Editor’s note: Further details were added to this story following official results released Monday morning.
Despite the breezy conditions, Saturday’s Desert Storm Poker Run top-speed shootout was a success, especially with the variety of boats that took to the three-quarter-mile course and the number of spectators that turned out on land and in boats to find out who was going to leave Lake Havasu City, Ariz., with the King and Queen of the Desert titles.
South Dakota’s Cory Schmitz drove his 33-foot Eliminator Boats catamaran 174 mph to claim the 2021 Desert Storm Poker Run Shootout King of the Desert title. Photos by Jeff Helmkamp/Helmkamp Photos
That turned out to be drivers in a couple of previous-winning catamarans—the radical Dial 911 Skater Powerboats 388 and the longtime fan-favorite Fatal Attraction Eliminator Boats 33 Daytona—separated by one-tenth of a mph.
After laying down a 162-mph run at the 2020 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Missouri in the boat that was made famous by Greg Olson, who went 192 mph on the Shootout’s old one-mile course in 2012, South Dakota’s Cory Schmitz ran his 33-foot Eliminator, which he repowered last year with twin 1,650-plus-hp engines from Todd’s Performance Specialties in Lake Havasu City, even faster on the Lake Havasu course to claim his first King of the Desert title. With a 174.6-mph pass according to the event’s radar guns, Schmitz ran the fastest speed overall and was extremely excited with the outcome, despite some confusion on his first run.
“At first they told me I went 199.6 mph,” said Schmitz, who knew that couldn’t be correct. “They needed to recalibrate the guns I guess after the day’s first two runs, and the result after calibration was that they gave me 174.6 mph. I had 178 on my GPS so I was fine with that. It was a very solid run. The new power from Todd Thompson at Todd’s Performance is bad ass. I ran the boat all week with no issues.”
Along with getting his name on the Desert Storm Poker Run shootout plaque, Schmitz took home a new custom Desert Storm Poker Run watch from Poundfoolish for his accomplishments. When asked if he was going to be at the Lake of the Ozarks event in August, Schmitz informed speedonthewater.com that he will not be on hand because he’s expecting a baby with his fiancé in September.
California’s Miranda Jones, who was the defending Queen of the Desert champion from the 2019 event (the 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic), spooled up a 174.5-mph and a 160.9-mph pass in her and her husband Tim’s 38-foot cat that is powered by twin 2,000-plus-hp turbocharged Brummett Marine engines and has been campaigned at top-speed shootouts for more than a decade by previous owners Chip Romer and Don London, as well as London’s daughter Summer Richardson, the 2018 Queen of the Desert.
“I’m very pleased with how well we did considering how challenging the wind made the runs,” said Miranda Jones, who was happy to top her run from 2019 by almost 50 mph, albeit that was in their 40-foot Skater catamaran with less power. “Staying strong with the wheel to keep the boat straight was more difficult than normal. The most important thing was that we stayed safe so we had to be careful coming off the throttle too because there were gusts of wind at the end of the course. We probably could have pushed it a little faster—the boat was like a rocket out there with the new Hering propellers we tried—but we didn’t want to risk it considering how much we could feel the wind.”
Tim Jones added that with the way the engines were running he believed the boat could have reached 190-plus mph if they were willing to push it. During their best run, he said they were turning 7400 rpm and that upward of 9000 rpm is possible with the motors. He also said he started to pull back on the throttles just before the radar trap because of the crosswind at the end of the course.
Check out the slideshow above for more images of boats competing in the top-speed event.
The entire Jones family did the poker run on Friday in Dial 911 and the family members—as well as friends, such as London and fellow competitors Vern Gilbert and Gary Smith, who posted a top speed of 170.8 mph in Predator I, Gilbert’s 40-foot Skater—were there to cheer her and Tim on in the shootout.
“We had a great time overall—the parties were fun, we met a lot of new people and it was just nice to get on after the COVID era,” she said. “We had a few glitches in the morning before the runs, but Carson Brummett and his wife jumped on board, as did Gary and Vern, to make sure we were up and running.”
Jones’ closest competitor was MTI’s Taylor Scism, who ran 160.1 mph in a 52-foot MTI co-owned by Shawn Moe and Rick Tabish with her father, Randy, the founder of MTI. They also ran the cat, which is powered by twin Mercury Racing 1550/1350 engines, up to 152.8 mph in a second attempt.
“I was proud of that run—I drove the fastest I ever have in an MTI so I’ll take that as a win,” said Taylor Scism, who also drove the Wentzville, Mo., company’s 390X powered by twin Mercury Racing 450R engines up to 119.5 mph to win her class. “It would have been cool to win Queen of the Desert, but it’s alright, I’m just happy to see other women out there running.”
Southern California’s John Caparell ran his single Mercury Racing 300R-powered 24-foot cat to 105.7 mph in his fourth and final run, which was an improvement over his Lake of the Ozarks Shootout performance in 2020.
“As usual, it was a great time in Lake Havasu,” Caparell said. “I wish a few more of the smaller, single-engine boats that registered for the shootout would have stepped up and ran. I mean it was windy, but I didn’t feel like it was dangerous out there, and there were several guys who backed out. I was very happy with my speed but it took a few runs to get there. I was the first one to go with the radar guns not calibrated correctly. I think they had me at 126 mph (laughs). I had my boat in the Wozencraft Insurance display for the Street Party, which was another huge success, and I’m always amazed at the boats that come from different parts of the country for this. It’s pretty awesome.”
In all, 17 participants took to the course with notable top speeds including Jeff Clark’s 146.6-mph run in his DCB M31 Widebody cat, Gordon Dawson’s 127.7-mph run in his DCB M44 Widebody, Scott Keele’s 122.2-mph run in his DCB M29, Steven Sundling’s 139.2-mp run in his DCB M31, Matthew Martin’s 103-mph run in his 29-foot Outerlimits V-bottom and Ryan McConnell’s 122.5-mph run in his 24-foot HTM cat.
Editor’s note: For more shootout results, check out the Desert Storm Poker Run shootout results page. As of press time, the results had not been updated on the event site.
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