Opened this morning, the pit area for this weekend’s races in the Super Boat International Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix Festival is already filled with the best teams in domestic offshore racing. The jewel of the SBI regular season, the Sarasota, Fla.-based event celebrates its 29th running this year.
“I think there are about 30 team here as of now,” said Tony Marcantonio of the J.D. Byrider Superboat-class team. “We have five—WHM, Stihl, Qatar, Warpaint and us—in Superboat.”
While Marcantonio said he hopes his team is past the mechanical gremlins that have plagued it this season and is ready for a win, he said that based on the 2013 races so far WHM Motorsports is the “team to beat” in the Superboat class this Sunday. (Testing for all classes starts tomorrow.) Thanks to technical rule changes and consolidation last season, the Superboat class has experienced a strong resurgence this year.
Equally intriguing this season, especially heading into the Sarasota event, is the Superboat Unlimited class, as three of catamarans in the field—CMS, Gasse and Miss GEICO—have Mercury Racing 1650 Race engine power. Unfortunately, the CMS team, which had planned to be in Sarasota, reportedly had to pull out of this weekend’s event because of an injury to driver/owner Bob Bull.
Not to be counted out of the Superboat Unlimited class, however, is Cintron with its twin 1,500-hp Stotler Racing Engines. At the Offshore Powerboat Association Atlantic City (N.J.) race in late June, Cintron battled deck to deck with Miss GEICO before a U-joint failure reportedly knocked the GEICO cat out of the running.
Although it is hitting the water for the first time this season, Gasse is likely to be a strong contender in the Superboat Unlimited class. Throttleman/team manager John Tomlinson and his crew actually replaced one of the cat’s 1650 engines last Tuesday evening after the powerplant developed an issue during testing.
“The engine overheated,” Tomlinson, who share Gasse’s cockpit with Norwegian driver/owner Tor Staubo. “We didn’t want to take another chance with it or damage it, so we replaced it.”
Long awaited and much anticipated by offshore fans, the Qatar turbine-powered catamaran is currently on its way to Sarasota. All things being equal, for the Qatar cat will touch the water for the first time this weekend in Sarasota, the new team will provide competition for fellow Turbine-class entry Miss Mary Mac, which reportedly arrived in town this morning.
Editor’s Note: Look for an update on the Suncoast Grand Prix Festival after the races on Sunday.