At the first day of competition at the 42nd annual Race World Offshore Key West World Championship presented by Performance Boat Center, the winners in virtually every class put on a superior display of dominance, setting the stage for three days of heated competition in the southernmost city in the United States.
By taking the checkered flag in race No. 1, the M CON/Monster Energy cockpit duo of owner/driver Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil moved one step closer to their second consecutive Super Cat world championship. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
While some teams made use of a favorable lane assignment to establish dominance like M CON in Super Cat, GC Racing in 450R Factory Stock and El Bandito Tequila/Sunprint in Mod V, 222 Offshore Australia started in its worst position this season in Class 1 and Jackhammer was in the outermost lane in Super Stock.
When the green flag flew for the Super Cat race, owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil leapt to the lead in their Skater Powerboats 388 M CON/Monster Energy from lane two. Making the most of their cameo appearance in the class for 2023, the father-son team of Anthony Smith and Anthony Smith, Jr., in their 388 Skater, HP Mafia, drew lane one and held second place for the first seven laps of the race until they had to pull off the course to extinguish a fire.
That left the door open for owner/driver Chris Grant and throttleman Billy Moore to move up to second place in their 388 Skater, Graydel, after they got around another 38-foot Skater, CR Racing/XINSURANCE with driver Rob Unnerstall and throttleman Casey Boaz. The largest boat in the class, the 40-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports, with owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller, finished in fourth, and the new in-cockpit duo of throttleman Bill Pyburn and driver Brit Lilly ran a solid fifth in the 388 Skater, Dirty Money.
When the results were tallied, Graydel was penalized for hitting a buoy and dropped to 8th place. That moved CR Racing/XINSURANCE up to second and WHM to third.
Running to the first turn from the start, Graydel and Dirty Money were literally rubbing. “It was bumper cars out there,” Grant said. Once the two separated, Graydel started its march toward the front while Pyburn and Lilly learned how to work with each other in their first race in the boat.
For the winners, Miller said his team nailed the setup and that his boat was “super happy.” The always enthusiast Kansas native added, “I’m just so excited for the entire class. We had 11 boats running into turn No.1.”
Enjoy more Spec-class action from the first day of the Key West World Championship in the slideshow above.
In the end, three Skaters took the Super Cat podium for the Truman Waterfront Championship in the daily competition for Race World Offshore honors. Seventy five teams were registered for the competition and there was only one scratch after a heavy day of testing on Tuesday. As has usually been the case, the teams raced for half points on Wednesday, which they will do again on Friday and full points will be awarded Sunday. The boats with the largest point totals will win the 2023 world championship.
For the first time in two years, the teams from the Class 1 class competed in Key West and five of the six boats that made the circuit in 2023 were on hand.
When the green flag flew, the 438 Skater Monster Energy/M CON with throttleman Miller and driver Coil, roared to the lead with throttleman Billy Moore and owner/driver Mike Falco in second in the 48-foot Outerlimits, DeFalco Racing.
As the six boats all jockeyed for position coming into turn three in Key West Harbor, the 43-foot MTI, XINSURANCE, with driver Randy Kent and Grant Bruggemann blew over, creating a red flag after the boat came to rest upside down. The in-boat crew escaped the incident without injury.
“It’s a dangerous sport,” Bruggemann said. “Thanks to Randy Scism and the guys at MTI for building a safe cockpit.”
After the course was cleared and the race was restarted, even though they were in lane four at the start—their farthest from the pole position this season—driver Darren Nicholson and throttleman Giovanni Carpitella blasted to the lead in their 47-foot Victory, 222 Offshore Australia. Moore and Falco gave chase and held second without much of a challenge while Monster Energy/M CON grabbed the final podium spot. Rich Wyatt and driver Hugh Fuller had to pull off to deal with a mechanical problem in the 50-foot Mystic, df Young Logistics, but got restarted to finish fourth. The 49-foot Victory, Pothole Heroes, pulled off with a broken sea strainer and as crew chief Gary Stray and throttleman John Tomlinson were looking at the strainer cap in the pits afterward, each said they had never seen one break like that. Think about that one for a minute.
Moore was happy with second place in Class 1, saying that he ran some different props to get the boat to fly the nose a little more. “We tried a couple things I did 15 years ago to make it handle better,” he said.
Darren Nicholson and throttleman Giovanni Carpitella in 222 Offshore Australia picked right where they off at the St. Pete Grand Prix in early September.
Having experience to call on never hurts.
Miller said that he missed the restart by a second, adding, “Once you do that it’s over.”
Speaking of experience, Carpitella spent five years throttling the boat that is now 222 Offshore Australia with driver Luca Fendi when it was powered by twin Lamborghini engines. “I know the props it likes,” Carpitella said. “It’s important to know the setup.”
Also on the course with the Class 1 boats were the eight single-engine V-bottoms in Mod-V and the reigning national champions throttleman Steve Miklos and driver Steven Fehrmann in the 29-foot Extreme, El Bandito/Sunprint, emerged from the chaos in turn one with the lead on the 4.5-mile course.
“We got hit from behind but it’s still race-able,” said Miklos, who was able to maintain their lead over Brit Lilly and throttleman Jay Wholtman in their 29-foot LSB Extreme, Rev-X LSB/Speed Marine, and the father-son team of throttleman Steve Kildahl and driver Steven Kildahl, in their 29-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com. The 30-foot Laticrete/Relentless with driver Chris Uzzolina and throttleman Rob Hartmann ran a close fourth.
On the fourth lap of the race, Rev-X LSB pulled off with a mechanical problem and the boats that were running behind moved up to the podium and held their position for the duration of the seven-lap race. El Bandito/Sunprint grabbed top honors followed by Boatfloater.com, with Steve Kildahl participating in his 38th world championship in Key West, and by Laticrete/Relentless.
In the weeks before the Race World Offshore Key West event, 2023 Mod-V national champions Steve Miklos and driver Steven Fehrmann weren’t sure if they’d be able to make it to Key West. Yesterday’s first-place finish definitely made it worth the trip.
Travis Petko, the owner of the Laticrete/Relentless boat couldn’t be in Key West because of a scheduling conflict, so Uzzolina and Hartmann reunited a year after last racing in this event.
“Travis was a class-act owner letting us run the boat,” Hartmann said. “And Laticrete is excited to be here. Everyone is happy with third.”
Next up was the 450R Factory Stock boats plus the three entries in VX class and the lone boat in Extreme 1.
In the 450R race, owner/driver Willy Cabeza brought in Shaun Torrente to throttle his 39-foot MTI, GC Racing, and they made the best of lane two, jumping out to an early lead. Having their best performance of the year, throttleman Nick Imprescia and driver Ian Morgan ran second in their 39-foot MTI, 151 Express, followed by the 38-foot Doug Wright, Hank’s Saloon with throttleman Edwin Scheer and Key West’s own Lee Murray on the wheel.
As the race wore on, the defending world and national champions—throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Taylor Scism in the TS Motorsports MTI—started working their way up through the fleet after starting in the outermost lane. “Once we got clean water, we mowed everybody down,” Tomlinson said.
In the first 450R Factory Stock race as teammates, Shaun Torrente and Willy Cabeza emerged victorious.
But in the end, they ran out of laps and GC Racing took the win followed by 151 Express and TS Motorsports.
“It made a big difference,” Cabeza said of having Torrente in the boat. “He really knows the telemetry and how to make the most of it.”
Imprescia said he and Morgan had been down on speed for much of the season, but finally had their boat at the peak of its abilities.
In the ultimate battle of attrition, all of the boats in the V Extreme class had their share of mechanical problems, but soldiered on. Unofficially, the 42-foot Fountain Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims with driver Christian McCauley and throttleman Jay Healey, outlasted their competition. Second went to driver Kirk Britto and throttleman Robert Brockyear of the United Kingdom in the 42-foot Fountain, Team 25, while the 40-foot Skater, Race Winning Brands, with driver Ed Wendt and throttleman Bill McComb, finished third.
The V Extrreme class was a battle of attrition that saw Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims prevail.
In Extreme class, owner/driver Jeff Stevenson and throttleman Michael Stancombe put on an impressive speed display in the 42-foot MTI, JBS Racing, powered by XVI power engines.
Lanes Don’t Matter
In the penultimate race of the day, 11 boats took to the course for the Super Stock race and the team of owner Reese Langheim and throttleman Julian Maldonado had the worst position they could be in at the start, lane 11.
It didn’t matter because the duo in the 32-foot Victory, Jackhammer, charged to a lead they would never relinquish.
Jackhammer’s Reese Langheim and Julian Maldonado started their week in Key West with a decisive victory.
Behind them, a torrid battle was waged and in the end, the 32-foot Doug Wright, Northwing, with owner/driver Darren Kittredge and throttleman Boaz, finished second followed by owner/driver Chris Hopgood and throttleman Jay Muller in Celsius in third. Team Bermuda remans in overall contention with a four-place finish followed by Big East Construction in fifth.
“We’re just awesome together,” Langheim said of his partner Maldonado. “You could put us in a racecar together.”
Kittredge said the balance on his boat was “perfect” and that the setup was “dead on.”
Hopgood was pleased with his second experience in the boat with Muller. “We got through turn one and we were able to start picking away,” he said. “This was my first podium in two years.”
Setting the Stage
The racing started at 10 a.m. with 30 boats in the bracket classes taking to the course. In the first start, the boats in Bracket 200, 300 and 400 led the way followed by a pack of competitors in Bracket 500, 600 and 700.
In Bracket 200, the 41-foot Apache, Predator, with owner/driver Dean Stahlman, throttleman Nate Hunt and first-time navigator Matt Piotrowski, prevailed over the 44-foot MTI, Batman Racing, with driver Elliot Toth and throttleman Jack Mueller. The new 39-foot Phantom, Justice League, with driver Don Urfer, throttleman Richard Davis and navigator Corey Shantry, showed speed early, but pulled off with a mechanical issue. The 38-foot Fountain, Herbott Racing, unofficially finished third.
Even in relatively calm water, the Bracket 700 class never fails to put on a great show.
In Bracket 400, Jim Simmons and driver Jason Zolecki continued to dominate in the 34-foot Phantom, Simmons Racing. Eventually, Simmons is going to run out of space for checkered flag decals on the boat that formerly ran as Twisted Styx in Factory 2 class. Second in the class went to Jesse Schmig and Brad Wade in the 29-foot Lavey Craft, Team Woody, followed by the 30-foot Phantom, Allied Offshore, with first-time driver Jake Nicks and throttleman Mark Fernandez. The boat ran previously as Shocker in the Mod-V class.
“We were wondering where everyone went,” said Simmons after the team pulled out to the lead.
In the second start of the first race of the day, the boats in Bracket 500, 600 and 700 took off. In Bracket 700, the 21-foot Superboat, Statement Marine Safe Cash, took unofficial top honors, followed by the 21-foot Superboat, Jackhammer, and the 22 Nitra, XINSURANCE/Golf N Gator.
Enjoy more Spec-class action from the first day of the Key West Worlds in the slideshow above.
In Bracket 500, the 29-foot Manta, Sweat Equity, with owner/throttleman Greg DiRenzo, driver Jeremy Bisson and first-time navigator Angie Pierce, took the checkered flag after some breakouts and a reminder of the fact that offshore powerboat racing is a motorsport and can, in fact, be dangerous.
“It was bad-ass,” Pierce said of her first race.
But apparently Sweat Equity broke out. As of this morning, the official results on the Race World Offshore website had Bulletproof in first, Sweat Equity in second and Bronx Phantom/Marker 1 Marine in third.
Unfortunately as the Bracket 500 race was winding down, the 26-foot Joker, Freebird, with the young up-and-coming team of throttleman Ryan Stahlman and driver Reef Delanos was battling with the team of throttleman Micheal Stancombe and driver J.J. Turk in the 30-foot Phantom, XINSURANCE /Golf N Gator. Speedonthewater.com has been told that one boat hooked and the two boats collided. Delanos was treated in a Key West hospital and released. Out of respect for the Stahlman family, we are only reporting that Stahlman was injured and taken to Miami for further medical treatment.
Always a crowd-pleaser, the JBS Racing team of Jeff Stevenson and Micheal Stancombe ran uncontested in the Extreme class.