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Tackling The Course In Fort Myers Beach—Racer Strategies And Perspectives

Measuring 4-1/2 miles, the course for this Saturday’s Roar Offshore Fort Myers Beach event isn’t the longest in the eight-race American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series—not even close. That distinction belongs to the 7-1/2-mile track in Cocoa Beach, Fla., which opened the 2021 APBA series as it did in 2019, the circuit’s inaugural year. Lengthwise, the Fort Myers Beach course is about average.

The Fort Myers Beach course is particularly challenging for the teams in the larger classes and compelling for the fans. Photo from Roar Offshore Fort Myers Beach 2019. All images by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.  

But with seven right turns and one left in the dogleg section on the backstretch, the clockwise-oriented layout easily is the most complicated in the series.

For example, the inside line on turn No. 4—a right-hander—becomes the outside lube for turn No. 5, a left-hander. The front-running boat has lane priority, of course, but if the trailing boat overtakes the leader in the short straight between the turns, priority changes and things get interesting.

The clockwise-running Roar Offshore course packs eight turns into just 4-1/2 miles.

Add 10 Super Stock-class cats, to use another example, battling for good clean lines and the lead in the early laps before they begin to stretch out and things can go from tricky to hairy.

The equalizer, of course, is that all teams have to deal with it. To learn more about their various approaches to the Roar Offshore course, we caught up with racers in several different classes.

Here’s what they had to say.

Brent Appiarius—Shoreline Plumbing
Bracket 500

Bracket class racers have the added challenge of not exceeding a top speed on the complicated course.

“I prefer the inside line at all times , even on the dog leg. The turns are big sweeping turns so it shouldn’t be too hard to hold the number through the whole course  The dogleg can be tricky we just can’t let anyone by us on the inside after it, if they try we will make them follow us and scrub speed on our wake.”

Myrick Coil—Performance Boat Center and M CON
Super Stock and Super Cat

Myrick Coil will put double-driving duty in the Super Stock and Supercat classes this weekend.

“The trickiest part is getting a good start. You have to pass in the corners and because of all the turns efficiency is about acceleration. If you make a mistake, you can make up for some of it with acceleration.”

Steve Curtis—Miss GEICO (Formerly)
Class 1

Off the water for Roar Offshore Fort Myers Beach thanks to Miss GEICO’s untimely exit from the sport, Steve Curtis (left, with former Miss GEICO driver Travis Pastrana) throttled the Class 1 cat against the Victory and 222 Offshore teams in the 2019 event. Photo by Cole McGowan copyright speedonthewater.com.

“The main issue is how you go through turn No. 1. If you come out of it tight to the pin you can take the dogleg flat out and carry good speed round the rest of the course that’s also the best place to overtake.”

Richard Garcia—The Firm Racing/MSP Recovery
Stock V

In just the third event of their Stock V career, driver The Firm Racing throttleman Richard Garcia and driver Pete Riveiro will face offshore racing’s most technical course in one of the sport’s most competitive classes.

“This is only our third race. We spun out twice in the last race and we don’t want that to happen again. So we’ve made many changes in regard to CG (center of gravity) and balancing the boat. We also had Mike (Eggleston) at FJ Propeller make alterations to a couple of our key props for the Fort Myers Beach race that will help with acceleration, and we feel these changes are essential for success there.

“As far as the course, we plan on being aggressive from the start. We find that a good start is nearly essential for a win. Especially with all of these turns, if we can hit clear water from the beginning it will make the rest of the race much smoother. We have also found that proper communication is crucial—being that there are eight turns in this course it is essential for us to be able to let each other know our next moves.”

Brit Lilly—LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness/Rev-X Oil
Stock V

LSB driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Kevin Smith will be looking for redemption from a tough Stock V-class season this weekend.

“The  passing has to be done before or after the dogleg. We will be setting up for passing coming down the beach and into that long right-hander. Fort Myers Beach is a high-speed technical course. Keeping the speed up through turns and staying tight to the buoys will be key to winning.”

Tyler Miller—M CON

M CON should have a least two Supercat-class teams to contend with in Fort Myers Beach this Saturday.

“To stay efficient on the course, you have to avoid mistakes in sweeping corners and the nice bending dogleg outside. Keeping the boat freed up and efficient in this section of the course is crucial and mistakes are easily made and then hard to overcome. Passing on a course such as Roar Offshore takes a lot of strategy and sometimes just plain luck. If you are successful enough to pass on the beach side straightaway that is the safest and most common place to overtake another boat.

“But for me, the trickiest part of Roar Offshore is setup. There are so many different scenarios that can play out running such a challenging course, from being short on prop selection down the start straightaway—which happened the last time we raced this event—to being able to stay on top of the engine RPM throughout the sweeping corners and dogleg. If you’re fortunate enough to hit the perfect set-up, it’s one of the most exciting courses of the year. If you’re not so lucky, it’s still fun but the boats that are ‘on’ can run away from you quickly.”

Jay MullerPhase 5
Super Stock

If current plans hold, Phase 5 owner/driver Albert Penta and throttleman Jay Muller will make their first appearance of the season together in Fort Myers Beach.

“Try to pass down the straightaway. And if you can get inside, try to nail the dogleg wide open.”

John TomlinsonMTI/TS Racing
Factory 450R Stock

As they have throughout the 2021 season, John Tomlinson and Taylor Scism will run uncontested in the Factory 450R Stock class.

“With the dogleg, you can come out of the setup turn behind someone but if you can pull ahead you’re on the inside for the next turn. It all depends on how close you are and timing things like when to cross the wake of the boat you’re chasing. Of course, if you have the lead you just run your own race as efficiently as you can.

“As the race goes on and things spread it, finding spots to pass gets easier. But when it’s congested, it’s a lot harder, especially on the first lap. If a big class like Super Stock goes in there with 10 teams or so, well, I’m sure someone will come out complaining (laughs)—especially if that team happens to be in the middle of the pack.”

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