When the 65 offshore powerboat racing teams and fans in Marathon, Fla., awoke this morning they were greeted by an ominous message: “Tornado watch for the Southern Keys.”
The inaugural 7 Mile Offshore Grand Prix proved that no matter how much we prepare, Mother Nature is still in charge. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
That set the tone for a day of racing that was going to challenge the officials from Race World Offshore and the American Power Boat Association in ways they had never imagined. After two boats in the 450R Factory Stock class flipped or blew over in barely two laps of competition on Sunday afternoon, officials put an end to the carnage by canceling competition for the rest of the day. The decision was made by RWO and APBA officials with input from the United States Coast Guard.
“It was a matter of safety and the decision of the Coast Guard,” said RWO president Larry Bleil.
“And common sense,” added APBA Offshore chairman Rich Luhrs.
The first race of the 2023 APBA offshore national series, the 7 Mile Offshore Grand Prix was backed by Performance Boat Center and M CON offshore racing. Sixty-five teams showed up in Marathon, Fla., and there was a buzz of positivity about the upcoming season in the air. There were nine boats registered for the Super Cat class. Mod V and Super Stock both had double-digit entries and the 450R Factory Stock fleet felt like it was growing by the week.
Saturday’s pole-position qualifying round was all fans would see of the Super Cat class this weekend.
While the bracket classes and the Super Cats had chamber-of-commerce conditions for racing and pole-position qualifying on Saturday, Mother Nature had other plans for Sunday. Winds gusting well over 25 mph and rain whipped across the course all morning and by the time the two boats had incidents in 450R Factory Stock, the race officials and the Coast Guard had seen enough and called off competition for the weekend.
No Sunday Picnic
The 450R Factory Stock race started with six catamarans powered by Mercury Racing 450R outboards. Three of the boats were Marine Technology Inc. 39-foot catamarans and three were 38-foot Doug Wright cats. The lanes were determined by a blind draw and the 38-foot Doug Wright catamaran, Doug Wright Powerboats, with throttleman Ricky Maldonado and driver 18-year-old Logan Adan, was on the outside in lane six. To the team’s left on the inside were John Tomlinson and Taylor Scism in the 39-foot MTI, Marine Technology, Lee Murray and Edwin Scheer in the 38-foot Doug Wright, Hank’s Saloon, and the 39-foot MTI, GC Racing, with driver Willie Cabeza and throttleman Gary Ballough. Also on the inside, were throttleman Nick Imprescia and driver Ian Morgan, who are new to the class, in the 39-foot MTI, 151 Express.
When the boats headed toward turn one, it appeared on video footage that Doug Wright Powerboats started to move to the inside from lane six. Marine Technology and Hank’s Saloon both turned right through Doug Wright Powerboats’ roostertail to avoid a collision.
Marker 17 Marine led for much of the Mod V race until the team’s 29-foot Outerlimits donated a Bravo XR drive to the sea floor.
In the he-said, he-said that was sure to follow, Maldonado said, “I left everyone plenty of room.”
Murray, an offshore racing veteran returning to the sport after a lengthy absence, didn’t mince words. “They didn’t maintain their lane,” he said of Doug Wright Powerboats.
Apparently the ABPA agreed with Murray because the results released after the race showed that Doug Wright Powerboats was disqualified. That gave the win to Tomlinson and Scism in Marine Technology followed by 151 Express and Hank’s Saloon. GC Racing rolled after trying to cut under Hank’s Saloon in a turn and Ballough said it was simply a racing incident.
When the red flag flew, Murray and Scheer caught a gust of wind and stood their boat straight up before coming down on the transom and flopping backwards, landing upside down. Both escaped the incident unharmed and, despite the carnage, said they were pleased with how the boat ran and that they just needed some more props to work with from Mercury Racing.
Enjoy more images from the inaugural 7 Mile Offshore Grand Prix.
A few hours earlier, Sunday started with the nine teams in Mod V and the seven teams in Bracket 500 taking to the 5.6-mile counter-clockwise course. The Mod-V boats were supposed to run eight laps with the bracket boats running five.
After multiple delays for weather, when the green flag finally flew, the Mod V boats charged toward turn one with Brian Forehand and Vinnie Diorio in the 29-foot Outerlimits, Marker 17 Marine, leading followed by owner/throttleman Stephen Kildahl and driver Steve Kildahl (his son) in the 29-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com. They were chased by the 30-foot Phantom, Fastboys, the 30-foot Extreme, Sun Print, and the 29-foot Extreme, LSB Rev-X Oil.
Racing was tight in the Mod V class contest.
Marker 17 Marine came past the finish line in the lead followed by Boatfloater.com, Fastboys, Sun Print and LSB Rev-X Oil. In the Bracket 500 race, the 30-foot Phantom, TFR/XINSURANCE, with throttleman Micheal Stancombe and owner/driver J.J. Turk, led the way followed by throttleman Craig Belfato and drive Elijah Kingery, in the 29-foot Warlock, Bulletproof, and another 29-foot Warlock, Hammerheads/SRQ.
The first red flag for the first race on Sunday flew when Marker 17 Marine’s drive came off the boat and launched skyward. The boat slid backward to a stop causing every team behind it to take evasive action. Soon after, the 29-foot Zero Tolerance, TM Farnsworth Motorsports/Hancock Claims running in Bracket 500 had an incident between turns one and two that spit out driver Ervin Grant and throttleman Rob O’Connell, but they were OK after the race.
Sun Print flew to victory in the rough and rowdy Mod V contest.
This left Sun Print leading the Mod V race to the checkered flag followed by Boatfloater.com and LSB in third. The Mod V race wasn’t without more incidents. When a red flag was thrown during a squall, the 30-foot Phantom, Laticrete, slowed so quickly that it caught the Shocker team off guard. In a text to speedonthewater.com, Shocker owner/driver Chris Colson said that he didn’t expect Laticrete to chop the throttles and that he had to make an evasive maneuver to avoid hitting other boats. That caused Shocker to roll. Colson and throttleman Ray Evans were OK.
Because of multiple delays caused by weather, the Bracket 500 teams were sent back to the pits. First went to TFR/Xinsurance followed by Bulletproof and Hammerheads/SRQ.
Saturday In The Park
In a stark contrast to Sunday, Saturday brought beautiful weather that let to most of the Bracket-class boats running in relatively calm conditions.
Throttleman Chad Woody and driver Billy Shipley led flag to flag in the 35-foot Fountain, Team Woody. For the record, they were running in Bracket 300. In the Bracket 200 class, the 41-foot Apache, Predator, continued its winning ways with its new 1,100-hp Express engines, taking top honors over the 39-foot Velocity, GNS Motorsports, the 38-foot Phantom, OC Racing, and the 42-foot V-bottom, Cigarette Justice League.
Team Woody took top honors in the Bracket 300 class on Saturday and team owner Billy Shipley joined Todd Swofford and speedonthewater.com offshore racing correspondent Eric Colby for much of the Race World Offshore livestream broadcast on Sunday.
In Bracket 400, the 34-foot Phantom, MSR Racing, took the win followed by its sistership, Simmons Racing, and a canopied Phantom, Rollin’ Dirty.
In Bracket 600, the 26-foot Corsa, Gerard Marine, took top honors followed by the 24-foot Reindl bat boat, Reindl/Ultimate Boat Racing, and the 26-foot Joker, Freebird, with newcomers Ryan Stahlman and Reef Dellanos.
In Bracket 700, the 21-foot Superboat, Jackhammer, didn’t break out and won the race followed by the new entry TFR/XINSURANCE and the 22-foot Velocity, Dees Nuts.
Of the two classes that didn’t race on Sunday, the purse for Super Stock was distributed evenly among the 11 boats that registered for the class and each team earned 45 points. The nine boats in Super Cat earned half the points they would have earned for winning the race based on their finish in the pole-position qualifying time trials.
The Predator Apache continued its winning ways in the Bracket 200 class.
The second race of the 2023 APBA Offshore Series and the first of five races in the Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 World Championship Series, Thunder On Cocoa Beach (Fla.) produced by Powerboat P1, is set for May 18-21.
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