You don’t have to be a veteran organizer to understand how difficult it is to produce an offshore powerboat race this year. All you need to do is glance at a calendar.
For Floridians Shaun Torrente and Eric Belisle, their first race in their new 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran proved to be a winner. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Today is September 14. The Offshore Powerboat Association’s Crystal Coast Grand Prix in Morehead City, N.C., happened yesterday. In a normal OPA season at this time of year, the regular-season events would be in the books and teams would be making plans for the OPA World Championships in November in Englewood Beach, Fla.
That alone made simply producing yesterday’s three races, which attracted 35 boats spread across 10 classes, something of a victory for OPA head Ed “Smitty” Smith and his crew. Of course, the Crystal Coast Grand Prix wouldn’t have been a true COVID-19-year event without a headache or two, which came in the form of delays caused by unstable weather in the area.
But there was far more light than dark yesterday, and much of it came from the new Super Stock class Shaun Torrente Racing team. Running a new 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran in its debut race, Torrente, a two-time, back-to-back world champion tunnel-boat racer and his teammate/driver Eric Belisle ran away from the competitive six-boat field for 11 laps on the 4.3-mile, mostly flat-water course.
Check out the slideshow above to enjoy more action from the Crystal Coast Grand Prix.
“The new Doug Wright boat is amazing,” said Torrente, who will compete in the Offshore At The Ozarks-Cat Edition event in Central Missouri next month. “And the Dewald props are where it’s at.”
The last of three races yesterday, the Super Stock contest started with a bit of drama when Jackhammer team owner/driver Reese Langheim and throttleman Ricky Maldonado hooked and rolled their 32-foot Victory catamaran in the first turn on the first lap. Though the incident was enough to bring out the red flag, Neither Langheim nor Maldonado was injured.
The day ended early for Reese Langheim and Ricky Maldonado of the Jackhammer team.
It was the second time in as many races—the first happened during the 2019 Race World Offshore Key West Offshore Championships—that they have found themselves upside down on a racecourse.
“At first, I thought it was oversteering,” said Maldonado. “But we found the driveshaft snapped the tip inside the crank so we have no idea now.”
Running uncontested in the same race, the Class ONE Miss GEICO team of throttleman Steve Curtis and new driver Brit Lilly treated their 11 laps on the course as an extended test session in race conditions.
Said new Miss GEICO driver Brit Lilly (flanked by Gary Stray, left, and Steve Curtis) after the race, “I’m still fired up.” Photo courtesy/copyright Miss GEICO Offshore Racing.
“From our first lap to our last lap, we picked up nine seconds,” said Gary Stray, the crew chief for the team, which runs a 47-foot Victory catamaran. ”Brit did amazing for his first race experience in Miss GEICO.
“Obviously, we didn’t have competition but we were super happy,” Curtis said. “Brit was a rock star. He had control the whole way through the race and he communicated to me—back and forth—what he felt. We really got on well in the boat together.”
Fastboys teammates Stan Perksoski and driver Ken Bolinger bested five other tough Stock V-class teams to take the checkered flag.
In the other six-boat battle, which happened during the second race of the day, the Fastboys team of throttleman Stan Perksoski and driver Ken Bolinger were good to their team name. They out-dueled the wickedly competitive Stock V-pack in their 30-foot Phantom V-bottom for 10 laps.
Though the Modified V class—the more powerful sibling of the Stock V category—had just three boats, the battle between Sun Print and Marker 17 Marine was tight. Throttled and owned by Steve Miklos, the 32-foot Sun Print Extreme led for the first nine laps. But on the final lap, Marker 17 Marine, a 29-foot Outerlimits throttled and owned by Brian Forehand, snuck by Sun Print.
The next OPA race of the season, Offshore At The Ozarks-Cat Edition, is scheduled for October 2-3.
Editor’s note: For complete official results for all classes as they become available, visit the OPA website.
Crystal Coast Grand Prix Race And Class Breakdowns
Crystal Coast Grand Prix Attracts 35-Boat Fleet