Today’s first race of the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships marked the 37th time that Key West, Fla., has hosted the sport’s annual grand finale. With the nation’s southernmost city still, like many of the towns in the Florida Keys, deep in the rebuilding process after being battered by Hurricane Irma in September, competitors in today’s contests were greeted with picture-perfect conditions that made for fast laps on the famed three-turn course. In short, 2017 SBI Key West World started with a fantastic series of races.
WHM Motorsports set the tone—and a dominant one—in the first race of the SBI Offshore World Championships today. All photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
In SBI's marquee class, Superboat, WHM Motorsports led from start to finish. Last year—hoping to repeat as world champions in Key West—WHM team owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller saw their title quest end when their 40-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran launched over the top of Pro Floors that had flipped directly in front of them. But today, there was no question that the WHM duo would prevail in their Skater powered by twin 750-hp Sterling Performance engines.
"We knew that we needed to get a good start" Muller said. "Last year we had the points lead going into the last day, so we were biding our time and being cautious. When you're too cautious sometimes you get jammed up in the first turn like we did last year. We had a good set up for today that got us the lead early. "
Muller added the boat has responded well after the damage sustained last year. "I'm surprised how strong the boat is because we drilled them (Pro Floors) hard,” he said. “There was tremendous flex in the boat and damage to the bottom and some of the bulkheads as well. The boat was rock-solid out there today."
WHM Motorsports averaged 99.42 mph, finishing with a 17-second victory over team STIHL who was closely followed by Performance Boat Center the reigning world and national champions.
For more images of Wednesday's winners, check out the slideshow above.
Superboat Unlimited saw another dash to the first pin between CMS, who edged their stable-mate and last year's world champion Wake Effects. CMS gained the clean water and never relinquish the lead to take the checkered flag. The formidable CMS cockpit duo of Bob Bull and Randy Scism didn’t race during the regular season this year and finished second behind Wake Effects in the 2016 Key West Worlds, but they always excel in this venue—as they did this afternoon.
CMS averaged 117.34 mph on the course and turned several laps at the highest speeds of the day—119.5 mph. Rookie team CT Marine took third today.
In Superboat Extreme AMH Construction/Instigator ran unopposed to finish with first-place points.
But the brightest V-bottom spotlight was on the Superboat Vee class, and with a solid field of boats for Key West they were moved up to a mid-day start. The class did not disappoint with a three-team battle that saw four official lead changes. Ending the day with the victory in the tightest of racing, was defending world title holder LSB Hurricane of Awesomness/Rev X Oil. The Maryland-based LSB cockpit crew of Brit Lilly and Ron Umlandt saw their setup come together at the end pulling away from No. 2 finisher Boatfloater.com and the third-place Phantom team.
In the day’s first races, Gary Ballough, who throttled the last two Key West World Championships in Superboat Stock, teamed up for this race with old-mate Paul Whittier in the FJ Propeller Doug Wright to win. FJ Propeller rebounded from a bad start when an engine went into guardian mode after Ballough trimmed too high at the start.
"I saw everybody leave us, got it figured out and started running them down," Ballough said. "In that water it was all about driver and Jimmy (Harrison) was unable to drive for the first race so Paul Whittier was in the boat with me. We raced in the Middle East and here in the States for years together and it was awesome to be in the boat with him today."
After their early lead evaporated, Shadow Pirate took second place and CR Racing finished third, the two swapping position throughout the Superboat Stock race.
In the speed-bracketed classes, the defending champs P3 Second Amendment led from start to finish as did the P4 winners, Team Allen Lawn & Landscaping.