Once again last week’s event-filled Texas Outlaw Challenge just outside of Houston on Clear Lake and Galveston Bay was a smashing success. It was obvious that the 15th annual event is still one of the largest, most-fun and best-attended performance boat events in the country based on the poker run participation, the nightly parties in and around the welcoming cities of Seabrook and Kemah, and the number of boats that competed in the top-speed shootout on Friday morning.
During this year’s Texas Outlaw Challenge, Arizona’s Gary Smith earned his second shootout victory of 2022 in Predator III, his radical Skater Powerboats 388 catamaran. Photos courtesy Michael Moss
Arguably one of the most exciting parts of this year’s Texas Outlaw Challenge was the top speed recorded by Arizona performance boater Gary Smith in Predator III, his Skater Powerboats 388 catamaran powered by twin 2,000-hp turbocharged engines from Brummett Marine. Smith and his girlfriend, Patty Rich, ran 175 mph with a slipping port transmission, according to Smith. With Smith steering and handling the trim and Rich (below with Smith and their awards) on the throttles, the couple flew down the three-quarter-mile course situated between the start line by Barge 295 and the finish line around Clear Lake Park to earn the Top Gun title at the Texas Outlaw Challenge – Return of the Champions Shootout.
“We could have gone faster—the port motor showed 8000 rpm while the starboard one showed 7000 rpm, and the boat definitely torqued when the transmission was slipping,” said Smith, who ran Predator III to its second shootout title of the year after running 184 mph to win the King of the Desert title in April during the Desert Storm Poker Run in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. “Patty did great. It was her first time doing a shootout with me. Last week she ran 198 mph with me at Havasu—she has no fear.”
After recording the fastest speed of 2022 and the fastest speed ever on the event’s three-quarter-mile course (Smith and Vern Gilbert went 176 mph in Predator I in 2014 on the former one-mile course), Smith called it for the event because of the port transmission issues and decided to hang out and enjoy the sights and sounds of all of the other boats making their way to poker run’s 10 different card stops.
“It was a beautiful weekend,” Smith added. “We love the Texas Outlaw Challenge. They do such a great job here with this event.”
Smith, who said he plans to take his Skater to the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in August, bested last year’s winners—Curtis Morris and Jamin Jones, who earned the 2021 Top Gun trophy with a 156-mph pass in Curtis’ Team Yahoo Racing 36-foot Skater—by 12 mph as the 36-footer ran 163 mph down the course. Not far behind Team Yahoo Racing was Chad Havens in his 40-foot Skater with a 156-mph pass.
“The boat ran well, we just didn’t have the formula for the speed yet,” Jones said, adding that it was the first time he and Curtis had run the boat since the Key West Poker Run in November. Earlier this year, the team worked with Alexi Sahagian of Boostpower in Southern California on a new set of methanol-injected 600-cubic-inch engines utilizing conventional BRODIX cylinder heads and new billet intakes and carbs with the team’s reused PSI superchargers.
“There’s more to come,” Jones continued, adding that the team plans to run the boat at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout and take it to the Emerald Coast Poker Run in September and Key West Poker Run in November. “The engines make more power than the old setup but we did not get any time to tweak the setup before Texas so we ran the same drives and props as before. We’re certain more speed will come out of this power package.”
Check out the slideshow above for more images from the Texas Outlaw Challenge – Return of the Champions Shootout.
Also of note were a couple of DCB catamarans that participated in the shootout and the poker run—Jeff Clark’s M31 Widebody and Mauricio Vivanco’s M44 Widebody. Clark’s fastest pass in the 31-footer was 143 mph and Vivanco’s 44-footer was clocked at 148 mph.
Vivanco, who hails from Southern California and is pictured at right with DCB president Jeff Johnston, had never been to the Texas Outlaw Challenge and said he had a blast.
“We had a great time; it was well worth the trip,” said Vivanco, who won his class with the 148-mph top speed in his 44-footer powered by twin Mercury Racing 1550/1350 engines. “Everyone was so excited and happy to see DLA M44—she was the center of attention at the street party on Thursday night. We had VIP slips, front and center, at every event. I’d definitely go back.”
A pair of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats V-bottoms added to the shootout showcase as Texas performance boaters Cass Shewbart and Heath Kirkwood ran their canopied 47- and 43-footers, respectively, in the event.
Shewbart, who reached 119 mph in XXX: Disturbing the Peace and nabbed the Top Outlaw title as the fastest V-bottom, said he was happy with the result.
“We put three-quarters of a tank in it and we didn’t need nearly that much fuel—the gauge doesn’t read right when it’s on the trailer so we kind of messed that up,” Shewbart said. “We also had Mike Faucher of Factory Billet Engines remote into our computers to raise the rev-limiter but that didn’t work as planned because we were on it three-quarters of the way down the course. The boat has quite a bit more in it, we just need to dial it in better. Right now we’re running 1.5 gears and a 39”-pitch prop; we need like 1.36 gears and about 37” props.”
Kirkwood, who recently made his former 43-foot raceboat more pleasure-boat friendly, went 107 mph with his friend Brian Cole in the boat with him.
Other top-speed highlights included American Offshore founder Art DiNick reaching 121 mph and local performance boater Justin Digiovanni running 110 mph in his 34-foot Pilini Marine catamaran.
Not only did Digiovanni fare well in the top-speed shootout, during Saturday evening’s Outlaws to the Max Grand Finale presented by Space City Services and hosted by Marine Max he generously matched a $20,000 donation made by Arnie and Amy Schaub in honor of Eddie Guidry’s “Fast Award,” which started a college fund for Guidry’s granddaughter, Addie.
Jones And Smith Crowned Desert Storm Top-Speed Shootout Champs
Team Yahoo Racing Crew Closes Out Memorable Year In Key West
Outlaws Moving Forward For Texas Event And Powerboat Community Overall
Texas Outlaw Challenge Postponed
Texas Outlaw Challenge Friday Update: Participants OK After Shootout Accident
Commentary: The ‘Eclectic’ Texas Outlaw Challenge
Predator Skater Runs 176 MPH To Win GPS Outlaw Shootout