Representatives from Mercury Racing arrived at the Spirit of Qatar team’s United States headquarters in Orlando, Fla., today to help the team dial in two Mercury Racing 1650 engine-powered 41-foot Victory catamarans for the upcoming domestic offshore racing season. During the next four days, the Mercury Racing reps will work closely with Spirit of Qatar team manager Steve Curtis and his crew to prep the cats for the upcoming Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix circuit. The plan is for two days of testing on the protected waters of Lake Monroe, and another two days of testing off Cocoa Beach.
Said Curtis, “The 613 boat is our ‘baseline’ boat.”
The team added a second Superboat Unlimited-class raceboat dubbed Spirit of Qatar 96 last year when SBI eliminated its Turbine class. (The team already had the Spirit of Qatar 613 Unlimited-class Victory cat, as well as the Al Adaa’am 96 turbine-powered 50-foot Mystic cat) in its stable.) That was before the team was banned from the SBI Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., for Curtis’ involvement with the formation of OPGP.
“The 613 boat is our ‘baseline’ boat,” said Curtis in telephone interview this morning. “We are just testing that boat today, and we’ll take everything we learn from it and transfer it to the 96 boat. We’re dialing in everything from propellers to gear ratios. By the end of the next four days, we should be pretty close to race-ready. Sheik Hassan (bin Jabor Al-Thani, the head of the Spirit of Qatar team) will come over to test once we’ve dialed it all in, and then we’ll be going to our first OPGP race of the season.”
While scheduled for June, the venue for the first OPGP race of the season has yet to be formally announced. Races currently on the schedule are: Sarasota, Fla., July 3-5, Destin, Fla., August 6-8, Detroit August 28-31 and Fort Myers, Fla., October 2-4.
Curtis said that if the option were available the Spirit of Qatar team would “probably” compete on the SBI circuit as well as in OPGP events. “We will race wherever the competition is if we’re allowed,” he said. “We’d like to race against Miss GEICO and the rest. If John (Carbonell, the head of SBI) reached out we would certainly consider it.”
SBI media relations representative Rodrick Cox said that while relationships were strained by Curtis’ participation in the formation of a rival circuit and the Spirit of Qatar team’s resulting ban from the SBI Worlds, the team’s participation on the SBI circuit this season is not out of the question.
“The line of communication is open on John’s end,” said Cox. “There are just a lot of rumors flying around right now, but John has told no one that they can only race one circuit or the other. John has not said anything like that officially or otherwise. If they (the Spirit of Qatar team) corrected their—and I know this isn’t the right word—’infraction’ that caused the ban, then, yes, they would be able to race this season.”