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HomeRacingTomlinson Stepping In For Torrente To Race Restructured CMR Super Stock MTI In Marathon

Tomlinson Stepping In For Torrente To Race Restructured CMR Super Stock MTI In Marathon

For close to five months, the team at Shaun Torrente Racing in Southwest Florida has been working around the clock to get its 32-foot canopied MTI catamaran, which is sponsored by CMR Construction and Roofing, Raymarine, Dewald Propellers and more, ready for this weekend’s first race of the Super Stock season in Marathon, Fla.

Introducing CMR, the reborn Super Stock-class 32-foot MTI catamaran, which is going to be racing this weekend at the 7 Mile Offshore Grand Prix in Marathon, Fla. Photo courtesy Nick Imprescia/Shaun Torrente Racing

So why has the STR crew been burning the midnight oil to prepare for the 7 Mile Offshore Grand Prix presented by M CON and Performance Boat Center in the Florida Keys? Because the “new boat” that owner/driver Sean Conner and throttleman Shaun Torrente scrambled to get ready for last season’s Race World Offshore-produced American Power Boat Association/Union Internationale Motonautique Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., in November, needed a bit of “reconstruction,” according to Torrente, the Team Abu Dhabi driver and defending F1H2O world champion who will not be in the boat this weekend because of a conflicting F1H2O race in China.

“In the offseason we decided to cut the boat in half and decrease the tunnel width by four inches,” said Torrente, who added that veteran throttleman Johnny Tomlinson is going to take his place in Marathon, with the blessing, of course, from his teammate in 450R Factory Stock class, Taylor Scism. “It was a long process—I think we have about 850 hours into the project—that kept our team extremely busy, but we got it done. And I’m proud to say the boat runs better than I thought it would, which is a relief yet also satisfying for everyone who did the work. We had a fuel delivery issue when we first tested the boat but we worked that out and made some changes to the setup and are good to go.

“It’s killing me not to be there this weekend, but at the same time I think JT and Sean have a competitive boat and if they end up winning I’ll be super proud of them,” he continued. “I do wish I could close the loop on the project with the race this weekend, but this is my life, right? Sometimes I have to go race in China. I know the boat is in great hands with Johnny. He came and tested it with me last Friday, which went great. I throttled first so he could see how I ran the boat, then he throttled it and I turned it. We threw it into some turns and it performed awesome.”

Sean Conner and Johnny Tomlinson tested the MTI out of TNT Custom Marine in Miami on Friday morning. Photo courtesy Sean Conner

Characteristically understated, Tomlinson said he was happy to assist Torrente and Conner in Marathon.

“Shaun and I ran it last Friday before he left for China and everything went well,” said Tomlinson, who co-owns TNT Custom Marine in Miami. “In the limited time we tested, it was clear it is a nice-running boat. I mean it feels small but that’s because it is (compared to the boats he races in 450R Factory Stock and Class 1). It’s pretty quick, too. Not that I have a lot of Super Stock experience to gauge that by, but the boat accelerates very well and it turns really hard and really good. I asked Shaun how much time he and Sean had spent in the boat and he told me Sean hadn’t been in the modified version yet. I said, ‘Well then you know what, we need to get him in the boat here before we take it to Marathon.’ So we scheduled a quick test for Friday morning out of TNT so we can get a little bit of seat time together before the race.

“Because I wasn’t sure how much testing time we’ll be able to get in Marathon, I figured we should get in some laps in Biscayne Bay before the weekend boat traffic gets going around here,” he added. “I’m hopeful we can come out of there with a top three so the team will be good to go for the rest of the season. I don’t know how good the boat is compared to the rest of the field, but Shaun said all of his data tells him it should be pretty competitive.”

Conner, who tested the boat for the first time this morning with Tomlinson, laughed out loud after saying it’s not uncommon for him to jump into a boat with no seat time. “It’s pretty much been my MO the last two or three years,” he said then chuckled.

“I believe this is the best boat we’ve had since Shaun and I joined forces,” said Conner, who specializes in the acquisition and representation of high-end yachts nationwide and owns Salt Weapon, a biodegradable salt removal formula. “The boat’s performance is leaving big smiles on all of our faces. I’m looking forward to going into a race fully prepared and I can’t wait to go racing with Johnny.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather Shaun be there for this race, but with JT I think we’ll be in pretty good shape,” he added and laughed again. “I’ve followed offshore powerboat racing for most of my life and I remember thinking to myself how much fun it would be to do that. It was at a race in the early 2000s when I was watching JT compete in Super Cat class and just dominate wherever he went. Seeing him race is really what got me like, ‘Alright, I have to go do this.’ So it’s been about a 23-year dream of mine to race with JT.”

The new CMR raceboat looked sharp entering the water at TNT Custom Marine. Photo courtesy Sean Conner

Conner pointed out another thing that makes him smile about the reconstructed boat—safety.

“I feel like we are going into this race with the safest boat out there,” Conner said. “The safety features in our cockpit are second to none and exceed the current class rules.

“I’d like to say one thing about 2023 is that it is a year of unfinished business for Shaun and me,” he added.

After negotiating the deal last year to acquire the former XCAT raceboat, which was built by MTI for the team he races for overseas, in time to get it set up for the Super Stock season finale in Key West, Torrente was clearly disappointed that he and Conner didn’t even finish the first of two races at the world championships after the bottom modifications done to the boat for purposes of running the Mercury Racing 300R engines and adding weight per class rules did not hold up. At that point the wheels were already turning for how to make the boat better.

“Our crew put in so much work to get that boat ready for Key West—primarily because we have an obligation to our sponsors—so after that we came home, took a few days off and then immediately went to work on it,” Torrente said, calling out Nick Imprescia and Ian Morgan for all of their hard work. “When I say we started at zero, that’s not even true because we started at less than zero having to take everything off that we added to the bottom and de-rig the boat. So we had to pull all that off, just to get back to zero—and then start again, which meant cutting it in half and grinding and laminating and all that fun stuff to get it all back together so we can race this season.

“We realized right away that we didn’t want to be at the mercy of someone else doing the work because it was such a large job and we didn’t want to be behind the eight-ball getting ready for the first race, so we opted to handle most of it in-house,” he added. “Obviously our team doesn’t specialize in cutting boats apart or doing composite work so we brought in some experts to help us out.”

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Check out the slideshow above for several images of the Super Stock-class raceboat project. Photos courtesy Shaun Torrente Racing

For the important task of taking the boat apart, Torrente called in Craig Erb, who built boats for the legendary Seebold family for several decades. “I’ve known Craig, who we call ‘Termite,’ since I was a kid,” Torrente said. “It was nice to be able to work with him on this project. He’s been around the racing scene forever.”

For the skillful job of putting the boat back together via composite work and lamination, Torrente said he got lucky.

“I was hoping we could get Trevor Church from Destination Automotive & Marine in Sarasota to do the work—he does a lot with Grant (Bruggemann of Grant’s Signature Racing),” Torrente explained. “He told me he couldn’t get it done in the timeframe we needed so I asked him if I could just pay for his time to guide us through the dirty work—the grinding and sanding—and then help us with the lamination because that’s really where the skill part comes in. He sat there for a minute and asked, ‘What if my dad helped?’ I told him that would be awesome and he told me I was really lucky because his dad, who was his mentor, was working on a sailboat about 15 minutes down the road from our shop.

“I can’t even begin to tell you what a blessing Rob Church was for us,” he continued. “He is just an absolute guru—a mad scientist. He is a perfectionist and a machine. I mean he’s a 68-year-old guy who goes all day long. He spent more time here than we intended, but we liked having him and I think he liked being here with the guys all day. He did an amazing job.”

Torrente said one of the most positive parts of the project was that the team could utilize the boat’s existing cockpit since it was originally built to UIM XCAT specs and the same standards that are supposed to be implemented in the class rules in the near future. The boat already had flat windows, a diamond safety barrier, roll bars, proper hatches, etc.

After the boat was back together, Torrente tasked Rick Davis of Dynamic Auto Body in Lindenhurst, N.Y., to complete body work to the bottom of the boat and then paint it.

Torrente said the bottom was redone and painted black, and then the deck, where it came together with the bottom was repainted white.

“It looks better than we got it and that’s not an exaggeration,” Torrente said. “It’s basically a new boat. It looks like a new boat, and it runs like a new boat.”

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