During last Saturday’s test session before the 13th annual Baystar Clearwater ‘Nationals’ offshore powerboat race ahead of yesterday’s main event, owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil weren’t happy with how their M CON Skater Powerboats 388 catamaran felt. With time in the testing window for the Southwest Florida contest dwindling, the team made a spacer change in the Mercury Racing drives and headed back out on the course.
The M CON team of Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil showed the perseverance for which the team is known, dominating the Super Cat race at the Baystar Clearwater ‘Nationals.’ Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
“The boat felt great,” said Miller, a recent subject of the Speed On The Water In The Lead series. “When we came in, one of my favorite set of propellers was cracked at the hub.”
The crew crawled up into the sleeper section of the hauler to dig out a backup set of props.
“We gathered ourselves up and said, ‘Let’s take this propeller and go do what we do,’” Miller added.
They did what they do in impressive fashion, taking advantage of their starting position in lane No. 1. Miller and Coil had the inside lane because they finished last at the previous event in St. Petersburg, Fla., after they spun in the first turn of the first lap. The Clearwater event was produced by Race World Offshore, which inverts the previous race’s finish to determine the starting lanes for the current event. That put M CON in lane one.
But the spin in St. Pete caused more damage than most race fans would expect.
“Everything from the bilge to the propshaft was replaced,” said Miller, who praised the crew at Performance Boat Center in Osage Beach, Mo., for getting the work done. “To get it back together in 10 days was incredible.”
When the green flag flew rather quickly in Clearwater, Miller timed the start perfectly and took an early advantage over the 40-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports, with owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller. Throttleman Grant Bruggemann and owner/driver Wayne Valder in the 42-foot MTI, Pro Floors Racing, made a hard charge and then settled into third after the teams held their lanes through turn one per the rules.
“Having the pole is about 70 percent of the race,” Miller said. “It lets you pick your line right out of the gate and if you have a boat that’s set up well, you can run your race.”
In the first half of the 13-lap race on the 4.3-mile course, the cagey team of Mauff and Muller kept M CON in reach, with only seconds separating the first- and second-place boats.
“There were a couple times when the guys on shore said you’re down to five seconds,” Miller said. “You need to make something happen.”
Making something happen meant running flawless laps. Miller said he and Coil went into radio-silence mode and each did his job to maintain the lead and eventually capture the coveted checkered flag.
After installing new Sterling Performance Super Cat engines and resolving some electrical issues, WHM Motorsports had its best race of the season, coming home in second place.
“It was running great today,” Muller said. “It was good to be back with the leaders, but we’d really like to go and win Key West.”
After a rough couple of years that included health issues, weird gremlins with the raceboat and a sinkhole in his yard at home that threatened Mauff’s beloved 11 huskies, he said, “It’s nice to be back where we used to be. We’ve had wiring problem, then it was a fuel problem, then bottom problems, then we couldn’t get parts.”
Despite a challenging season so far, Mauff remains bullish on the future of the Super Cat class.
“My problems keep other people doing what we do and guys like (Graydel owner) Chris Grant have got a couple wins and Tyler has a couple wins. Anybody can win these days. I haven’t seen it this competitive since we lost J.R. Noble.”
Mauff continued, “You’re looking at 10 boats next year in this class and we haven’t seen that in 15 years.”
At the start, Bruggemann said he couldn’t see the pace boat through WHM’s roostertail.
“Once I saw it stand tall, I hit the gas,” he said, explaining that his team decided to change propellers before the race. “(The props) weren’t our favorite. Everything ran fine, we have two good running Kasse motors and we didn’t scratch it.”
Echoing Mauff’s comments regarding the strength of the Super Cat category, Bruggemann said, “It’s good to see the class switch back and forth between winners.”
The team of owner/driver Chris Grant and throttleman Billy Moore finished fourth in the Skater 388, Graydel, so the Super Cat points title will come down to the season finale in Fort Myers. Fifth went to Vinnie Diorio and Simon Prevost in the 39-foot Outerlimits, SV Offshore Racing, as they continue to figure out the Mercury Racing 860s that power their boat. Jimmy McIntyre and John Paul Emmons had mechanical problems as well in their 38-foot Skater, LiquorSplit.
Also on the course with the Super Cats were the three 39-foot MTI catamarans powered by twin Mercury Racing 450R outboards in the Factory Stock 450R class. Owner/driver Taylor Scism and throttleman Johnny Tomlinson continued their winning ways in the TS Motorsports/MTI, jumping to an early lead over throttleman Billy Allen and driver Randy Keys in KLOVAR Motorsports. The two held those positions for the balance of the race. Third went to throttleman Gary Ballough and driver Willie Cabeza in GC Racing, the newest 390XR in the class.
The 450R Factory Stock TS Motorsports team exited Clearwater with its second points-scoring victory of the season.
With 50 entries, the 2022 edition of the Clearwater race had its largest fleet in the race’s 13-year history. The second race of the day saw five Class 1 boats take to the course. Darren Nicholson, the usual driver for the 222 Offshore Australia team, couldn’t make it to the race so crew chief, Peter McGrath, a seasoned offshore-racing veteran joined throttleman Giovanni Carpitella in the cockpit of the 47-foot Victory catamaran.
The 222 Offshore Australia team had to replace one of the boat’s 1,100-hp Mercury Racing engines before the race and at the start Carpitella and McGrath used the inside lane to their advantage, pulling out to a lead that would never be threatened. The Class 1 boats ran 13 laps on the relatively calm course. The points leaders coming into the race, throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Travis Pastrana in their 47-foot Victory, Huski Chocolate, spent the race in second place with no real challenges.
Behind the two leaders, driver Marc Granet and throttleman Rich Wyatt in the 50-foot Mystic, df Young, battled owner/driver Jeff Stevenson and throttleman Michael Stancombe in the 42-foot MTI, JBS Racing, and Myles Jennings and Alex Pratt brought up the rear in the 43-foot MTI, Good Boy Vodka/XINSURANCE, after breaking after a few laps on the course.
The 222 Offshore Australia team notched its second win of the Class 1 series in Sunday’s contest.
Trying to chase down 222 Offshore Australia, Pastrana got a little too aggressive in a turn and hit a buoy. “We hooked a sponson in 222 Offshore’s wake,” he explained. “The track was a lot like NASCAR Martinsville. Once 222 got out front, they had the pole and we didn’t have anything for them.”
Granet was pleased with the progress that he and Wyatt are making.
“Once you figure out where the other teams have their acceleration on you, you can plan your attack,” he explained. “The 222 boat had great acceleration and Huski had us covered on top end. We were just trying different ways to attack the turns and, ultimately, we blew a sea strainer hose pinning the turns.”
After the strainer hose came off, the team went into get-to-the-crane mode, pulling the boat out of the water without further damage.
For JBS Racing, another podium finish was the result of having friends in the sport. Stancombe said the team did get rid of its electrical issues, but a regular service of the boat’s Mercury Racing M6 drives revealed metal shavings in the gear lube. Fortunately the team was able to borrow a pair of drives from former offshore racer Billy Glueck, who owns Twisted Metal motorsports in Sarasota, Fla.
“When someone lets you borrow $50,000 worth of drives, that’s a friend,” Stancombe said with a smile.
The drives had a different gear ratio than JBS Racing usually runs, so it was a little bit of an experiment.
“Two changes to the boat at one time isn’t a good combination to win,” said Stancombe, who quickly added, “but we were running at the end.”
Officially, 222 Offshore Australia took the win followed by Huski, which was issued a one-minute penalty for hitting the buoy, and JBS Racing in third.
As has been the norm for the 2022 season, the Super Stock class capped the day with 11 outboard-powered catamarans in the fray. Following the pattern set in the early races, the 32-foot Victory, Jackhammer, with owner/driver Reese Langheim and throttleman Ricky Maldonado, jumped to the front followed by owner/throttleman Randy Sweers and driver Bryan Marquardt in the 32-foot Doug Wright, PlayTradez. The 32-foot Doug Wright, LPC, with owner/throttleman Loren Peters and driver Anthony Smith, and the 32-foot Doug Wright, Performance Boat Center/FASS Diesel Fuel Systems, with Coil driving and Rusty Williams on the sticks, were coming up fast.
“Turn one was a little bit of banzai racing,” Sweers said. “Jackhammer was on my outside and you’re supposed to hold your lane through turn one.”
Speedonthewater.com asked RWO officials if there were going to be any penalties due to lane violation infractions and the answer was no.
The win was the Jackhammer team’s ninth consecutive podium finish with Performance Boat Center taking second and PlayTradez in third. The father-and-son team of Peter and Al Bogino looked good at the start in their unnamed 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran that’s one of the few boats left powered by twin Mercury Racing 300XS outboards. They wound up finishing sixth in the 10-boat fleet.
With its Clearwater win, the Jackhammer team of owner/driver Reese Langheim and Ricky Maldonado is looking like a lock to claim the 2022 APBA Super Stock-Class National Championship.
Jackhammer stretched its lead and the cockpit duo never looked back. “We changed our props at the last second and it put us right,” Langheim said. “We had the setup.”
At a critical point in the race, LPC slowed near Pier 60, which opened the door for Performance Boat Center to move into second and PlayTradez to take third. The boats held those positions until the end of the race.
The day started with organized chaos as 27 boats in seven classes took to the course. There was a speed disparity of boats that could run more 90 mph in the Mod-V class down to the 21-foot single outboard boats in Bracket Class 700 that are limited to a top speed of 60 mph.
The first start for the group featured the two boats in Mod V, four in Stock V, two entries in Bracket 300 and four in Bracket 400. Owner/throttleman Steve Miklos and driver Steve Fehrman jumped to the lead in their 30-foot Extreme, Sunprint/Hooters with Steve and Stephen Kildahl in second in Boatfloater.com.
In Stock V, owner/driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Muller took the lead in Lilly’s home-built 30-foot Extreme, LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness, followed by Chris Colson and Charlie McCarthy in the 30-foot Phantom, Shocker, Pastrana and Jim York in the 30-foot Extreme, Twisted Vee, and the 30-foot Phantom, North Myrtle Beach RV Resort, with Kirk Hana and Mark Rinda aboard.
Hooters/Sunprint pulled out to such a lead that the announcers for the livestream lost track of them during an impressive wire-to-wire win. Boatfloater.com ran consistently in second.
After getting penalized for exceeding maximum engine speed (rpm) at St. Pete, Miklos made certain that wouldn’t happen again in Clearwater.
“We had the biggest propeller in the box,” he said. “We knew we couldn’t go over. We were a little slow on the acceleration, but it was fast on the straightaway.”
With so many boats on the course, there were some rough spots on the 4.3-mile course that had smaller boats taking some big fliers. LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness took the win in Stock V followed by North Myrtle Beach RV and Twisted Vee.
The LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness team scored its second Stock V-class win of the season.
“That was a hard-earned one and a team effort,” Lilly said. At one point, when passing the start-finish line at Pier 60, the boat looked to partially stuff and hit hard. “I couldn’t tell it stuffed, it just went from left to right so damn hard, typical Clearwater,” he added.
Pastrana was happy to have throttled Twisted Vee to third place, but he still wants to catch his pal Lilly.
“We’ve been outside every single start this year and this time we were reversed from the last race,” Pastrana said. “Brit got us around the first turn. We’re finally almost in the mix.”
In bracket-class competition, the 35-foot Fountain Powerboats, Team Woody, with Billy Shipley and Chad Woody, took top honors in Bracket 300. Attrition took out the outboard-powered Spectre, SRS Racing/Mad EFI, and the other canopied Fountain, Harpoon Harry’s.
In Bracket 400, the 34-foot Phantom, Control Freak, with throttleman Damon Marotta Sr., and driver Mark Robbins, led the way followed by the popular 42-foot Cigarette, Cigarette Justice League, with Don Urfer and Richard Davis. Throttleman Jim Simmons and driver Jason Zolecki ran third in the 34-foot Phantom, Simmons Racing.
With 50 teams in the mix, yesterday’s Race World Offshore-produced event—its first of the 2022 season—delivered plenty of action.
With the national points chase in Bracket 500 on the line, the 30-foot Phantom, Golf N Gator/Team Woody, got back to its winning ways as driver J.J. Turk and throttleman Stancombe held off the 29-foot Warlock, Bulletproof/Goodcars.com, with Elijah Kingery and Craig Belfatto. Team Farnsworth Motorsports with driver Ervin Grant and throttleman Mark Didario came across the line in third. Bracket 500 had seven total entries.
A classic Baja outlaw, Power House Racing, with driver Nelson Sawyer and throttleman Damon Marotta, Jr., grabbed the big trophy in Bracket Class 600 followed by owner/driver Brian Guy and throttleman Julian Maldonado in their 21-foot Superboat, Jackhammer, that usually races in Bracket 700. The 26-foot Corsa, Gerard Marine, with Mark Conrad and Chase Gerard took third.
Finally, taking another win in Bracket Class 700, Ben Osypian and Joel Murawski grabbed the victory in their 21-foot Superboat, Offshore Ohmies. Second went to owner/driver Cesar Perez and throttleman Ricardo Maldonado in the 22-foot Velocity, Steele Racing.
Having all those boats on the course drew some differing opinions from competitors. “It was a blast hitting all the wakes from the bigger boats,” Guy said.
Miklos called the traffic “brutal,” but praised all the other competitors. “Everybody in the other classes was real professional,” he said.
Racing veteran Muller described the diversity of boats in the first race was “sketchy at best.”
“We were seven wide at some points,” he added.
But even with those numbers, the weekend was accident-free on the racecourse.
Editor’s note: The Clearwater event was the seventh of eight races in the American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series and the fifth of eight races in the Class 1 World Championship Series. Roar Offshore Fort Myers Beach, the final race of the APBA series, is set for October 6-8. The Class 1 series will resume at the joint American Power Boat Association/Union Internationale Motonautique event November 6-13 in Key West, Fla.
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