Australian POWERBOAT March 1980
Bud Fails - Villain takes Hydro Title - Bob carter
Greg Fleming ...a champion driver
and lucky A. E. Baker championship winner

The 1979-80 Yarrawonga Carnival will be remembered as the meeting where, for the first time in the history of Australian speedboat racing, three thunderboats got together and mixed it on the one race circuit.

And for the first time in her illustrious career in Australia the famed Bud/Saniga combination was defeated - by the auto-engined KT from Adelaide, Villian.

For almost three seasons Greg Fleming has unsuccessfully piloted his 350 Chev powered KT in hot pursuit of Bob Saniga and the thundering Bud. At Yarrawonga Fleming not only had to content with the Bud, but also Hydromania (ex-Solo) and VS-41, the latest thunderboat from the stable of Stan Jones and Richard Carnie.

If Villian had no hope against one thunderboat then her chances against three surely would be insurmountable.

In the A.E.Baker unlimited hydro event on New Years day, Yarrawonga came to a stop when Miss Bud, Hydromania and VS-41 headed out to contest the first heat of the coveted trophy.

Villian and Peter Smith in Shamrock made up the remainder of the field and looked like mere dwarfs up against the three thunderboats. When the flag dropped Stan Jones and Bob Saniga jumped away from the field with their engines thundering as they belted into the first turn.

Jones put VS-41 in very hard on the inside and came out of the turn wide with Saniga making an ever wider arc right on Jones' hammer.

Hydromania had loaded up the engine with a heap of fuel and completely missed the start as the Merlin refused to clear itself, while Villian headed Shamrock around the circuit. Running up the back straight for the first time VS-41 and Miss Bud were locked in a fair dinkum dice, with the Bud swinging around the top turn in a very wide arc to take the lead.

Stan Jones kept his foot in it and gave chase. The huge crowd lining the Yarrawonga foreshore was treated to a magnificent spectacle of the two thunderboats racing in hot pursuit of the championship.

However, the race moved into a quiet period when, on the second lap, VS-41 pulled out. Insufficient water through the engine caused a head on the Merlin to cook and forced Jones to pull out. In her very first race the under-propped and hastily completed VS 41 had made an impressive impact.

With VS-41 dead in the water, Shamrock soon joined her when the blown 454 Chev locked up, spewing oil everywhere. With one blown engine on Boxing Day and another on New Year's Day, the Yarrawonga meeting held no joy for the Shamrock team. This left only Villian and Miss Bud circulating in an event that was far from over.

Despite her main challengers being eliminated through mechanical failures, Bob Saniga kept going very hard and on the fourth lap paid the penalty for not easing off. Rounding the pit turn the supercharger blew apart, demolishing the casing.

The Bud slowed to around 40mph and still had two laps to complete. Greg Fleming saw the floundering Bud andset off to take the lead and ultimately the first heat of the A. E. Baker, much to the jubilation of the 10,000 strong crowd who cheered wildly at Villian's victory and Miss Bud's defeat.

Despite having a spare engine on hand the swap could not be made in time for the second heat, and Villian had to complete six laps to take the trophy back to Adelaide.

Although the magnificent three-way thunderboat challenge never really got into full swing all of the crews deserve praise for getting their craft to the starting line.

VS-41 hit the water for the first time only three days before racing, and on the morning of New Year's Day an oil pump gasket blew requiring a really quick repair job to get the thunderboat mobile.

Similarly, the Hydro mania team deserves a medal, not only for their preparation of what was essentially a derelict hull, but for their efforts in having to learn all about thunderboat racing virtually overnight.

If nothing else the lesson to be learnt from the Yarrawonga meeting as far as the thunderboats is concerned is that the season is going to be very tough and demanding upon gear and engines. Miss Bud did well at Yarrawonga simply because the team was well prepared with back-up gear and a spare engine.

Merlin engines are going to blow right throughout the season, and spares back in the workshop are going to be no use when racing in the bush. In thunderboating carrying a spare engine might be expensive, but it will ultimately prove to be essential.

The second main feature event on New Year's Day, the Yarrawonga 1000, proved to be another Bud benefit with some very serious challenges being issued.

The most determined challenger was Fred Williams' Rayson Craft Rage, with Bill Newton doing the driving chores. An all-alloy Rodeck engine was built specifically to have a lash at the big fella.

The blown and injected engine was fitted with nitrous oxide and it was estimated by Fred that the engine would develop between 1700 and 1800 brake horsepower. It was also rumored by those who should know that the engine would have set Fred back a cool $18,000.

Drawing the pole Rage had a magnificent run to the first buoy, beating the Bud convincingly in that dice. Running up the back straight Bill Newton was able to beat the Bud into the Mulwala turn by virtue of running in a straight line while Bob Saniga made a wide arc past the dead trees. Coming past the tower for the first time, there was nothing in it as both boats were locked together.

Not too long after, though, Saniga pulled away to assert his authority and Rage pulled out of the race after a valve let go. Neil Northfield's Ospray was the great Victorian displacement hope, but a blown supercharger gasket sidelined driver Bluey Stewart.

Greg Fleming came across the line to take second place after never really being in the hunt, and Warren Jacame home third in his Superstock Energy.

Placings for the second heat were exactly the same, only this time Saniga allowed Villian to get close for a lap or two before giving the Merlin something to roar about, and moving away.

The Les Spears Memorial Trophy for unlimited auto engined boats saw Pete Smith sink his large frame into lan McMaster's new blown runabout Talisman. Right from the drop of the flag Peter Smith never looked beater, despite Ron Pate in the injected runabout Insane pressing very hard.

Alan Beale led the remainder of the field in his champion Superstocker Psycho, in what was a very entertaining event fought out by professional drivers in highly tuned runabouts all powered by growling Chev engines. Peter Smith's win was the second successive time that he has won this trophy.

The only accident for the day occurred in the 4.2 litre Stock Hydro event. In his usual fashion Alan Coombs had cleared out from the rest of the field, when in the middle of the pack Bob Fisher's Turbo was run over in the pit turn by Glen Luxford's Rolco Scamp, pitching Fisher into the water.

In other supporting events Alan Beale dominated the sadly depleted Superstock fields, Lee Kavanagh sewed up the five litre events and Graham Rogers and Keith Harrison each had a win in the 3750 scratch races.

While New Year's Day belonged to the big boats, Boxing Day was notable for the extremely high numbers of engine blow-ups, not to mention a very nasty accident.

Before the meeting even got going Ray Bride blew his Superstock engine Bandit wide open, while in practice Chris McWade blew Arsin's engine apart, snapping the crank and the cam.

To add further to the plight of the Superstockers, SS-1 failed to materialise with Ben Prajbisz held up in Queensland through business commitments. Des La wson was a forced retirement in the Superstock scratch race when the blast off the prop wore a hole through the bottom of his SS-88 hull.

Among the unlimiteds Alan Drummond had Lucifer going nicely in a few warm-up laps when the Casale gearbox let go. Somehow a new unit was located between Boxing Day and New Years' Day and they got Lucifer going again.

Even down among the Formula Ford ranks Bob Found had his share of problems when the normally very reliable engine let go internally.

Alan Healy got away to a nice start in the 3750cc scratch event and was looking forward to having a good dice with Graham Rogers' new Jones hydro, The Wasp.

Stan Jones ...driver of the new Thunderboat VS41.  When it went it was really fast, and more preparation will see it as a real challenge to Miss Bud.

Unfortunately the 202 Holden in About Time spat its number one Bathurst con rod and piston through the side of the block, ending Alan's run in a cloud of steam and smoke.

Right from the beginning the five litre event seemed doomed, as accidents forced the race to be run three times before a winner was declared. In the original race Les Roberts had Misty Fizz all stoked up and firing as he led the field around the course without anyone getting close.

Back toward the tail of the field Ray Bride was having a close dice with Greg Clarke all thee way from Tamworth with his hydro Krazy. Going into the pit turn Bandit jumped up on to its gunwale and walked across the water, smashing into Krazy's sponson.

Manta Ray and Z28.

Impact! Manta Ray (Graham Williamson), on the right, hooked in the first turn, ran back through the rest of the field and dodged several boats before collecting Dave Prewett's Z28 in one of the nastiest racing accidents in a long time. Fortunately neither driver was hurt. This shot was taken moments after Manta Ray had stuck a sponson through the side of Z28.
Greg Clarke was thrown into the water as. Krazy rolled over. Bandit's hull was badly cracked while Krazy came out of the prang much worse with one sponson completely written off.

The second running of the five litre event lasted only as far as the first turn when a particularly nasty prang occurred. When tree flag dropped on the Capri Waters straight Graham Williamson barrelled out of the hole and led the field into the bridge turn with Misty Fizz close by on his inside.

Graham's K T Manta Ray was screaming into the turn too hard, hooked viciously in a 180-degree turn and then charged back into the oncoming field. At full bore Manta Ray dodged a couple of boats but then collided with Dave Prewett's runabout Z28 in a frightening smash shrouded in spray, splintering timber and fibreglass.

Miraculously neither Prewett or Williamson sustained any serious injuries. Williamson was unconscious when taken to the hospital, but returned to the course before the meeting was over.

The boats fared much worse. When Z28 was dragged from the water, the rear quarter of the hull was missing, and remarkably the front of Manta Ray's picklefork was wedged in its engine. Manta Ray lost the bottom half of her right sponson and quite possibly the hull could be repaired.

After things had quietened down VSBC scrutineers examined Manta Ray and found that the steering had failed, but whether this had caused the accident or occurred during the prang will never be known. Either way Williamson can count himself exceptionally lucky to have got out of a head-on collision with only a few scratches.

At the third attempt at running the five litre event Les Roberts was once again leading the now greatly reduced field, butt blew up leaving the lead open for Lee Kavanagh to go on and take the chequered flag in Kav from Archie Robertson's Shadrach.

Warren James had a good win in the Milton Smith unlimited displacement race defeating Ospray and Psycho. Graham Stewart admittedly had problems during the race and had to pull out. The supercharged Chev had a bad plug which caused the engine to backfire a heap of methanol over the engine, burning out the fuel line. Still, Warren James put up a good drive to win this event.

Bob Saniga and Greg Fleming had a good battle in the Repco Hi-Power event, with the Bud once again taking the honors. Hydromania was a nonstarter due to battery problems, while Peter Smith threw a rod through the sump in Shamrock.

Mark Hull, driving his hydro Ka-Pow, came all the way from Perth to compete at Yarrawonga, but won nothing more than a good dunking in the unlimited auto event. After making a good start and showing a good burst of speed into the first turn, the buoys proved to be Ka-Pow's undoing as the hydro cornered like an old-time runabout.

On the pit turn Ka-Pow flew into the turn and barrel rolled, giving Mark a ride back to the pits in the rescue boat.

As usual Yarrawonga had plenty for the crowd to get excited about, with fast racing and a couple of heart-stoppin' spills. The interstate visitors certainly went home impressed by what has developed into Australia's premier inboard circuit race meeting.


Peter Smith pedals Talisman. The boat was fast, but handling could be improved.


Carter, B. 1980, 'Bud Fails,' Australian Powerboat, March, 1980, p. 4, 5, 6.

Article donation by Glenn Cox