The biggest news in the Superboat class in offshore racing coming into the 2016 season is the loss of J.R. Noble, who passed away unexpectedly on March. At the celebration of Noble’s life on March 19 in Orlando, it was announced that Jake Noble would be taking over his dad’s spot in the cockpit of the new Skater 388 that Team STIHL is building for this year. Veteran throttleman Grant Bruggemann, who is also rigging the boat, will be on the sticks. The news was met with positive support from the competitors in the class.
WHM Motorsports will return to defend is 2015 world and national championships. Pfotos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
“I spoke to Jake and said, ‘You’re stepping into your father’s shoes and I know you’ve got it in you’” said Billy Mauff, owner of the 2015 world and national championship team, WHM Motorsports, who pair up once again with throttleman Jay Muller this season. “Jake running Stihl, that made me happy.”
So as we enter 2016, the Superboat class fleet in Superboat International has a veteran core that will be complimented by a new team or two—and there could be surprises by the end of the season.
As reported a couple of weeks ago by my colleague Matt Trulio, Randy Sweers and his 40’ MTI, Sailor Jerry-Autonation, will be back in 2016. It will be powered by the same Ilmor Marine engines, but the boat will have new driver, Todd Beckman, and some modifications to the hull made at Smart Marine in Orlando, which is owned by Super Stock class competitor Chris Schoenbohm.
As of this writing, Sweers will be running the only MTI in Superboat this season. Chuck Broadus hasn’t sold his 42-footer that ran as Broadco in 2014. When he purchased all of the former Spirit of Qatar assets, Steve Curtis and his Offshore Racing Services team bought the 42-foot MTI that had run as #20 for the Qatar team. There have been rumors of an international team buying the boat and campaigning it on the Superboat International circuit this season, but nothing has been confirmed.
According to Curtis, the 39-foot cat that Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats has been working on could be on the racecourse by the end of the season. “I’ll put my time and effort into getting that one out there,” he said. Because Curtis hails from the United Kingdom, he wouldn’t have to meet the requirements of having to have run the boat in a minimum number of races in the U.S. to qualify for the annual world championships in Key West.
Coming on strong at the end of the 2015 season, Cleveland Construction, will be back for the full SBI season in 2016 with Ed Smith driving and Keith Holmes throttling.
The Performance Boat Center team has been testing its Skater 388 this winter in preparation for its first full season in the Superboat class.
The other silver Skater in Superboat class, the 368 owned and throttled by Bob Teague of Teague Custom Marine and driven by Paul Whittier, will have a little different look for the coming year. Longtime sponsor AMSOIL will be on board, but as a secondary backer in 2016. The team is close to signing a deal with a new primary sponsor. Keep an eye on www.speedonthewater.com for any updates about the team’s sponsors and schedule for the upcoming year.
After making its debut at the 2015 world championships, the Skater 388 owned by Performance Boat Center in Osage Beach, Mo., was one of the few boats in the Superboat class to finish all three days of competition in Key West. And that’s after driver Lance Sutton literally got his first experience in the boat in the Wednesday race, according to throttleman Myrick Coil.
The team has been did a lot of testing during the winter under the watchful eyes of crew chief Andy Sanders. With Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches back as a sponsor, the boat will be in Cocoa Beach, Fla., for the SBI season opener May 14-15 with fresh engines from Sterling Performance. Coil said the team will attend the Lake Race at Lake of the Ozarks June 2-5, the SBI race in Michigan City, Ind., August 5-7, the SBI National Championship in Clearwater, Fla., Sept. 30-Oct. 2 and the world championships in Key West November 6-13.
Another Lake of the Ozarks team, the Skater 388, HP Mafia, is expected to run a limited schedule in 2016. More recently—as in yesterday—top speed shootout specialist Kenny Mungle of the Gone Again team said he plans to run a few calm-water races in the former STIHL team Skater 388 this season.