Not always the case, today’s racing lived up to the hype as the first day of competition at the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., provided some dramatic finishes, especially in the event’s premier Superboat and Superboat Unlimited classes.
After failing to finish any of the Superboat Unlimited-class races in Key West last year, the Miss GEICO prevailed in the first day of the 2016 SBI World Championships. All photos by Speedonthewater.com chief photographer Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
Starting with the last of four races on Wednesday, the unlimited-horsepower class that included eight entries featured a very exciting duel between the defending Superboat Unlimited world champion CMS 3 MTI team and the always-competitive Miss GEICO team.
CMS, driven by team owner Bob Bull and throttled by Randy Scism, the owner and founder of MTI, got out to the early lead after the first turn and Miss GEICO driver Marc Granet and throttleman Scott Begovich stayed within a 5- to 10-second reach of CMS for nearly all of the first 8 laps.
While attempting to gain ground lap by lap, the opportunity presented itself for Miss GEICO on the third turn when Scism, who admitted he left the door open a little, and Bull went wide and Granet and Begovich came in hot, dug the 44-foot cat in deep and pushed just inside the 52-foot MTI. The force of the water and slight collision was enough to set CMS, which is powered by twin Mercury Racing 1650 engines as is Miss GEICO, back a few seconds.
That was all the Miss GEICO team needed as it overcame the wind-chopped conditions and the mental obstacle that hovered above the entire team, which failed to finish all three races in Key West last year, to bring home the checkered flag after the 9-3/4-lap half-points race.
“We needed this win to put some things behind us,” Granet said. “I’m really proud of our crew and how hard everyone worked to get this boat to be able to race 10 laps at full throttle. That’s tremendous for any boat let alone an Unlimited. Bob and Randy were running their boat hard. I wasn’t sure if we could catch them, but they went wide and we saw an opening and took it. It was the only chance we had to get around them and it worked out.
“That was about as competitive as racing gets right there,” he continued. “It was easily one of the best races we’ve been involved in. Both teams drove the hell out of their boats. We’re expecting Friday’s race to be another battle. We’ll work on the boat a little tonight and get it cleaned up and ready for Friday.”
Team CRC/Sunlight Supply’s Mike Defrees and Gary Ballough, who won the Superboat Stock class race earlier in the day in his FJ Propellers Doug Wright, finished third in the race while Maritimo and Envy wrapped up the top five. Finishing sixth, the national champion Wake Effects team broke down after completing its eighth lap. The Lucas Oil/SilverHook V-bottom (the only non-cat in the class) completed eight laps as well and the American Ethanol/Cat Can Do Skater Powerboats catamaran driven by Ed Smith and Keith Holmes—the same duo who runs the Superboat class Cleveland Construction Skater—finished seven laps before a mechanical issue led to a fire in the engine compartment.
Not to be overshadowed by the faster boats, the Superboat class featured its own nail-biting lead change on the final lap of the 9 3/4-lap race. The WHM Motorsports team of Billy Mauff and Jay Muller, which was sporting a large TRUMP sign on its 40-foot Skater, led for basically nine laps before Myrick Coil and John Tomlinson passed them in the newly annointed US-1 Performance Boat Center/Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast Skater.
WHM Motorsports and Performance Boat Center ran a closely contested race to kick off the first day of Superboat class competition. Be sure to visit the speedonthewater.com Facebook page to check out the many live videos we’ll be providing from Key West, including an interview with Performance Boat Center driver Myrick Coil.
“Today’s race was some of the best and most-fun racing I’ve ever seen,” Coil said, adding that he and Tomlinson were running “110-percent” the whole race to try to catch WHM. “Billy was running me all over the place—there was nothing we could do to get around him. His boat out-accelerated us today so I didn’t think we were going to get them. I didn’t know even it was the last lap, but when we came into the harbor they’d been blocking the inside line because they know we can turn hard, so we caught them off guard and stayed outside and then dove back inside.
“It wasn’t like we planned it or anything, it just happened,” he continued. “From there, we were running pretty much side by side out to turn 1 until they hit a couple of fliers—Johnny runs more negative trim which keeps us hooked up better—and we got ahead so I could run my line to the pin. That was all we needed. I couldn’t believe it because I honestly didn’t think we’d catch them. We had a blast out there, but we realize it was just the first day and there’s still a long way to go.”
Eight of the nine boats entered in the Superboat class finished the race with only the H.P. Mafia Skater exiting early with a mechanical issue. Following the Pro Floors team in the standings were STIHL, Cleveland Construction, Teague Custom Marine, Gone Again and Sailor Jerry/Autonation.
Billy Glueck and Brett Lee Furshman won the Superboat Extreme class in the Cooper Standard Fountain.
In the second race of the day, the Superboat Extreme class saw some attrition wipe out half of the four-boat field. In the end it didn’t matter because the Cooper Standard Fountain Powerboats V-bottom team of Billy Glueck and Brett Lee Furshman led from wire to wire. Running the Freedom Fountain, owner/driver Joe Ferrer and throttleman Jason Ventura outlasted Peter Meyer and Johnny Stanch in the AMH Construction/Instigator Fountain and the all-new 43-foot Outerlimits with owner/driver Joe Sgro and throttleman Steve Curtis, both of which exited with mechanical issues on the second-to-the-last lap.
During the online broadcast, racing legend Reggie Fountain, commented that Glueck and Furshmann couldn’t drive the Fountain any better than they were early on in the race.
“We felt like the boat was running well, but if Reggie said that then I guess that’s saying something,” Glueck replied when told of Fountain’s comment. “The water was decent, a little bump on the outside, but we felt pretty good out there. We had a pretty good day, but it’s only one day and there’s a lot of racing left.”
The Marker 17 Marine team of Brian Forehand and Michael Janssen won the Superboat Vee class without any issues.
Also on the course at the same time, the Superboat Vee class saw some tight racing throughout the entire eight-boat field. When it was all said and done the Marker 17 Marine Outerlimits, which was throttled by owner Brian Forehand and driven by the 29-footer’s former owner Dr. Michael Janssen, outpaced the Sunprint team of Steve Miklos and Steve Fehrmann by 14 seconds to win the race. The father-and-son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl finished in third.
In the day’s first race, the Superboat Stock class field saw the FJ Propellers Doug Wright throttled by Ballough and driven by Daren Kittredge run away with the victory. Specialty Marine Center finished 15 seconds behind while the third-place team—5 Brothers Grocery—was roughly two minutes off the pace.
“We didn’t know what to expect today so once we got on it in the beginning we ran into typical Key West conditions, which I always describe as being a little rougher than you think,” Ballough said. “We had too big of a prop selection, but we were able to make it work and stay out in front. We know we can lose this race on the first day so we wanted to make sure we were able to finish.”
The FJ Propellers Doug Wright throttled by Gary Ballough and driven by Daren Kittredge took the Superboat Stock-class win.
In the Manufacturer Production P3 class, the often-favored 2nd Amendment USA team of Neil Wobbe and Karl Steger in their Missouri-based Spectre Powerboats catamaran finished nearly 10 seconds ahead of the second-place Strictly Business Fountain and almost 90 seconds ahead of The Developer Fountain.
The same race’s Manufacturer Production P4 victory was awarded to the four-time world champion Crazy Chicken team of Dee Early and Tony Silveria, who beat the only other team in its class—Team Allen Lawn Care—by 35 seconds.
For complete results from Wednesday’s races, check out superboat.com. And if you can’t make it to Key West to watch the races in person, you can check out Friday’s half-points race and Sunday’s full-points finale via SBI’s Livestream coverage.