But with production long gone and Mercury Racing not stepping up with an official replacement for the 2.5, the supply of those engines is dwindling. Combined with demand from the pleasure and racing sides, increasing scarcity has driven up their prices. And that has Stock-class racers such as Gary Ballough, who is working with a pair of Mercury Marine 200XS two-stroke outboards, searching for a replacement.
While Ballough is following the path of a lower-power alternative and believes it’s the correct solution, Stock-class racer Scott Porta of the Papa’s Pilar Rum team is going the other way with a pair of Mercury Marine 300XS outboards. According to Porta, he received permission to use a pair of the 300-hp two-strokes on his 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran from SBI officials after the season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla. He’ll run the twin 300XS-powered cat at SBI’s next event July 3-5 in Marathon, Fla.
Shown here with 2.5L outboards at the SBI Cocoa Beach season-opener, Papa’s Pilar will run Mercury Marine 300XS outboards in Marathon next month. Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
Unlike the 200XS, the 300XS is not a “plug-and-play” replacement for the 280-hp 2.5-litre outboard. First, it’s 126 pounds heavier—a significant difference on the relatively lightweight hulls used in the class. Second, it comes only with a 20-inch mid-section, whereas the 2.5L has a robust 15-inch mid-section.
“The 15-inch mid doesn’t break,” said Porta. “It’s also good for about one more mile per over the 20-inch mid because it keeps the outboard cowlings lower.”
To enable the 300XS to run the more-desirable 15-inch-midsection—and in the process drop the weight difference to approximately 100 pounds—Porta said he has developed a replacement exhaust plate that he will provide at cost to other racers who would like to run 300XS outboards.
“As a class, we need to be careful not to change anything to the degree that we make the 32-foot boats obsolete—i.e. less power—encouraging shorter lighter boats,” Porta explained. “If that happens, it becomes expensive for existing boat owners to compete without a new lighter shorter boat. When Stock class began, it was the 24-foot Skaters with 200-hp Mercury outboards. The class has evolved to faster, bigger, safer canopied boats and is the safest it’s been in the history of the class. Ideally, the class doesn’t want to slow down, be broken in half or lose potential new competitors due to lack of available outboards. The plan for the 300XS is to marry in the new powerplants in a seamless manner, making it possible for class members to change when it suits them and not because of a performance advantage or disadvantage.
“Currently the 280-hp outboards command near-retail prices due to their light weight-to-horsepower ratio,” he continued. “That’s especially appealing to the owners of lightweight, single-engine go-fast boats. So, at present it can be near a lateral financial move to sell the 280s off your Stock-class boat and move into brand new power with a minimum cash outlay.”
Still, the swap to 300XS power does create hurdles for Stock-class racers, Porta conceded. Chief among them are rigging issues and 2,000-rpm drop in maximum engine operating range.
“It means buying new propellers, changing steering plates and a small host of other changes,” said Porta. “Being the ‘guinea pig’ for the 300s, as Gary Ballough is for the 200s, will have its pitfalls and rewards. The ultimate goal, however, is keeping the class intact and positioning it for growth.
“This is very good canon fodder for each side,” he added. “I don’t want people to see this as ‘motor war’ between Gary and me—Gary Ballough is the reason I’m racing. I don’t want to create discord. Gary has told he, ‘Hey, if you can make the 300 work we can all go with that.’ I am approaching this diplomatically. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement from other racers in the class.”
Said Porta, “The ultimate goals keeping the class intact and positioning it for growth.”