At the start of the Super Cat race at the St. Pete Powerboat Grand Prix offshore powerboat race in St. Petersburg, Fla., owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil of the M CON/Monster Energy team were in lane No. 1 on the six-mile course in Tampa Bay. They were running in second place behind owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller in the 40-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports.
Tyler Miller and his M CON/Monster Energy crew dominated the Super Cat class at the St. Pete Powerboat Grand Prix because they put in the time preparing to do so. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
By the end of the first lap, Miller and Coil moved to the lead and with clear water in front of them, it wasn’t long before they began to stretch out their advantage.
“Once we got out in front, we could run the line we wanted,” Miller said. “If you get just a little bit behind on a course like St. Petersburg, there’s really only one place to pass.”
What the many fans on the St. Petersburg Pier, on the beach and in the spectator fleet on Tampa Bay were witnessing was the relentless result of hours of time spent testing.
“We spend massive amounts of time,” said Miller, who is fortunate enough to have a home on Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks where he can test with Coil, who works at Performance Boat Center in Osage Beach, Mo. “I’ll go down to the lake and we’ll go out early mornings and try different weights, we have 40 sets of propellers. “We want to be at the top and if you don’t put in the effort, you’re not giving yourself the chance to continue to be champion.”
For the 67 teams that raced at the P1 Offshore-produced St. Pete Powerboat Grand Prix presented by Monster Energy over Labor Day weekend, effort came in many forms. Just a few days earlier, Hurricane Idalia had threatened to shut down the event, the storm made landfall a few hours farther north in the Big Bend region of Florida. St. Pete had to deal with a few feet of storm surge, but once that subsided, the city gave the officials at P1 Offshore the thumbs up to go ahead with the race.
Miller and Coil also took advantage of having been on the course in the Class 1 race right before the Super Cats took to Tampa Bay.
“We had the setup we tested with on the (Super Cat) boat and at about lap nine of 11 (in the Class 1 race), we called back to the guys and said leave it alone,” Miller said. “I think the knowledge of being out with the Class 1 boat played a 50 percent role of it. The other 50 percent was the work that our guys put in and the effort that Sterling Performance does to keep these engines alive and give us the power we need in the right ranges.”
Once M CON/Monster Energy had the lead, the other boats in Super Cat were fighting for second place. Owner/driver Wayne Valder and throttleman Grant Bruggemann were running in third place in their 40-foot MTI, Valder Yachts/Pro Floors Racing.
Though they jumped to an early start, the WHM Motorsports team of Billy Mauff and Jay Muller fell prey to yet another mechanical issue in their soon-to-be-replaced 40-foot Skater.
Eventually WHM pulled into the middle of the course with a problem in one the boat’s Mercury Racing Dry Sump Six drives that made it feel like it went into neutral, according to Muller. That moved Valder Yachts/Pro Floors Racing into second.
“Billy and Jay were running a good race—they had just enough speed that they were a roadblock,” Bruggemann said.
The veteran throttleman and owner of Grant’s Signature Racing in Bradenton, Fla., was frustrated because he knew he had his boat set up to run with M CON in calm water. Yet because of the advantage his competitors got at the start, Valder Yachts/Pro Floors Racing couldn’t make up ground.
“We got second place and I knew we had a boat today that could outrun M CON,” Bruggemann said. “That’s why I’m annoyed that we couldn’t get close to them.”
While the top two boats had things well in hand, the battle for third got interesting. For much of the race, owner/throttleman Vinnie Diorio and driver Matt Jamniczky in the 39-foot Outerlimits, SV Offshore Racing/Rollin’ Transport, ran solo in fourth and the moved up to third when WHM Motorsports pulled off.
“If we didn’t have bad luck, we’d have no luck,” said Muller, who added that Mauff is having a new 40-foot Skater catamaran built for the class.
Then the 38-foot Skater, Liquor Split, with throttleman Jim McIntyre and driver Johnny O’Loughlin started to make a charge and caught Rollin’ Transport. As the two battled for position on the north end of the course, both drivers missed a buoy. Officials have told competitors at driver’s meetings this year not to try to slow down and go backward on the course to “pick up” a missed buoy, but O’Loughlin did just that, turning left in front of the oncoming SV Offshore Racing/Rollin’ Transport.
Today’s Super Cat action was among the best of the 2023 season.
SV Offshore Racing/Rollin’ Transport kept going to complete the required 11 laps knowing the team would be assessed a one-lap penalty for missing the buoy. Diorio had already lapped the 38-foot Skater, Graydel, with owner/driver Chris Grant and throttleman Billy Moore, which was having its own engine problems. During practice on Saturday, the team hurt its port HRE Racing engine. The team replaced it Saturday evening, but the starboard motor wouldn’t run up to its full 7000 rpm on Sunday, which slowed the boat.
As the old saying goes, “To finish first in offshore racing, you first need to finish,” so Moore and Grant opted to keep running on the course to collect as many points as possible.
Next, Liquor Split pulled off the course when a hose came loose on one of its Mercury Racing 860 fuel-injected engines. This left it to the officials to decide if Graydel or Rollin’ Transport would grab the final podium spot. It went to Rollin’ Transport.
“They told us either way we’re third because Liquor Split turned left in front of us,” Diorio said. “I’m stoked. Finishing behind M CON and Pro Floors, I’ll take that all day long.”
In the Class 1 race, a different kind of dedication has been a key contributor to the success of the 222 Offshore Australia team. Nicholson and his crew keep the boat and support equipment at a facility in Indiantown, Fla., and fly in from their various locations around the globe a week before a race. They then prep the 47-foot Victory catamaran and Mercury Racing 1,100-hp engines and head to a given race site. Nicholson estimates it takes him about 30 hours from airport to airport. “I won’t miss getting on a plane for a while, that’s for sure,” Nicholson said after winning yet another Class 1 race in dominant fashion.
As they were so often this season, Darren Nicholson and Giovanni Carpitella were simply untouchable in 222 Offshore Australia.
Nicholson, who drives the boat, crew chief Peter “Muddy” McGrath and throttleman Giovanni Carpitella, all make the call on setup and while Nicholson acknowledged previously that pole position is a big deal, on the six-mile course in Tampa Bay, having the second lane may have worked in the team’s favor. With the layout of the track, having the second lane let him and Carpitella stay at wide open and pull out to an early lead they would never relinquish for the required 11 laps.
“We had a good start,” Nicholson said. “The start is really critical and we got a good start and gave the required room and got out to an early lead.”
With mostly strong performances across the board, the Class 1 World Championship Series ended on a high note today.
While his competition has had different or recent cockpit pairings teaming up for the first time, Nicholson and Carpitella have teamed up on and off since 2013 and have been together for three years in Class 1. “We know what’s going to happen in the corners and if there’s anything different, I’ll point which way I want to go,” Nicholson said.
For throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Travis Pastrana, St. Petersburg might have been the hardest-earned second-place finish in their combined career.
“We were right there with them,” Curtis said. “It wasn’t like they walked away from us.”
The subject of a new Speed On The Water/Scrapyard Media documentary, Curtis gave credit where it was due to the 222 Offshore Australia team, which had secured the Class 1 world championship at the previous race in Sheboygan, Wis.
Sharing the Huski Ice Spritz cockpit for the first time this season, Steve Curtis and Travis Pastrana had a strong showing this weekend.
“It’s been close racing and that’s the idea of the class,” Curtis said. “I think df Young is going to win a few races. Monster is going to be really fast.”
Pastrana worked hard to try to make up any ground on the leaders.
“They ran a great line all the way and we could make up a couple tenths here and there,” Pastrana said. “We had the right setup and the right boat, and we were working well, but every time we went through their wash we lost time.”
Third in Class 1 went to Miller and Coil in their 43-foot Skater, Monster Energy/M CON. They started from lane three and ran a strong race to claim the final podium spot, finishing just ahead of owner/throttleman Rich Wyatt and driver Hugh Fuller in the 50-foot Mystic, df Young.
“Myrick and I were on the podium and I said, ‘Can you believe where we are after the way we started the season?’” Miller said.
Three podium finishes in their last three races of the Class 1 World Championship Series—that’s how the Monster Energy/M CON team of Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil finished their rookie Class 1 season.
Fifth in Class 1 went to owner/driver Mike Falco and throttleman Billy Moore in the 48-foot Outerlimits, DeFalco Racing, which finished its first race in recent memory. After having problems with a water intake hose coming loose during testing on Friday and the boat’s bilge filling with water, the 50-foot Victory, Pothole Heroes, with owner/driver Carlos de Quesada and throttleman John Tomlinson, only completed a couple of laps before pulling into the inside of the course with mechanical issues.
No Looking Back
Tomlinson and driver Taylor Scism would have no such issues in the 450R Factory Stock class in their 39-foot MTI, TS Motorsports. While the start was a bit of a fustercluck when officials threw a quick green flag, the duo took advantage of their inside lane to blast to the lead while some of the other seven boats in the class made some questionable navigation decisions.
Early on, owner/throttleman Michel Karsenti and driver Ervin Grant were running second in their 38-foot Doug Wright, Gladiator Canados, almost alongside throttleman Ricky Maldonado and driver Logan Adan in their 38-foot Doug Wright, Doug Wright Powerboats/Waves and Wheels. Lurking in fourth were 16-year-old driver Caleb Mead and throttleman Shaun Torrente, in the 39-foot MTI, Mead Family Racing.
After struggling in the Mercury Racing Midwest Challenge, the TS Motorsports team of Taylor Scism and John Tomlinson returned to winning form in St. Petersburg.
Attrition played a role when Gladiator Canados pulled off early and Doug Wright Powerboats/Waves and Wheels moved up to second with Mead Family Racing third. They held these positions throughout the day while other boats in class fought for points.
“Having pole position definitely helped in a flatter race,” said Scism, who was on the radio with crew chief Milton Calafel and her father Randy Scism who was patched in from his home in Missouri.
When it comes to setup, Scism said that she, Tomlinson, Calafel and her fiancé, Shaun Peters, put their heads together to make the call.
The 450R Factory Stock teams shared the racecourse in the final race of the day with the V Extreme group.
“We just kept a really close eye on the water and today it laid down,” Scism said. “We look at everything we ever do and make our best educated decision based on all on the things.”
When lining up for a start, Scism keeps an eye on where the boat is going and Tomlinson watches the pace boat and the flag, so it’s not bad having a multi-time world champion ready to mash the throttles when the flag goes.
“When it is flatter, when they go, if you’re sleeping on the flag you definitely miss the start,” Scism said.
Maldonado was pleased with his team’s performance, but he wasn’t impressed with the start.
“They took the corner and released us without any boats being lined up,” he said. “We lost 20 seconds.”
Like several 450R Factory Stock-class competitors, the Doug Wright Powerboats/Waves and Wheels team of Logan Adan and Ricky Maldonado were less than pleased with the start for the six-boat fleet.
Still, the vibrant red boat with the black canopy continued to show the speed that fans and the competition have seen all season.
“We’re happy with the result,” Maldonado said. “As long as we are battling at the front, we’re happy.”
For the future, Maldonado said he and Adan are taking a big step forward. The team has purchased its spot in Class 1 and Doug Wright Powerboats is building the team a 44-foot catamaran for the effort.
Mead, the 16-year-old driver teamed with throttleman Torrente, agreed with Maldonado about the start.
Team Farnsworth-Hancock was among three V Extreme teams that competed in St. Petersburg.
“It was horrible,” he said after starting in the outermost lane. “We came out of the turn and all we could see was spray from the other boats. Shaun put the throttles all the way down on the deck and said, ‘Just hold it straight, if something goes wrong it’s my fault.’”
Mead Family Racing came out of the start in fifth place and passed the 38-foot Doug Wright, Hank’s Saloon, and then the 39-foot MTI, 151 Express. Then Torrente and Mead passed Gladiator Canados and the 39-foot MTI, GC Racing, to secure the final spot on the podium.
Finishing third meant Mead Family Racing has been on the podium in three out of its first four races. The team is negotiating with Caleb’s father that if it finishes on the podium at the upcoming season finale in Clearwater, Fla., in September, it hopes to race at the world championships in Key West, Fla., in November.
On the water with the 450R Factory Stock class was the 42-foot MTI, JBS Racing, which is powered by Sixteen Power engines, with owner Jeff Stevenson on the wheel and Micheal Stancombe on the throttles. The Vee Extreme class continues to slowly build momentum with three entries in St. Pete. The fleet included the 42-foot Fountain, The Developer/Wix Filters, with driver Scott Brown and throttleman Eddie Tamberino, and the 40-foot Fountain, Team Farnsworth, with Christian McCauley and Jay Healy. New to the class was the 39-foot Skater, Race Winning Brands, with throttleman Bill McComb and driver Ed Wendt.
Fresh from a 139-mph performance at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, JBS Racing put on a strong solo show in St. Petersburg.
While the Fountains went down with mechanical issues, Race Winning Brands completed the 10 laps to take the win in the team’s first race. Longtime offshore racing fans will recognize the McComb name who has been absent from the sport for about 10 years.
“We weren’t planning to do St. Pete, but we found out we needed to do this race and Clearwater to qualify for Key West,” McComb said. “My crew chief put together everything in three days.”
In the first race of the day, the popular 41-foot Apache, Predator, which is owned by Stahlman Motorsports, took the win in Bracket 200 class, while Mark Robbins and Damon Marotta claimed a dominant victory in their 34-foot Phantom, Control Freak, over another 34-foot Phantom, Simmons Marine, with owner/throttleman Jim Simmons and driver Jason Zolecki.
Predator made short work of the one- to two-footers on Tampa Bay.
Also on the course were the nine boats in the competitive Mod-V class. At the start, the 30-foot Extreme, LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness/RevX Oil, with owner/driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Kevin Smith flew to the lead and appeared to have the race well in hand. A coil wire that came loose on the team’s Tyler Crockett Racing engine ended the team’s day.
That left the door open for owner/throttleman Steve Miklos and driver Steve Fehrmann in their 30-foot Extreme, Sun Print, to move to the lead. They built their lead over the 30-foot Phantom, Fastboys Racing.com, with owner/driver Ken Bolinger and throttleman Forrest Riddle, which finished second, followed by the father-son team of throttleman Steven Kildahl and driver Stephen Kildahl in the 30-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com, in third.
When LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness dropped out with an electrical issue, Steve Miklos and Steve Fehrmann took the lead in Sun Print.
Miklos who lives in nearby Newport Richie, Fla., said he knew he had rpm left while he was trying to track down Lilly and Smith.
“I don’t know if he was going to hit the rev-limiter or not,” Miklos explained. “We knew that once we got the lead, we didn’t want to do anything more than we had to.”
Bolinger said the conditions were trickier than he had expected.
Five teams duked it out for top honors in the Mod V class.
“I feel like I was in a washing machine—it was brutal,” he said. “It was a lot rougher than you think from shore.”
For all the teams in St. Pete from Class 1 to Bracket 700, one thing remains the same. The amount of preparation translates to the success or lack of it on the racecourse.
“Just because it’s out front today, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be out front in Clearwater,” said M CON’s Miller. “That’s why we test.”
Team M CON’S Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil had plenty to celebrate this weekend in St. Petersburg.
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