to redraw from race 2 due to water entering his craft via a loose hatch it was too late, but it proves anything can or will happen when the pressure is on at the top level of powerboat racing.

Breen was unable to take advantage of Cohen’s problems but he did finish runner up to Cohen in his first season of the series which gained him the well deserved AFPGP Rookie of the Year Award.

Former champion Jake Greentree (Greentree Racing) won the round ahead of a fast improving Peter Cochrane (PC Racing), Breen and Kevin Parker (Wasp Racing).

Cohen dominated the class for most of the season and claimed both the Formula 3 Australian Championship and Pole Position Trophy.

Formula 4

The Formula 4 championship was another that was decided in their final race.

As predicted, the closely matched boats provided the spectators with exciting on water action over the weekend. Bringing spectators and crews to their feet was Tracey Pugsley’s (Queen B) dominate win of race 2 against the young and upcoming stars of the sport.

In the third and championship deciding race all eyes were on Hayden Sherry (Rapt) and Briney Rigby (BRP) as they battled it out for the Formula 4 crown. Making matters more difficult for both, but more interesting for the spectators was that, Louise Vella (Miss Impatient), Pugsley and Lochie Vella (Crossy Express) where running in front and around them – all looking for a race win.

Initially Sherry got the jump on Rigby and looked as he may have the upper hand. However by taking an outside line Rigby found her way to P1 whilst Sherry got caught in traffic running the inside lane.

Rigby then moved further ahead and went on to claim the 2016 Australian Formula 4 Championship while Sherry won the Pole Position Trophy.

Formula Futures

The 2016 DBS Plant Hire- AFPGP Formula Future Series attracted nineteen very talented junior drivers from around Australia. In J1 we saw the emergence of a fine group of 8 – 10 year olds, J2 (10 -12yo) whilst down on numbers, the competition between competitors was extremely close and in J3 we saw not just quantity but quality that ran right through the field of 12-16 years olds.

To win a Formula Future Championship, junior drivers need to drive consistently as points are awarded for closest to their race time based on previous race and lap times. Junior drivers are rewarded for consistency as they learn their boats capabilities rather than racing for outright wins.

Madison Yarroll (Girl Power) coasted to an early lead in J1 due to a lack of competition until Montoya Atkinson (Team Bar) joined the competition. Since then the two have enjoyed some great battles and with late season addition of Riley Ford (The Kracken) and Brad Beasley (Lightning McQueen) the competiton jumped another notch.

Yarroll finished off the season in style with a round win at Port Macquarie to go with her J1 Championship ahead of Atkinson and Ford.

Being ultra consistent around the Hastings River course at Port all weekend took Ben Milgate (Lil Bit of Lust) to victory in the J2 class ahead of Page Cunneen (Miss Behave) and Jackson Gay (Predator).

Eight drivers fronted the start line at Port for the J3 classes.

Most eyes were on Stephanie Cooper (Major Blink) who had charged through to third place in standings despite missing round 1. However Cooper who had to change her engine and set up did not make any inroads on the series leaders over the weekend but still placed third place in the championship.

However series leader Shelbee Sonter (Giddy Up) did not break under pressure and drove fast and consistently all weekend to win the J3 Formula Futures Championship ahead of Zac Atkinson (Team Bar Jnr).

Naomi Martin (Whiplash A) had a strong weekend by taking third place in the round ahead of Victoria Beasley (I Believe), Indiana Gay (Miss Predator), Caitlan Martin (Whiplash B) and Blake Sherry (Mini Rapt).

The leading Formula Futures drivers were invited to compete in the final race of the season ‘The Andrew Page Memorial Trophy’. Their only race of the AFPGP season where line honours mean everything.

It was developing into a great side by side battle between Atkinson and Victoria Beasley until Atkinson had a big moment in the rough water at the Eastern end of the circuit.

Sonter in second place tried hard to close the gap but Beasley went on to a well deserved win while Milgate took third place.

Formula V

It was good to see the Formula V (Monohull) development class back on the water. Despite there being just three competitors they kept the crowd excited, especially Thmoas Kaal (Argo) who had trouble getting the big mono around the unsually shaped Hastings River course with a couple of big moments.

Following their races Jason Reynolds (Menace) headed the leader board ahead of Rod Burns (Speed and Leisure) and Kaal.


Presentations to the Australian Champions, Series and Special Award winners were made Sunday night in front of a capacity crowd at the Town Green Inn.

The award for Club Person/s of the year went to the AFPGP rescue crew led by Greg Adams (Rescue 1), Troy Dare (EMT/Paramedic) and Zane Ludlow (Zane’s Water Safety Services).

There is no doubt that the rescue team deserved the award as they had an enormous job with a record number of on water incidents (and some land based medical call ups) during 2016. They carried out their duties at an exceptionally high standard, responding to incidents swifty and professionally.

Drivers and teams are now waiting in anticipation for the up-coming announcements regarding the 2017 season.

Mike Cleary