If an Outboard Performance Class tunnel-boat pilot, a Class 1 throttleman and a Super Stock-class driver walked into a bar at the end of a long day, what would they have in common other than being powerboat racers in need of a stiff drink? Simple—all three compete using nothing but Mercury Racing power.
Both Super Stock (front) and Class 1 (background) teams will be involved in this summer’s Mercury Racing Midwest Challenge. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
And all will have a place at the table during the Mercury Racing Midwest Challenge, a celebration of speed and competition August 11-13 in Sheboygan, Wis.
The first-year event also is a celebration of the Fond du Lac, Wis., company’s 50th anniversary. It will include American Power Boat Association Formula One tunnel-boat racing, Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 competition and American Power Boat Association Super Stock-class racing.
“I’ve been a fan of powerboat racing for a long time—I used to watch it on Wide World of Sports as a kid,” said Stuart Halley, the general manager of Mercury Racing. “For our fiftieth anniversary, we need an event to showcase our history. When Mercury Racing started we were only supplying engines to powerboat racers. Now, 99.9 percent of our business is with consumers. But when your brand is Mercury Racing you have to race, and racing is still valuable to our product development program.”
Not only has Halley come to know numerous offshore racers through Mercury Racing supplying spec 1100 Comp engine power for Class 1 racers and 300R outboards for Super Stock-class competitors as well as Azam Rangoonwala of Powerboat P1, which holds the marketing rights to Class 1, and Key West, Fla.-based Race World Offshore head Larry Bleil, he’s become friendly with Formula One tunnel-boat legend Bill Seebold and his son, Tim.
Mercury Racing engine-powered tunnel-boats will be part of the show in Sheboygan.
“I am very passionate about powerboat racing in all of its forms,” Halley explained. “So I started talking to Tim and Bill and Azam about this concept for an event I had and I began looking at different cities for it. I just stumbled on Sheboygan and it’s a beautiful city on the shores of Lake Michigan.
“Not only are we celebrating our current power, we’ll be showcasing future power,” he added. “We developed the powertrain for the UIM E1 electric racing series, and will have them in Sheboygan.”
The reigning 450R Factory Stock APBA national champion and UIM world champion, TS Motorsports driver Tyler Scism—who shares the cockpit of her MTI 390XR raceboat with throttleman John Tomlinson—expects a strong turnout. Scism said she believes no less than four MTI teams will compete in Sheboygan, as well as “other manufacturers who come.”
“I think it’s going to be an excellent event,” she said. “And it’s really cool all the boats will have Mercury Racing power.”
TS Motorsports driver Taylor Scism is expecting an excellent turnout in the 450R Factory Stock class when it comes to Wisconsin in early August.
Likewise, Super Stock-class representative and CELSIUS team throttleman Ryan Beckley said he expects a healthy fleet to show up in his class.
“As a class we are stoked to be supporting a new race site in Sheboygan,” Beckley said. “Mercury Racing has been the longest-standing supporter of offshore racing for many years, so the least we can do is support its 50th anniversary. The Super Stock class has been built around Mercury Racing’s outboards since the mid ’80s. Back then, the boats had twin 200-hp Black Max outboards versus today’s newest 300R engines.”
Among the Class 1 racers most excited about the Midwest Challenge is M CON offshore racing team owner/throttleman Tyler Miller, who claimed an APBA national and a UIM world title in the Super Cat class with driver Myrick Coil last season. Miller currently has a Class 1 catamaran under construction at Skater Powerboats in Douglas, Mich.
The cat is scheduled to be delivered to Performance Boat Center in Osage Beach, Mo., next month for engine-and-drive installation—per Class 1 specs the boat will be powered by Mercury 1100 Comp mills—as well as cockpit build-out and testing before its debut at the Class 1 UIM Championship Series opener, May 18-21, in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Coil, the service manager for the multi-brand dealership, will oversee the project.
The team will be sponsored by Monster Energy Drink for the 2023 season.
Said Class 1 Huski Chocolate throttleman Steve Curtis, “Without Mercury Racing there wouldn’t be powerboat racing.”
“We are thrilled to race in the upcoming Mercury Racing event,” said Miller, whose new Class 1 Skater catamaran will be the subject of an upcoming Speed On The Water/Scrapyard Media video. “Not only is it an opportunity to get the Monster Energy M CON racing, Mercury Racing engine-powered Skater in front of all the Midwest fans and spectators, it’s also a chance to be a part of Mercury Racing’s heritage on home waters with an amazing venue.”
Though Huski Chocolate team throttleman Steve Curtis is the most experienced competitor in the Class 1 ranks, he is equally eager to participate in the Midwest Challenge.
“Mercury Racing is the most iconic brand in powerboat racing,” he explained. “I am really looking forward not only to racing in the Midwest Challenge but also meeting up with all the other Mercury Racing teams and classes to celebrate this 50th anniversary. To be at the pinnacle of design and development of high-performance marine engines for the past 50 years is an unbelievable accomplishment.
“Without Mercury Racing there wouldn’t be powerboat racing,” he added.
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