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HomeRacingFort Myers Beach APBA Series Finale Delivers Thrills, Spills—And Vindication

Fort Myers Beach APBA Series Finale Delivers Thrills, Spills—And Vindication

Thanks to a pair of ferocious, well-matched teams, the 2021 Super Stock-class national title came down to yesterday’s Roar Offshore Fort Myers Beach contest in Southwest Florida, the final event in the second-year American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series. The six-race points-chase began six months ago in Cocoa Beach, Fla., but when the green flag flew in the second contest of the day just four points separated Super Stock-class leader Performance Boat Center from CMR Roofing and Construction.

CMR Roofing and Construction took the win—and the Super Stock-class national title—yesterday in Fort Myers Beach. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

Shorter version? Winner take all. And after 10 laps on the 7-1/2-mile, eight-turn course, the winner was CMR. Teammates Eric Belisle and Shaun Torrente led from start to finish, including following a late restart with a few laps to go after LPC rolled battling with Jackhammer in a turn, to earn the Super Stock national championship in their 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran ahead of the Performance Boat Center Doug Wright driven by Myrick Coil and throttled by Rusty Williams.

“That race was so much fun; it had a little bit of everything—some rough water, a little rain and a restart,” said Torrente, who credited Performance Boat Center for pushing his team throughout the season. “It was a fitting way to win the championship. It wasn’t the prettiest race, but we’ll take it. Eric ran a great race. He deserves a lot of credit for continuing to improve this year and for being strong enough to be yelled at by me all season (laughs).

“I’ll tell you what, this is a huge deal for me being that it’s the first time I’ve managed my own team,” he continued. “We have to be clever with our setup and smart with our resources. We’re on a real budget, proving that money isn’t everything. I mean the sponsorship support we received from CMR and A-GAME has helped so much, but without Eric’s support and commitment to this team, we would have never gotten to this point. The moral of the story is that it’s not just about money, it takes a lot of work and a lot of time. We spent three days testing before this race and it showed.”

Torrente’s cockpit-mate was equally delighted with the team’s performance both yesterday and throughout the six-month season.

“Oh my gosh—I’m on cloud nine,” Belisle said after the race. “Shaun is a genius—it’s incredible how much time and work he puts into making sure our boat is good to go. We had a lot of fun out there today. It was definitely bumpy but we had the right setup for it.”

Added Torrente, “Yesterday should also silence anyone who thought we couldn’t win in the rough.”

Jackhammer, a 32-foot Victory cat driven by owner Reese Langheim and throttled by Ricky Maldonado, won the battle for third ahead of Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping. Less fortunate were LPC teammates Loren Peters and Vinnie Diorio, who avoided serious injury in the accident—although Diorio stepped away from running the Modified V-class Marker 17 Marine Outerlimits V-bottom in the next race with Brian Forehand to take a break before getting into SV Racing, the 39-foot Outerlimits catamaran he throttles with driver Simon Prevost.

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Both the LPC and Paint Factory teams ended their races the hard way.

“We hooked it,” said Diorio of his rollover over in LPC, the 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran’s third time exiting a race upside-down. “I’m not sure even what lap we were on.”

Peters and Diorio weren’t the only Super Stock racers to end up on their lid—Paint Factory’s Tanner Lewis and Brett Caswell also rolled but were unhurt.

Supercat Foursome—Plus
For the first time this season, SV Racing was allowed, by a vote of three other teams present for the race, to compete in the Supercat class. (The team’s move to out-of-class-spec Mercury Racing 860 engines landed it with Miss GEICO in the Class 1 ranks for all races but the Fort Myers Beach finale this season.) Also for the first time this season, four Supercats took the green flag for the 13-lap contest. The M CON team already had the Supercat national title locked up after a solid showing in its Skater Powerboats catamaran, but team owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil were delighted to share the course with second-place finishers John Emmons and Jimmy McIntyre in the Chariots of Fire Skater, the third-place team of Diorio and Prevost in SV Racing and the fourth-place finishers, Graydel’s Chris Grant and Billy Moore in their MTI.

The addition of SV Racing did nothing to tarnish M CON’s Fort Myers Beach victory and Supercat national championship.

“It was great to field four Supercats for the final race of the year in the national championship series,” Miller said. “All the teams came together mutually to bring the boat count to four to keep the Supercat drive alive for the fans and spectators in Fort Myers Beach. SV Racing brings a first-class act to the sport of offshore racing and to have those guys race with the Supercat class to field a four-boat count was great.”

In a bit of a twist for the Supercat start, the teams also agreed to let Ed Smith’s Knucklehead Racing Fountain Powerboats V-bottom—the lone entry, as it has been all season, in the Vee Extreme class—start with the four-boat fleet and hyped it up as a drag race to the first turn, which ended up being won by M CON.

Also running with the Supercat fleet, but literally and figuratively in a class of its own, was TS Motorsports, a canopied MTI 390X powered by Mercury Racing 450R outboard engines. But rookie driver and MTI customer relations manager Taylor Scism had a new throttleman to break in for the 10-lap contest as her famous father, Randy Scism, a multi-time world champion and the founder MTI, joined her in the cockpit. The father-and-daughter duo practiced extensively at the Lake of the Ozarks, which is not far from the company’s Wentzville, Mo., headquarters, but Saturday’s race was their first competition together.

“I’ve tested with my dad a lot, but today was really fun,” said Taylor Scism, who was planning to race with him in late June during the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix before their race, the final contest of the day that also included the Supercat class, was scrubbed because of dangerous weather. “It was kind of a crazy day with some of the incidents in the races before us, but we were happy to see everyone get out OK. I wasn’t sure what to expect to really race with my dad. There’s a reason we don’t normally race together—he’s super intense.

“I also didn’t know what to expect because this was his first time racing since the bad crash in Key West in 2017,” she continued, referring to the CMS and CT Marine accident in the Superboat Unlimited race. “So we both took some deep breaths before we went out there and just focused on having fun. Overall the race went well and I was happy to get the opportunity to race with him.”

With two races left this season—the Race World Offshore Key West World Championship and the Englewood Beach Waterfest OPA World Championships—the TS Motorsports pairing of Taylor Scism and John Tomlinson is looking to finish strong and carry the momentum into 2022.

“I expect this class to grow a lot,” she said. “We’re building a new boat and should have other MTIs in the mix; plus we’ve heard there are a couple of other manufacturers building a boat for the class. The good news is that we’ve put a lot of time on the 450s. In fact, we just logged our 60th hour on the engines since we started running the boat in April. They’ve been used for multiple races and many practice sessions, and the maintenance has been minimal. We service the motors, go race and come back and do it again. Mercury Racing’s 450R is very impressive.”

Added Tomlinson, who had a schedule conflict yesterday, “I’m looking forward to running with Taylor in Key West. She’s come a long way and she’s doing really well in the boat.”

Mod V And Stock V Dogfights
Among the wildest contests of the day was the 10-lap Mod V contest, which saw Brian Forehand of Marker 17 Marine run on and sometimes over the edge before exiting the race with a broken drive and every team in the seven-boat fleet testing its limits. The Visit St. Pete/Clearwater rookie pairing of throttleman Nick Imprescia and driver Ian Morgan notched their second win of the season—the first was at last month’s St. Petersburg Grand Prix—while the father-and-son duo of Steve and Stephen Kildahl finished second in Boatfloater.com and earned the 2021 Mod V national championship title.

The Mod V-class contest delivered some of the day’s finest action.

“The last race of the series was an absolute grand slam for our team,” Imprescia said. “Personally, it was the most fun I’ve had on the racecourse. We were caught in the mix at the start, and washed down into turn No. 1, then hit on the stern out of turn 1. That impact cut the intercom between myself and Ian, so we had to rely on hand signals for the entirety of the race.

“The battle we had with Punisher was a couple laps that I will remember forever,” he continued. “Without applying a ton of pressure on each other and because we knew we both had to finish for the point standings, we left each other the lane and let the boats fly. Punisher probably would’ve taken this race if they finished. Without taking any chances, our composure delivered us this victory, and I have to praise Ian for doing a flawless job on the wheel in tough circumstances.”

Steve Kildahl called the race “very exciting.”

“Everyone was running hard, everybody was running on the edge,” Kildahl said. “It was good was a good, tough race and I’m glad we were able to get second place. That was a driver’s course and you were able to make passes, which made it more interesting.”

Boatfloater.com’s Steve and Stephen Kildahl finished second in Fort Myers Beach on their way to earning the Mod V-class national championship.

Besting eight tough teams in the Stock V class, theYou Gun Learn team of driver Dante Napoli and throttleman Mike Bocchino took the checkered flag, which like its Mod V-class counterpart ran 10 laps. Napoli and Bocchino battled the Wazzup and Nobody’s Business teams, which finished second and third, for most of the race and the lead changed several times before they made a sweet pass on Wazzup and pulled ahead for the final time.

“It’s always great when our class has nine boats on the course and we have a little deck-to-deck action,” Napoli said. “We had a lot fun.”

In the end, the Relentless team of driver Travis Petko and throttleman Steve Papp went home with the national title. Thanks to consistent performance throughout the season their fifth-place finish in Fort Myers Beach didn’t matter.

Season-long consistency earned Relentless, the Stock V-class national championship.

Bracket Class Bonanza
While Bracket-class national titles have not been officially announced, the day delivered great action in several categories with an impressive total of 25 teams spread across six classes in Fort Myers Beach.

The Bracket 600 contest saw Money Monster’s Jeff Kipfmuller, Cliff Shaw and Tim Vanderberg jump out into the early lead ahead of Rum Runners and Team Deception. By the end of the first lap, Rum Runners, throttled by Fran Vellutato and driven by Michael McColgan, took over first place, holding on to that lead until the checkered flag. Robert Bryant and Jesse Schmig of Team Deception placed second ahead of the three-man team in Money Monster.

Bracket-class teams came in force to the final race of the APBA series.

“Race conditions were completely different between testing on Friday and racing on Saturday,” said Vellutato. “The biggest challenge in the race was our lane No. 5 position off the start.”

“Typically we are very good at getting out in front at the start—this start we really had some deck-to-deck competition, and ultimately took the lead at about the fourth turn and maintained the lead for the duration of the race,” McColgan added.

In Bracket 400, ground zero of the compelling Apache-Cigarette rivalry this year, throttleman Matt Soper and driver Dan Soper (Matt’s uncle) led the race from the green flag in their 38-foot Cigarette Racing Team V-bottom dubbed Old School, leaving behind GNS Motorsports’ Grant Greytok and Bill Reeves, who placed second, and the 41-foot Apache of Team Predator’s Dean Stahlman, Nate Hunt and Connie Hunt that suffered mechanical issues and placed third.

Running a 38-foot Cigarette, Matt Soper and Dan Soper bested their Apache counterparts in the Bracket 400 contest.

“Once we completed the first lap, we had a good lead and led until the end,” Soper said. “We thought there were nine laps, but they shortened the race to eight. We had a fitting crack on the sea strainer, which caused a leak and filled the engine compartment with water, but the Sea Tow guys came over and pumped it out for us.

“We had this great thing going on with Predator all year, so we hoped they would have hung with us longer in the race,” he continued. “We love running with Predator—we are really good friends. To duke it out all season and have it come down to the last race is an emotional roller coaster. And it was a great day for Cigarette.”

The Bracket 500 class lived up to its reputation this year as one of the most competitive categories. At the center of this season’s battle has been Shoreline Plumbing, driven by Brent Appiarius and throttled by Joey Reilly, the Bulletproof cockpit paring of Craig Belfatto and George Ivey, and Team Woody’s Micheal Stancombe and J.J. Turk. Shoreline Plumbing managed to stay ahead of Team Woody, which gave hard chase and more than once the two boats nearly swapped paint. Ultimately, that order would remain with Bulletproof maintaining third behind Shoreline Plumbing and Team Woody.

As they have all season, Shoreline Plumbing and Team Woody duked it out in the Bracket 500 class.

“I feel like it went very well, and I believe we got a great start by following the inside line,” Appiarius said. “Our ability to turn tighter and faster is what made the difference to get the win. Our setup was perfect. I was fortunate enough to run in Nobody’s Business in the first race of the day so I was prepared for the holes coming out of turn No. 1 and heading toward the dog leg, which allowed me to get the weight adjusted correctly once we were out there during the parade lap.”

The four-boat field Bracket 700 class saw the Goofin Around father-son team of Robert Lauer and Joseph Lauer take first place, followed by championship leaders Julian Maldonado and Brian Guy in Jackhammer placing second. Throttled by Beau Purtle and driven by Derek Dawson, Punisher took third.

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Enjoy more images from Roar Offshore Fort Myers Beach in the slideshow above.

“Our setup has been the same all year whether it be flat water or big water—we just needed to catch a break and keep the boat running for a whole race,” said Lauer, who normally drives the boat with his brother, Joseph. “It’s been an honor to be able to race with my little brother this whole season. He’s busted his back to fix the boat after each race, as we broke a lot of stuff this season. His hard work paid off—I’m extremely happy for our team, it’s come along way this season.”

In the two-boat Bracket 200 class, the 35-foot Team Woody Fountain V-bottom took first place over the Bat Boat MTI catamaran, which crossed the finish line first but missed a turn buoy and was moved to second place.

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