Willy Cabeza, the South Florida owner and driver of the GC Racing MTI 390XR canopied catamaran that competes in offshore racing’s 450R Factory Stock class, is going to have a new throttleman by his side in Key West, Fla., for the Race World Offshore World-produced Union Internationale Motonautique World Championship, November 6-13.
The GC Racing 450R Factory Stock-class MTI is making a cockpit change for the upcoming Race World Offshore Key West World Championship. Photo by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
Veteran racer and three-time UIM F1H2O world champion Shaun Torrente will be joining Cabeza for both the RWO event as well the Offshore Powerboat Association‘s World Championships the following week in Englewood Beach, Fla., November 16-19. Torrente, who competed in four 450R Factory Stock-class events this season alongside 16-year-old rookie driver Caleb Mead in the Mead Family Racing MTI 390XR (and plans to race with MFR in 2024), is stepping in for veteran throttleman Gary Ballough, who raced with Cabeza since the loyal MTI and TNT Custom Marine customer got started in MTI’s concierge program at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix in September 2022.
“Shaun and I tested the boat for the first time together (last week) with the rest of the MTI crew, including Johnny and Taylor,” said Cabeza, referring to TS Motorsports teammates John Tomlinson and Taylor Scism, who spearheaded the 450R Factory Stock class two seasons ago. “It went really well; it was a different process than what I was used to having Shaun in the boat with me. He’s good at explaining what the boat is doing and how best to get it around the course.
“He is also really good with the numbers and using the telemetry to improve the boat’s performance,” he added. “These boats are pretty techy. The telemetry also can be used to tell you what you’re doing wrong—why the boat is not going faster. We’ve had the information and used it a little, but now with Shaun’s help, we’re really getting into it. I’m excited to see what we can do in Key West and Englewood. We want to finish the year strong and see where that takes us next year.”
Shaun Torrente, left, of Shaun Torrente Racing in Southwest Florida, went to Miami early last week to test the 39-footer with Willy Cabeza and the MTI and TNT Custom Marine crews. Photo courtesy Willy Cabeza
Cabeza, who added that he loved competing alongside Ballough and that the veteran could not have provided a better first-year racing experience, said that the team hasn’t made any cockpit-related decisions for the 2024 season.
“Right now, we’re focused on finishing this season strong,” said Cabeza, who also owns a couple of stunning MTI pleasure boats—a 440X catamaran with a pair of the new Mercury Racing 500R engines that he took delivery of at the end of August and an MTI-V 42 center console with four of the new V-10 400R engines from Mercury Racing that is color-matched to the raceboat and gets used for fun and as a support boat for testing. “You know when you first start out, it’s kind of like ‘We’re just going to try this and have some fun,’ and then of course it ramps up and gets more serious and more technical the more you get into it. It’s kind of like the more you know, the more you find out that you don’t know.”
Getting ready for Key West—two 450R Factory Stock-class MTI catamarans sit pretty in South Florida. Photo courtesy Willy Cabeza.
Torrente said his primary goal heading into Key West is to get Cabeza as comfortable and confident as possible behind the wheel.
“We don’t need a lot of time in the boat, but our communication needs to be good enough that Willy understands where I’m asking him to put the boat to set up for a turn properly or get us in a position to win,” said Torrente, who also is going to be competing at the Race World Offshore World Championship presented by Performance Boat Center in Super Stock class with owner/driver Sean Conner in the team’s Allied Construction Management Services cat. “I thought he did really well when we were testing and I think he’ll do great with a little more guidance and understanding of what the boat is doing. My job is to get him around the course as fast as possible, and, you know me, I take my job seriously.
“I’m not saying we are going to win, but we are going there to win; if not, why bother,” he continued. “I even told Willy when this opportunity came up that I wouldn’t do it unless we went in with the intention of winning. He said that was the only reason he reached out and that was all I needed to hear.”
Cabeza, whose family enjoys being involved in offshore racing, said he’s had a great time racing, especially because the MTI program has made it rather seamless.
“MTI has been so helpful in everything we do, not just the racing, but the fun runs and events like the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, which we did in August for the first time,” he said. “We’re hoping to do some more pleasure events around the country next year. I’ve heard great things about other runs, such as the 1,000 Islands Charity Poker Run in New York, that we’re thinking about adding to the 2024 calendar. We love our new 440X and can’t wait to use it even more.”
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