After winning four of five races in 2016 to claim his 16th National Championship in the Superboat Stock class in Super Boat International competition, Gary Ballough, throttleman and owner of the 32-foot Doug Wright FJ Propeller catamaran was somewhat subdued.
“The disenchanting part for me this year was that the guys who voted for the 300 didn’t race,” he explained. “Because I race for a living, I had to go with it.”
Though he championed the 200XS outboard for Stock class, Gary Ballough has embraced the 300XS. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thril Pix.
Ballough and sponsor/driver Jimmie Harrison raced the 2015 season with Mercury Racing 200XS motors on the back of FJ Propeller to prove the worth of the motors for the Superboat Stock class. SBI had announced that an engine change would be coming in 2017 because the motors the class has been using the past few seasons, the Mercury 280-hp outboard, would be phased out.
Ballough thought that he had convinced his fellow competitors to switch to the 200XS after 2015. When the class voted on new motors for 2017, they decided they wanted more power and voted for the 300XS to be the motor of the future.
For 2016 Ballough and Harrison made the switch to the 300-hp motors.
“Jimmy said, ‘Now let’s go with the 300s, do what you have to do with them and we’ll go out and smoke them,’” said Ballough.
Overall, Ballough is singing the praises of the 300XS, saying, “All year I had nothing to do with my motors other than make sure there was oil in them,” he said. “They will be worth the investment for the Stock class.”
There is, however, more to the story because the motor was far from the drop-on replacement that most of the Stock class racers who voted for it thought it would be.
“The only parts that I used were the powerhead, the exhaust plate and the lower unit,” said Ballough.
Ballough had run a pair of 300XS motors on a Skater 32 open-cockpit sport catamaran, putting 211 hours on the engines and estimating that 100 of those were at wide open so he had a pretty good idea of what would need to be upgraded for the rigors of offshore racing. “We learned what had to be addressed,” he said.
He used different cowlings and pans because the stock versions won’t stay on. The midsection has to be replaced. The vertical shaft for the lower unit has to be shortened 5-inch, the shift shaft has to be modified and the seals in the lower unit have to upgraded with an aftermarket kit that doubles the number.
Ballough and noted Formula One tunnel boat racer Shaun Torrente came up with an upgrade for the stock 300XS midsection. It’s a billet aluminum cap that replaces the stock cover for the lower motor mounts. It has four bolts instead of the stock two.
SBI technical inspector Todd DeFilipps is known as a guru of the 300XS and he developed the double O-ring kit for the lower unit seals and a midsection kid.
Ballough uses the 280-hp motor’s clamp bracket with DeFilipps midsection. Ballough said he has asked Mercury Racing to develop its own 15-inch midsection upgrade kit. The engine manufacturer did consider it, he said, but no one knows for sure if the kit will become available.
When I suggested to Ballough that it might not be worthwhile for Mercury Racing to develop the kit to sell to eight Stock class racing teams in offshore racing, he explained that the potential market would be much larger.
“The 10,000 bass boats who aren’t going to put a Verado on their boat and the 10,000 smaller boats like STVs that run a 300XS would love them,” he said. “All day long, they would want the 15-inch mid.”
Fellow stock class racer Scott Porta has developed an adaptor plate for the 300XS to work with the 280 midsection, but Ballough feels that it’s easier to use DeFilipps’ midsection than Porta’s adapter plate. And after the work he’s put in, it would be tough to question Ballough.