If there is a truly American, rags to riches story in offshore powerboat racing, it is that of the Miss GEICO team, which exited the sport yesterday. That some 14 years ago two relatively unknown powerboat racers—Maryland’s Marc Granet and Scott Begovich of New Jersey—could go from obscurity to running one of the fastest turbine-engine catamarans to ever turn a lap is one of those dreams that could only come true right here.
For driver Marc Granet, the highs of back-to-back world championships were matched by the fan-base the team built during its 14-year run. Photo from the 2015 SBI Key West World Championships by Andy Newman copyright speedonthewater.com.
Their story proves that the United States truly is still a land of opportunity. Hell, there’s even a couple of remarkable immigrants—throttleman Steve Curtis and team manager Gary Stray, both from the United Kingdom—in the mix.
“I really think my favorite part of all this was working again with Gary Stray,” said Curtis, who currently is visiting his family at home in the England. “It had been a long time since we had worked on the same team. Getting the boat dialed in with that much power was a lot of fun and, for sure, it was the fastest racing I have ever been involved with.
“It is a great team with great people,” he added. “Although GEICO has left the building, I’m sure a lot of the people that were involved in the team will continue to be involved in our great sport.”
A couple of true Brits and longtime friends, Stray (left) and Curtis brought vast knowledge and talent to the Miss GEICO team. Photo by Cole McGowan copyright speedonthewater.com.
From mostly running circles around itself for years as a turbine-powered 50-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran, which burned to the waterline in 2012 during a practice session in Sarasota, Fla., to claiming back-to-back Super Boat International Unlimited-class World Championships in 2015 and 2016, Miss GEICO became the most recognizable offshore racing team—and raceboat—in the world.
“The back-to-back world championships in Key West (Fla.) were huge, for sure,” said Granet, who shared the cockpit with Begovich for both Unlimited-class world titles. “But I think the biggest high—outside of the intense competition and racing at speeds never before seen in offshore—was the impact we made on the sport and with the fans. There certainly are very special moments on the racecourse, but seeing an entire beach stand up and cheer for your team always brought a smile and made it all seem worth it.”
All of which makes yesterday’s abrupt, two-sentence announcement that the team is done that much more shocking. Everyone paying a lick of attention to the sport knew Miss GEICO’s sponsorship deal with the insurance giant was done at the end of this abysmal Class 1 season and not coming back. That no one inside the team is talking all but assures the early departure was a sponsor-driven decision—and a poor one.
And still, there is no shortage of gratitude on the part of those involved. Among the most recent additions to the team was veteran offshore racer Brit Lilly, who shared driving duties with motorsports giant Travis Pastrana, his childhood friend.
“This been the opportunity of a lifetime and the entire crew has taken me in like family,” he said. “I felt like and I had been meshing really well and I was really looking forward to some real competition and amazing racing.
“But I’m so thankful for this opportunity and all of the knowledge that I have gained from this experience,” he added. “That entire team has a very special in my heart and in my family’s heart.”
For Brit Lilly, driving the Miss GEICO raceboat this season and last has been one of the high points of his career. Photo by Cole McGowan copyright speedonthewater.com.