Improbable as it seemed at the beginning of today’s Super Boat International Cleveland Construction Grand Prix Lake Erie in Mentor, Ohio, a couple of rookies claimed victory in an offshore racing class that has been flat-out dominated by a talented veteran during the past few years. In the first race of their Superboat Stock-class career and the second race of the day, the C&R Racing team of Casey Boaz and Rob Unnerstall bested legendary throttleman Gary Ballough and driver Darren Kittredge in FJ Propeller.
Rookie Stock-class racers Casey Boaz and Rob Unnerstall took first place in their first offshore race today. Photos by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill.
Both teams ran 32-foot Doug Wright catamarans powered by Mercury Racing 300XS outboard engines in the 12-lap, 48-mile contest. Rounding out the three-boat field was Ryan Beckley in his 30-foot Skater, Advance Sleeve.com, with driver Rick Taylor. Unfortunately, Beckley and Taylor dropped out of the race early with a mechanical problem.
In the 19-lap Superboat-class race, the defending 2016 national and world champion Performance Boat Center/Jimmy John’s team of John Tomlinson and Myrick Coil took the lead on the first lap in their Skater Powerboats 388 catamaran with Sterling Performance engines and ran away from the five-cat fleet. It was their second first-place finish in as many SBI races this season.
“Yesterday in testing it was a 130-mph racecourse, today it was a 110-mph racecourse,” said Tomlinson. “We were over-propped—I think everybody was—but you don’t get the chance to test on race day. We got a good start and we were able to leave STIHL a lane going into the first turn, and I was able to stretch it out. We were fortunate to be able to get the lead and hold the lead.
“It was definitely getting rougher by the end of the race,” he continued. “It was sloppy two-footers. We took a couple of flyers that I thought could get ugly, but somehow we landed nice and soft. We had to protect our lead, and races are awfully long when you’re out in front—last time here we had the race won and threw a propeller blade. When you’re chasing, they go by fast. When you really look at it, a 12-, 13, 14-second lead isn’t all that much. From the beach, it probably looks like a lot but when you look at the lap times everyone is pretty much right there.”
“I’m a little sore,” said Coil. “But it went well and I’m pleased with how the boat ran. I guess there was a heck of a battle behind us, too.”
Coil was referring to the duel between WHM Motorsports and STHIL for second place. The STIHL duo of Jake Noble and Grant Bruggemann led the WHM pairing of Billy Mauff and Jay Muller for all but the last few yards of the contest, where Mauff and Muller made a sensational pass to take second place.
In a spectacular finish, WHM Motorsports took second place over STIHL in the final seconds of today’s Superboat-class contest.
“This class is so much fun,” said Muller. “It’s such an exciting class—it’s super competitive. Every once in a while we’d get a good run on them inside or outside, but Jake did a great job keeping us out of there. On the last lap, Billy said, ‘Keep the sticks down through the turn’ and we went for it. We held our speed and kept the trim up, and we passed them right before we saw the checkered flag. Chasing like that is so much fun.”
Earlier in the day, the first race of the Superboat Unlimited, Extreme and Vee classes on the four-mile course was marked by attrition. What started as a combined nine-boat fleet ended up with three boats—two in one class—actually completing all 12 laps.
In the Unlimited ranks, the Wake Effects team of Rusty Rahm and Jeff Harris took the early lead over American Ethanol/Cat Can Do and looked as if they were going to run away with a blowout win until they pulled off the course with a broken propeller shaft in the later laps. That left American Ethanol’s Keith Holmes and Ed Smith to take claim victory by completing more laps than their rivals before they, too, fell prey to a mechanical issue before finishing.
For a look at some of today’s winners, check out the slideshow above.
The same storyline of attrition persisted in the Superboat Extreme class, except that three boats—The Developer (the former Rio Roses Fountain raceboat), AMH Construction/Instigator and Outerlimits—started instead of two. The trio of V-bottoms stayed relatively close to one another until the mechanical gremlins arrived. The Developer was the first to fall, followed by Outerlimits, which left Aaron Hope and Johnny Stanch to take the win in AMH Construction/Instigator (owned by offshore racing great Peter Meyer) to take the win.
Without question, the five-boat Superboat Vee class delivered the best competition in the day’s first race with Boatfloater.com grabbing an early lead before LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness could run it down. A few laps later, Boatfloater.com broke down and the Hurricane of Awesomeness team of Brit Lilly and Ron Umlandt—defending 2016 national and world champions—claimed the win Mr. Technology taking second.
Team Allen Lawn Care bested a three-boat field to take top honors in the Manufacturer Production 4 class. Running uncontested, Simmons Marine.com took first place in the Manufacturer Production 3 class.
The next race on the SBI schedule is ninth annual Super Boat Great Lakes Grand Prix Aug. 3-5 in Michigan City, Ind. For complete results as they become available visit the SBI website.
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