With a 206-mph run in the books yesterday, American Ethanol left little question on which team would take top honors during this weekend’s GLOC Performance Boat Challenge Shootout on the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma. As planned, the team of throttleman John Cosker and driver Slug Hefner in Don Onken’s 51-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran did not run today.
Garth Tagge and Jim Melley’s top speed of 188 mph today—the fastest they’ve ever run their Skater 36 catamaran—was good enough for second today in the GLOC Performance Boat Challenge. Photos courtesy/copyright Jeff Helmkamp.
But that didn’t leave today’s event devoid of suspense, as an open-cockpit 36-foot Skater catamaran throttled by Garth Tagge and driven by Jim Melley posted a 188-mph top speed and edged out the Gone Again team of Kenny Mungle and Michael Lee Lockwood in their 32-foot canopied Skater catamaran.
It was the fastest speed—by 10 mph—Tagge and Melley have ever posted in the cat, which Tagge has owned since it was finished in late 2002.
“We’re are pleased with it,” said Tagge, who has competed alongside Melley at the Lake the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout six times and plans to return to the event this year. “We’ve been working pretty hard at it—we just put the motors in last Sunday. I think we’ve done enough testing. We had a decent day. We learned a lot here. Now we’ll go home, dial it in and adjust a few things.”
After a rocky start with a mechanical issue, Tagge and Melley laid down an impressive 184-mph run yesterday. “We had a failure in the morning,” he said. “We didn’t get it running until 3:30 and it was really hot and humid. We got a chance to run this morning and did a little better.”
Tagge’s 36-footer is powered by a pair of “less-than-1,500-hp ” engines originally built by Sterling Performance. In 2013, engine man Brad Smith reworked the 588-cubic-inch engines (“They still have Brad’s long block, pistons and rings,” said Tagge.) Earlier this year, he shipped the Whipple 5.0-liter supercharged mills—still equipped with with stock Dart heads—to engine guru Carson Brummett.
“Carson tuned them on E-85 fuel, did a valve job and made some valve train improvements,” said Tagge, who lives in Cumming, Ga., and calls Lake Lanier his home-water. “And we just got them back last Sunday.”
Next stop for the first-place American Ethanol team is the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in late August.
Mungle and Lockwood were able to up their 185-mph top speed yesterday to 186 mph today, but in the end it wasn’t enough. On their fourth run of the day at 168 mph, their port engine started emitting “blue smoke and died,” according to Mungle.
“I’m not sure what happened, but now when I hit the starter it just spins and goes ‘whir,'” said Mungle. “Right now, I’m kind of bummed. But Garth Tagge and those guys, my word, they laid down a beautiful pass. I’m proud of them.”
A promising day of speed on the water ended in disappointment for the Gone Again team (click image to enlarge).
Organizer Geoffrey Monical said the GLOC Performance Boat Challenge will return next year. “Absolutely, we’ll be back,” he said. “It’s too early to say what the changes might be, but we learned something every hour. What we realized is that this isn’t a Grand Lake event, it’s national event and that we have appeal to competitors across the country.”
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