For the first time in the 2022 American Power Boat Association offshore powerboat racing season, the Super Stock class was under the spotlight for the right reasons at yesterday’s St. Clair River Classic presented by Magna, the fourth of eight races in the APBA National Championship Series. The Detroit Metro area event attracted nine teams, the most of any class present in the Offshore Powerboat Association-produced event, and OPA officials made them the premier/final race of the day on the four-mile course on the St. Clair River in Michigan.
The final race of the day at the St. Clair River Classic presented by Magna provided the best action of the day when the Super Stock boats stole the show. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
The fleet consisted primarily of 32-foot Doug Wright catamarans with two boats built by Victory and one Legend from Dubai. After a few delays caused by the freighters needing to navigate the St. Clair River, the race started at about 4:53 p.m. and most U.S. Coast Guard permits for racing end at 5 p.m. so officials were pushing to get the boats on the course.
The 32-foot Doug Wright, LPC, had the pole with the 32-foot Doug Wright Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping, in lane two and Performance Boat Center in the third lane. One of the two 32-foot Victory cats, Big East Construction, was in lane four with two 32-foot Doug Wright cats, CELSIUS and S-39, in five and six. The other 32-foot Victory, Jackhammer, which won the season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla., had lane seven with the 31-foot Legend, Steele Racing in lane eight and the 32-foot Doug Wright, CMR/Raymarine Salt Weapon, in the outermost lane.
Throttleman Rusty Williams and driver Myrick Coil jumped out to the early lead in Performance Boat Center, with owner/throttleman Loren Peters and driver Anthony Smith from the H.P. Mafia shop in Osage Beach, Mo., holding second in LPC. Owner/driver Reese Langheim and throttleman Ricky Maldonado ran third in Jackhammer with owner/driver Cole Leibel and throttleman Gary Ballough in Big East Construction holding down fourth.
Between a few delays for freighter traffic, the St. Clair River Classic produced a full day of powerboat-racing action with 47 teams spread across multiple classes.
After their 32-foot Doug Wright cat sustained catastrophic damage in the final race of the day in Sarasota, Fla., on July 3, owner/driver Sean Conner and throttleman Shaun Torrente leased the former CR Racing boat and rigged it with the team’s Mercury Racing 300R outboards. In the first few laps, they got comfortable with the boat and started moving up through the field, at one point passing Big East Construction before having to pull off with mechanical issues.
Up front, Coil and Williams nailed the setup because once they had the lead, they were never challenged. “When we knew we had a fast boat from the start, we played it easy and just didn’t want to make a mistake,” Coil said.
The first half of the season didn’t go the way the Performance Boat Center team had planned. It damaged the boat in testing at Cocoa Beach in the season opener and then at the Lake Race, it was penalized for not holding their lane at the start.
“This by far was the smoothest weekend,” said Coil by phone after the race. “We’re standing behind the boat, we just went through tech. It’s so nice racing in clean, cool water.”
A freighter making its way north on the river loomed and as the teams seemed to settle into the positions to complete the required 10 laps on the four-mile course, the checkered and red flags came up after the leaders completed 33 miles or 7.5 laps.
Owner/driver Reese Langheim and throttleman Ricky Maldonado wound up finishing second, extending the overall points lead for team Jackhammer.
“We knew the freighter was coming and if we get half the race done, I told Ricky they’re going to do something,” Langheim said. When reminded that the team’s four podium finishes put it in the points lead, Langheim added, “I don’t race for points. I race for fun. If the points come, great. I do stuff for fun and enjoyment.”
With a second-place finish in St. Clair, Jackhammer added to its Super Stock-class APBA Offshore National Championship Series points lead.
After beating up the boat en route to a second-place finish in Cocoa Beach and getting caught up in the mayhem at the start of the Lake Race, the LPC team’s Peters was happy for a clean, damage-free race. Third place in St. Clair should put the team in second place overall.
Peters has had a few different drivers the past few years and he’s been upside down more than he would have liked. He was concerned with the seven-knot current in the river causing problems in the turns.
“Every corner, I’m like, ‘Please don’t roll the boat,’” he said. “It’s in the front of my mind, especially in this race because of the current.”
With 47 registered raceboats and 15 classic hulls that competed in the exhibition “Clash of the Titans” to start the action, the day boasted chamber of commerce weather with sunny skies, summertime temperatures and a healthy crowd on the U.S. and Canadian sides of the river.
While most of the Super Cats and Class 1 boats elected to skip St. Clair to get ready for Michigan City, quite possibly the youngest team to ever run a Super Cat got some laps in prior to next weekend’s race in Indiana.
Though Super Cat rookies Chase and Jax Muller of the Wicked team were the sole entries in the class, they are far from rookies in the sport.
At the start of the season, Jay Muller wanted to buy a Super Stock boat for his sons, Chase, 21, and Jax, 19, to run. But he couldn’t find one, so he brought out his old 40-foot Motion cat that had run as Brioschi among other names and re-powered it with a pair of 750-hp Sterling Performance engines for his sons to run in Super Cat.
The senior Muller took Jax out on Saturday to give him a baseline for trimming the boat when he throttles. Then Jax and Chase put in their own test time before heading out on the course on Sunday.
“I’ve never seen my boat run without me in it,” Jay Muller said.
Sunday was the first time Chase and Jax ran on their own on a live racecourse.
“We were going easy for the first half of the race because we never ran it together,” said Chase Muller, who was remarkably reserved after completing his first race in a boat that can push 130 mph. “We race dirt bikes every weekend and we run pleasure boats all week long. It wasn’t anything different, it was just figuring out the boat as a whole.”
The Muller brothers know that next weekend will be different when a full fleet of Super Cats is on the water in Michigan City. “We’ll run the boat harder and harder and try to run with them as long as we can,” Chase said.
Also on the water for the third race of the day were two 39-foot MTI catamarans powered by twin Mercury Racing 450R outboards in the 450R Factory Stock class. It didn’t take long for throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Taylor Scism to jump out to the lead in their new TS Motorsports MTI 390XR. They took the flag-to-flag victory over driver Randy Keys and throttleman Billy Allen in KLOVAR Motorsports.
The 39-foot Fountain, Knucklehead Racing, calls St. Clair home and the team of owner Ed Smith and throttleman Anthony Smith (unrelated) are a favorite at every event. They ran unopposed in the class and were in the same start with two canopied Fountains in Bracket 300—Mr. Herbott-O with driver Keith Herbott and throttleman Cade Herbott, and Team Woody with driver Billy Shipley and throttleman Chad Woody. The competition in Class 3 was short-lived, however, when Mr. Herbott-O pulled to the inside of the course with mechanical gremlins.
The second race of the day saw some good competition in Mod V, Bracket 400 and Bracket 500. The Mod V teams are running all the OPA races, hoping to win the purse being put up by the owner of the 32-foot Phantom, 151 Express, which is throttled by Nick Imprescia and driven by Ian Morgan.
Running on the edge as usual, Marker 17 Marine took the win in the Mod V class.
When the green flag flew, Brian Forehand and Vinnie Diorio took the early lead in the 29-foot Outerlimits, Marker 17 Marine, with 151 Express in second and the 32-foot Phantom, XINSURANCE/Phantom, driven by Phantom Boats president Will Smith and throttled by Mark Fernandes in third. The father-son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl in the 30-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com, was off the pace from the start and said after the race that when it pulled the boat out of the water, the 30-footer had a bent propeller blade. Another Phantom, Relentless, with Travis Pettko and Anthony Silviera, rounded out the fleet.
After Marker 17 Marine pretty much checked out, the battle was on for second between 151 Express XINSURANCE/Phantom. They battled for the entire 11 laps until 151 Express took an inside line that let them edge out its opponents for second place.
“The boat ran flawlessly,” said Forehand, who was prepared for the current having raced in St. Clair for years. He acknowledged Frank McComas at Scorpion for building a strong engine for the boat.
After taking second place, Imprescia gave all credit to his driver. “Ian did an awesome job on the wheel,” Imprescia said. “We owe him for second place.”
The Mod V-class battle for second place between 151 Express and XINSURANCE/Phantom was among the tightest of the day.
Smith, whose boats had a great day, couldn’t be upset about finishing third to a Phantom. “Those two kids are real good and they don’t weigh anything,” he laughed.
In Stock Vee, OPA president Ed “Smitty” Smith and his son, Anthony, drove and throttled, respectively, the 32-foot Phantom, Wazzup, to an early lead that the team never relinquished. After blowing the bottom out of their 30-foot Phantom, Shocker, in Eastlake, Ohio, Chris Colson and Raymond Evans bought a replacement boat from Charlie McCarthy who helped the team rig the boat with its engine, drive and equipment.
“We only had about 15 minutes of testing prior to the race,” said Colson, who handles driving duties in the boat. “I knew I wasn’t comfortable turning that boat. In a straight line, I feel like I never have to let up.”
The father-and-son duo of OPA head Ed Smith and his older son, Anthony, took an early lead in the Stock V race and never let it go.
For the majority of the 10-lap race in Stock Vee, Shocker battled with the 30-foot Phantom, North Myrtle Beach RV Resort driven by Kirk Hanna and throttled by Mark Rinda, with the boats actually bumping at one point.
“We had a love-tap—I wasn’t concerned about it, we were going straight,” Colson said. After two attempts to pass, Shocker got around its competition to take second place.
Looking at the rest of the bracket classes, in Bracket 400 the 39-foot Velocity GNS Motorsports took the checkered flag ahead of the fan-favorite 41-foot Apache Predator that experienced mechanical problems and ended up running on one engine. In its debut race, the classic Challenger hull, Crazy Rhythm, grabbed the final podium position.
Four boats battled in Bracket 500 with Micheal Stancombe throttling and J.J. Turk driving the 30-foot Phantom, Team Woody, to first place ahead of the 29-foot Warlock, Bulletproof, with Elijah Kingery and Craig Belfatto in second, and Ron May and Steve LaPinta in the classic Magnum hull, May Marine, in third.
The Bracket 600 contest looked to be a continuation of the first half of the season with the 26-foot Scarab that normally runs as Rum Runners rebadged as Unsalted No Sharks for this race and the next one at Michigan City, Ind., next weekend. Throttleman Fran Vellutato and driver Michael McColgan took the early lead with the 26-foot Joker, Deception, and in-cockpit crew of Jesse Schmig and Robert Bryant giving chase. One of the few boats in the race with a three-person bolster, Money Monster with driver Tim Vanderberg, throttleman Jeff Kipfmueller and navigator Garrett Cannon ran third with Horizon in fourth.
The positions didn’t change until Vellutato’s boat blew a drive in the final lap, handing the win to Deception, which is for sale. Money Monster took second and Horizon claimed third.
Finally, the Bracket 700 race was a case of “the results aren’t official until announced.”
In a result not uncommon in speed-bracketed classes, the Bracket 700 race delivered a surprise ending.
At the end of the five-lap race, the team of Cesar Perez and Ricky Maldonado in the 22-foot Velocity, Atomic Velocity, appeared to have beaten Maldonado’s older brother, Julian, and Brian Guy in Jackhammer. When the results were announced, the boat that appeared to have finished third, Goofin’ Around—with Matt and Joe Lauer—was awarded the winner’s trophy followed by the Muller brothers in the 22-foot Velocity, Chug It, and Mini Gini, a late entry that didn’t make the registered list.
The next race on the APBA Offshore schedule is the OPA-produced Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind., on Sunday.
St. Clair River Classic Viewing Essentials
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Super Stock Steele Team To Debut New Dubai-Built Raceboat In St. Clair
Super Stock, Mod-V, Stock V And Bracket Classes To Take Center Stage In St. Clair River Classic
Magna Returning As St. Clair River Classic Presenting Sponsor
Muller Brothers Going Super Cat Racing
Inside SOTW: Jay Muller—For The Love Of The Game