Until recently, it appeared that John Tomlinson—the best throttleman of his generation—would be sitting out this offshore racing season. With Performance Boat Center of Osage Beach, Mo., taking a hiatus from the Supercat class after a difficult season, Tomlinson hadn’t secured a ride for 2020. And that would have been a first for the multi-time world champion, who co-owns TNT Custom Marine in Miami with partner Mike Thomas, since 1986.
Running at least three offshore races this season with driver Lorne Leibel and throttleman John Tomlinson in the cockpit, this Skater 388 catamaran last competed during the 2019 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Central Missouri (click image to enlarge.) Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
But in a move that has him coming full circle to his racing roots, Tomlinson will share the cockpit of Performance Boat Center’s former Skater Powerboats 388 catamaran with driver and fellow offshore racing veteran Lorne Leibel. In his first race 34 years ago, Tomlinson shared the cockpit of the Molson Indy 38-foot Cigarette V-bottom with the affable Canadian. Later in their respective racing careers, Tomlinson and Leibel teamed up in the former Bacardi Silver Skater raceboat.
“I have run at least a partial season every year since I started in the sport,” Tomlinson said, then laughed. “I was thinking I might actually have a season off.”
“In addition to all of his offshore racing experience Lorne has been racing sports cars like Hugh Fuller (one of Tomlinson’s former teammates) did,” he continued. “That makes a big difference for a driver in this sport. I think he will drive the wheels off this thing.”
Leibel is leasing the Sterling Performance engine-powered 38-footer from owner Ron Szolack for what he described as a “short” Florida-based season. The team’s first race will be the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix in late June, followed by either the Race World Offshore September event in Clearwater, Fla., or the American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series season-finale in early October down the coast in Fort Myers Beach. (Leibel has not committed to either event as yet.) The team will finish up its abbreviated season the Race World Offshore Key West Championships in November.
Dubbed Canada Homes, the multi-time world-championship-winning boat will be decked out with new graphics. But it will retain its current white, black and red color scheme.
“I waited for Johnny to be free and clear of any other racing obligations before I asked him to race with me again,” said Leibel. “I didn’t want to put him in an awkward position. But I also didn’t want to own a raceboat again, so I worked something out with Ron.
“I ran with Gary Ballough in the Super Stock class last season, and I guess the racing bug bit me again,” he continued. “When I knew Johnny wasn’t with any team, I thought this would a great thing, sort of a swansong for him and me.”
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