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HomeRacingLeaving No Doubt: APBA National Championship Series Opens With A Bang In Cocoa Beach

Leaving No Doubt: APBA National Championship Series Opens With A Bang In Cocoa Beach

During the final race of the 2022 Thunder On Cocoa Beach season opener for the American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series campaign, Billy Moore and Chris Grant were in command in their 388 Skater Powerboats catamaran, Graydel.

The Graydel team of Chris Grant and Billy Moore earned the Super Cat-class victory on Sunday in Cocoa Beach, Fla., in the team’s new 38-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran. Photos by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

The team’s spotters on shore told Moore, the throttleman, that he was 16 seconds ahead of M CON and that he could ease up if he felt so inclined. “I said, ‘I’m not breaking rhythm,’” Moore explained. “I wanted to prove a point. Chris can drive and it’s a good boat and we wanted to put it out front.”

The Super Cat-class teammates did just that and after a brief challenge from M CON’s Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil in the team’s new 38-foot Skater, Moore and Grant kept pulling away. By the time it had completed the third lap of seven on the 7.5-mile course off the coast of Cocoa Beach, Fla., the Graydel team, which was in a new boat (M CON’s 2021 season Skater that previously was AMH and STIHL), was clearly in command.

Moore had set up the boat perfectly for the challenging conditions for which Cocoa Beach—the surfing capital of Florida—is known. There were seven boats in Super Cat, which is a strong fleet for the first race of the year. While others battled the conditions, Moore guessed right on his setup and kept it flying level, always moving forward.

Starting with what’s typically the roughest course of the APBA offshore racing season—Cocoa Beach is the equivalent of NASCAR starting in Daytona, one of the most challenging tracks on its circuit—Powerboat P1 staged and managed the event that featured 56 teams with competitors from seven different countries.

On Saturday, Powerboat P1 CEO Azam Rangoonwala said he was pleased with the turnout and he hopes to build on that for the upcoming P1 Offshore-produced event in Sarasota, Fla., in early July.

The LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness team of Brit Lilly and Kevin Smith won the race in Stock V class on Sunday.

Challenging Conditions
First the teams had to contend with Cocoa Beach, which challenged competitors and officials alike to stay on schedule. Although a rocket booster for Elon Musk’s Space X project being delivered into the Cape Canaveral port on Sunday morning did nothing to throw the event off schedule.

In the first race of the day, the competitors in the Bracket classes 500, 600 and 700 took to the water. The 500 class started according to plan with the father-son team of Rob and Vincent Winoski in its 30-foot Phantom, Bronx Phantom, battling sistership, Golfin’ Gator/Team Woody with local driver J.J. Turk and throttleman Micheal Stancombe and the 30-foot Superboat, Shoreline Plumbing with owner/driver Brent Appiarius and throttleman Fast Eddie Simmons.

The three leaders pulled apart from the other five boats in the class until Golfin’ Gator/Team Woody had an engine issue. The Winoskis maintained their lead and took top honors in the class.

In Bracket 600, the Rum Runner team earned the wire-to-wire victory in a two-boat race. Five boats took to the water for the Bracket 700-class race and the single-outboard 21- and 22-foot boats battled for three laps on the bumpy course. In the end, the Jackhammer team took the checkered flag in its 21-foot Superboat powered by a Mercury 300R outboard. Another 21-foot Superboat, Offshore Ohmies, claimed second place with the 22-foot Progression, Nauti Boys, finishing third.

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View more of the racing action from Thunder On Cocoa Beach in the slideshow above.

In race two, the Stock V fleet featured five single-engine canopied V-bottoms powered by Mercury 525EFI sterndrive engines. While the Twisted Vee/Pit Viper 30-foot Extreme jumped out to an early lead, it wasn’t long before throttleman Kevin Smith and driver Brit Lilly, who was pulling triple duty for the day, moved to the front in LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness and refused to relinquish the lead.

After blowing a drive in testing and making the necessary repairs, the 30-foot Phantom, Fast Boys Racing, was running strong in second for much of the race until it pulled off. Running consistently and keeping the boat in the water, Kirk Hana and Mark Rinda, finished second in their 30-foot Phantom, NMB RV Resort. With throttleman Stan Perkoski filling in for Travis Pastrana, who had a prior commitment, Twisted Tea/Pit Viper finished third.

Team Sunprint beat Boatfloater.com in the two-boat Mod V-class race.

Bracket classes 300 and 400 also competed in the second race of the day with the popular 41-foot Apache, Predator/Stahlman Motorsports, claiming the honors in Bracket 400 followed by the Velocity, GNS Motorsports and the Phantom, Complete Marine Pompano. In Bracket 300, Rollin’ Dirty Offshore won the battle of attrition when the 35-foot Fountain, Team Woody, retired early.

When Cats Fly
Super Stock took to the water with 11 twin-outboard cat entries and when the green flag flew, Reese Langheim and throttleman Ricky Maldonado were in the far outside lane in their 32-foot Victory cat, Jackhammer. Moore and boatowner Tanner Lewis were in the inside lane in their 32-foot Doug Wright, Atlas, and tried to challenge early, but it was the Lake of the Ozarks-based 32-foot Doug Wright, LPC, that dogged Jackhammer for most of the race.

The two leaders quickly separated themselves from the rest of the Super Stock fleet and owner/throttleman Billy Allen and driver Cody McDowell tried to make a charge in their 32-foot Doug Wright, Team Allen Lawn Care And Landscaping.

Jackhammer teammates Reese Langheim and Ricky Maldonado went all out in their 32-foot Victory to win the Super Stock race.

“We charged and didn’t get anything done, so I went into cruise mode,” Allen said.

Jackhammer stuffed four times during the race with the aggressive Maldonado running admittedly hard.

“I prefer rough water,” said Maldonado, adding that the Mercury Racing 300R engines that he and Langheim had upgraded to made their presence felt because of their superior torque over the 300 XS outboards that some teams are still using.

“When we stuffed it, I nailed the throttle and it got us out of trouble,” Maldonado said.

Also running the 300Rs, LPC owner/throttleman Loren Peters and driver Anthony Smith of the H.P. Mafia shop in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks finished second while Team Allen finished third.

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The Super Stock class put on another great show in Cocoa Beach as you can see in the slideshow above.

Next up, the five boats in Class 1 took to the course with a total of five countries represented. The Cayman Islands-flagged Victory hull, XINSURANCE, made the start but retired soonafter. Four of the five boats are powered by turbocharged Mercury Racing 1100 engines while owner/driver Jeff Stevenson and throttleman Stancombe ran the 42-foot MTI, JBS Racing, which is powered by naturally aspirated V16 engines with Mercury Racing Dry Sump Six drives.

At the start, JBS Racing wanted to see that it could hang with the Mercury-powered boats, which they did and then they settled in and ran their own race.

The 43-foot Victory, 222 Offshore Australia, which is sponsored by the Australian Royal Navy, had Aussie driver Darren Nicholson and Italian throttleman Giovani Carpitella in the cockpit and the teammates jumped out to a commanding lead over throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Lilly in the Victory hull sponsored by Huski Chocolate. Throttleman Nigel Hook and driver Jay Johnson in the 52-foot Mystic, Lucas Oil, started well, but retired after a couple laps.

The Huski Chocolate team of Steve Curtis and Brit Lilly earned the Class 1 checkered flag.

The raced appeared to be 222 Offshore Australia’s to lose when the team slowed and pulled into the middle of the course with a bad transmission. Curtis and Lilly had a plan to lay in wait and then make a charge, but they didn’t have to so they went into cruise control and took the checkered flag.

“It appeared to look flatter, but there was nothing flat about that course,” Lilly said after finishing his second race of the day in 90-degree heat.

Proving the importance of completing the required eight laps, JBS Racing wound up on the podium in second place in its Class 1 debut. “That was goal one,” Stancombe said.

In the new class for boats powered by Mercury Racing’s 450R outboards, throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Taylor Scism were in the lead in their new MTI 390XR, but had a malfunction late in the race. This led to throttleman Billy Allen and owner/driver Randy Keys taking their first checkered flag in their first race in Klovar Motorsports, the MTI 390XR that Tomlinson and Scism ran last year when 450R Factory Stock was still a probationary class.

In the new TS Motorsports MTI, Taylor Scism and John Tomlinson were thwarted by a mechanical issue in the season’s first 450R Factory Stock-class race.

The Grand Finale
With the schedule moving along flawlessly, the Super Cats took to the waters off Cocoa Beach for the final race of the day at 2:45 p.m. Moore and Grant had drawn the pole position with owner/driver Wayne Vlader and throttleman Grant Bruggemann in lane two in their 40-foot MTI, Pro Floors Racing. In lane three, Lilly filled in for owner Billy Mauff in his third race of the day with throttleman Jay Muller in the 40-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports. Returning to the racecourse after more than a year were driver Marty Siersma and throttleman Mark Kowalski in the 38-foot Skater, Team 10.

When the checkered flag flew, Moore and Grant took the lead with Miller and Coil challenging in M CON and Pro Floors Racing holding down third.

While the best competition of the day was arguably the battle between WHM and Team 10 until the former dropped out with an engine problem, Graydel, with Moore and Grant, checked out, extending its lead every lap until the team earned the win.

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Check out the slideshow above for several Super Cat teams in action.

Miller, who owns the M CON team with his wife, Lindsey, had his usual positive outlook after finishing second in a boat that he and Coil have now logged more race time in than test time.

“It’s one of those things where these guys put in 40 consecutive days getting this boat ready,” Miller said. “I’m elated.”

But the day belonged to Graydel.

“We started here three years ago,” Grant said, adding that he and Moore decided that if they were going to be competitive they needed newer equipment so they moved away from the 2002-built MTI and bought the 2016-built Skater from Miller after the 2021 season.

“We needed something newer,” Grant explained. “It’s so fast and responsive.”

And, more importantly, it’s a winner.

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