Inside The Ocean City Grand Prix—Right Place, Right Time

Inside The Ocean City Grand Prix—Right Place, Right Time

At the Race World Offshore Ocean City Grand Prix on Sunday, June 9, the winner in the Super Cat class came down to the final turn on the final lap. A Hollywood writer couldn’t have scripted it any better.

The Super Cat-class teams of M CON/Monster Energy and Dirty Money put on a great show in their Skater catamarans at the Ocean City Grand Prix on Sunday. Photos courtesy/copyright Parker Lindsey/XINSURANCE

The 38-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran, Dirty Money, with throttleman Bill Pyburn and driver Brit Lilly, had led the majority of the 14 laps in the final race of the day on the four-mile course along the Ocean City beachfront. Fans on the beach were treated to a scintillating battle as the veteran duo of throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Myrick Coil in the 38-foot Skater, M CON/Monster Energy ran second, keeping the first-place boat within striking distance should an opportunity to take the lead present itself. It was quite the race to close out the first Race World Offshore event outside of Florida.

Because Ocean City was a new venue for the race organizers behind the Key West Offshore World Championship, the sanctioning body decided to award double points for the race to entice team owners to make the trip after many of them had spent the previous weekend racing at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. For example, after his 38-foot Skater, C.J. Grant/Graydel, spun out, breaking the skegs off both of its Mercury Racing M6 drives and basically trashing both of its HRE Racing engines, team owner Chris Grant immediately declared the team would be in Ocean City.

For a variety of reasons, 33 teams made the trip to the popular tourism spot on the Maryland shoreline for the race, marking the lowest turnout of the American Power Boat Association season so far. The Super Stock class voted to not include the venue on its calendar for 2024 and many of the Marine Technology Inc. teams that compete in the 450R Factory Stock class opted to skip the race because they were in Lake of the Ozarks to celebrate the recent wedding of MTI vice president Taylor Scism to her husband, Shaun Peters.

Despite the absences of those boats, there were quality fleets in the professional classes at the Ocean City event, part of which could be attributed to RWO awarding double points for the weekend.

That was certainly in the minds of the drivers and throttlemen in the seven boats in the Super Cat-class race that capped off the weekend on Sunday afternoon.

When the green flag flew, Tomlinson and Coil took advantage of drawing the inside lane to take an early lead over the team of owner/driver Grant and throttleman Billy Moore in the 38-foot Skater, C.J. Grant/Graydel. Running in third place was the juggernaut in waiting for the class, the 38-foot Skater, Dirty Money, with throttleman Bill Pyburn and driver Brit Lilly, who calls Maryland home.

The Dirty Money team has had some last-lap bad luck this season after running out of fuel in Marathon, Fla., in April, and having to slow to close a loose escape hatch in Ocean City, Md.

Owner/throttleman Vinnie Diorio and driver Matt Jamniczky ran fourth in the 39-foot Outerlimits, Rollin Transport, while owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller were fifth in the 40-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports. Driver Christian McCauley and throttleman Anthony Smith rounded out the field in the 40-foot MTI, Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims.

It didn’t take long for the two early-season favorites to move to the front. M CON/Monster Energy had the lead on lap two as Dirty Money looked to start moving forward. The Graydel team had put in long hours replacing the HRE engines and M6 drives in less than a week before the boat had to be in Ocean City.

First, Dirty Money moved past Graydel and Pyburn and Lilly set their sights on M CON/Monster Energy. As it turned out, the momentum that carried Pyburn and Lilly past Graydel got them past M CON/Monster Energy as well on the third lap of the 14 that the class would run on the course that was published as four miles.

While the boats battled at the front, attrition took out Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims on the fifth lap. That was followed by the 38-foot Skater, CR Racing/XINSURANCE, with throttleman Casey Boaz and driver Rob Unnerstall pulling off while running in fourth place. On the tenth lap, Rollin Transport exited after the boat hooked and almost rolled in the surf near the finish buoy.

Dirty Money led with an interval that moved from two to seven seconds over M CON/Monster Energy for the first 10 laps of the race. Graydel was basically alone in third, not quite able to challenge the front runners, but comfortably holding the final podium position and the valuable points that came with it.

Coil explained that he and Tomlinson kept Dirty Money within striking distance throughout the race and then decided to step up things on the 10th lap. Tomlinson estimated that he picked up about seven seconds per lap when he and Coil decided it was go time.

Out front, Lilly and Pyburn defended their line, making the second-place boat work to get within a couple seconds, but that was as close as things got.

“I told Bill, ‘Don’t think about slowing down,’” Lilly said. “We were getting beat up.”

M CON/Monster Energy teammates Myrick Coil and John Tomlinson edged out Dirty Money to take the Super Cat-class victory.

Then on lap 13, Dirty Money got loose, standing the boat straight up. This let M CON/Monster Energy close the gap and on the final turn of the final circuit of the course, the escape hatch in the cockpit of Dirty Money opened unexpectedly. Lilly and Pyburn had no choice but to slow down to deal with the incident, which opened the door for Coil and Tomlinson to take the lead. M CON/Monster Energy took the victory with Dirty Money finishing second and Graydel taking third.

“I felt we were catching them on the outer leg every lap,” Coil said after the race. “We didn’t plan for them to have an issue. But we were ready if they did.”

The win in the double-points race put M CON/Monster Energy back in the lead in national points. Dirty Money finished second followed by Graydel and WHM Motorsports. “We can’t buy a win,” a dejected Lilly said after the race.

We Don’t Need No Stinking Practice
In the 450R Factory Stock-class race on Saturday, four 38-foot Doug Wright Powerboats catamarans took to the water with some first-time pairings in the cockpit. Moore and driver Mike Falco, who race together in Class 1, strapped into the red-and-black Defalco Doug Wright, while veteran throttleman Gary Ballough joined driver Logan Adan in Montlick Injury Attorneys. New driver Coby Harrison took the wheel of Edwin Scheer’s Hank’s Saloon and the veteran team of owner/throttleman Michel Karsenti and driver Ervin Grant in Gladiator Canados.

At the start, Gladiator Canados was in the outside lane that was closest to the beach. Running at about 108 mph, according to Grant, the boat launched off a swell and came down on the right sponson in a trough between waves causing it to roll twice before landing rightside up with its starboard outboard torn off the boat.

“The wind was pushing the waves toward the beach,” Grant said. “All I saw was water, then some light, then water. I couldn’t believe the windshield didn’t break.”

Grant added that he and Karsenti were OK and about 90 minutes after the racing concluded on Saturday, the engine was recovered.

When the three remaining boats restarted, Moore and Falco moved out to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the 13-lap race. Ballough and Adan finished second and the Hank’s Saloon team was off the pace but continued running to accumulate the double points that officials chose to award for the race.

Teammates in Class 1, Defalco’s Mike Falco and Billy Moore ran a 38-foot Doug Wright to victory in the 450R Factory Stock class.

“We literally had a few minutes testing,” said a smiling Moore after picking up the checkered flag.

The win was the first in the sport for Falco, who said he enjoyed driving the outboard powered boat. “A little more torque coming out of the turns would be awesome,” he said, perhaps alluding to the possibility of getting into the class when it moves up to Mercury Racing 500R outboards in the future.

Ballough was impressed with his 19-year-old driver. “He showed me why I’ve seen him win a lot of races in front of me,” the throttleman said. “He talked me through a turn the way he wanted and we came out of it running a lot faster.”

Rough Riders
The action on Sunday started with some of the smaller boats on site taking on the biggest seas of the weekend. Winds were clocking at more than 20 knots, whipping up the waves for the 29- to 32-foot boats in the Mod V class.

A team making its debut was that of owner/driver Kyle Miller and driver Jay Wohltman in the 29-foot Extreme, Speed Marine. At the start of the six-boat race, the 32-foot Phantom, Safe Cash/XINSURANCE, with driver Rick Raab and throttleman Scott Jobin was having problems getting up to speed, but the remaining boats in the fleet were aligned and the team of driver J.J. Turk and throttleman Nick Buis moved to an early lead in the 29-foot Extreme, XINSURANCE/Statement Marine. Speed Marine was fast early, holding onto second place followed closely by owner/driver Ken Bolinger and throttleman Forest Riddle in the 30-foot Phantom, Fastboys The father-son team of throttleman Steve Kildahl and Stephen Kildahl ran fourth in their 29-foot Extreme,, and Howard Richardson and Tom Crowley brought up the rear in the 32-foot Bad Boy, R&S Racing.

As the narrow V-bottoms bounced their way around the oval-shaped course on the Maryland shoreline, attrition came into play with Speed Marine dropping out first with an electrical problem.

Nick Buis and J.J. Turk ran two winning races over the weekend. After finishing first on Saturday in the Bracket 500 class, they came back Sunday and won the Mod V-class race in the XINSURANCE/Statement Marine boat (above).

On the third lap, Safe Cash/XINSURANCE pulled into the inside of the course. The team extinguished a small electrical fire that affected communications with the shore, but not the engine or operating systems and the boat returned to the fray. Four laps later, after running off the leaders’ pace, but still fighting for a podium, Boatfloater pulled out with problems.

Up front, Statement Marine/XINSURANCE continued to dominate the class, running out front. A couple of times, Fastboys pulled to within a handful of seconds, but on the ninth lap, a broken rocker arm on the boat’s engine took Bolinger and Riddle out of the race.

When the checkered flag waved, Turk and Buis took the win and the double points that came with it. The Safe Cash/XINSURANCE’s team persistence paid off as the 32-foot Phantom finished second followed by R&S Racing.

“We’ve put together a good team,” Turk said. “Nick and I are on a roll and the guys we race against are cool as hell. Every time we enter a corner, I can trust those guys.”

Buis said some veteran advice from Mod V world and national champion Steve Miklos came into play early on Sunday.

“Miklos and I talked right before the race about Speed Marine,” Buis said. “He said, ‘Nick they have nothing to do with you.’”

The Safe Cash/XINSURANCE team of Rick Raab and Scot Jobin had to extinguish a small electrical fire during the Mod V-class race and still managed to finish in second place.

What he meant was that because Speed Marine was in its first race and Statement Marine/XINSURANCE had the points lead, Buis and Turk didn’t have to worry if Miller and Wohltman took the lead.

“We wanted to make sure we stayed ahead of Boatfloater, Fast Boys and Safe Cash,” Buis said. “We got a good lead on Fast Boys and we pulled back and hung where we were safe with Fast Boys.

In the second race on Sunday, the winds started to come around to the southwest and the waters calmed to conditions that were similar to Saturday. This fleet was mixed with two entries in Super Vee, one in Bracket 200 class and two Bracket 400.

In the Super V race, the 42-foot Fountain, Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims, with driver Elijah Kingery and throttleman Jay Healy, continued its dominant run in 2024, leading for all 13 laps over throttleman Kirk Britto and driver Rob Lockyer, who travels from the United Kingdom to the U.S. to race, in the 40-foot Fountain, Cortez Cove/Fountain Racing.

For a couple of laps, the father-son team of Cade and Keith Herbott ran with Cortez Cove in their 38-foot Fountain, Herbott Racing. The boat looked to be running well when the team chose to retire after three laps, returning to the pits.

Elijah Kingery and Jay Healy continued their winning ways in Super V in the Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims Fountain.

In Bracket 400, the team of owner/throttleman Michael Flammia and driver John Jeniec, Jr., in the 29-foot Extreme, Framed Offshore Racing, continued its winning ways, taking the flag-to-flag win, much to the delight of its handful of Key West-Fla.-based sponsors. “The team made sure we could keep the boat running for as long as we needed,” Jeniec said.

Owner/throttleman Jim Simmons and driver Kevin Campbell didn’t run hard in the 34-foot Phantom, Simmons Racing, but they played it smart, completed the laps and earned double second-place points for the race.

The weekend’s action opened on Saturday with the boats in the Bracket 500 and 700 classes. In Bracket 500, there were four competitive boats while five teams showed in Bracket 700.

At the start, Buis and Turk teamed up once again in the 30-foot Phantom, XINSURANCE/TFR/Golf-N-Gator, to take a lead over owner/throttleman Fran Vellutato and driver Tom Crowley in the 26-foot Scarab, Rum Runners. Throttleman Robert Bryant and owner/driver Michael McColgan ran third in the 28-foot Pantera, Tunnel Vision, while Kingery and owner/driver Craig Belfatto ran fourth in the 29-foot Warlock, Bulletproof/Team Farnsworth.

Attrition again played a role in favor of Buis and Turk. First Run Rummers pulled off with a broken drive on lap 3. They were followed on the next lap by Tunnel Vision.

In the end, Turk and Buis took another checkered flag followed by Bulletproof/Farnsworth and Tunnel Vision. Credit goes to the XINSURANCE/TFR/Golf-N-Gator crew that makes sure the boat is maintained well so it doesn’t just win, it finishes every race. That’s the only way to continue to accumulate points and win national championships.

Owen Buis and Ricky Harmeyer took home the victory on Saturday in the Bracket 700-class XINSURANCE/Statement Marine Activator.

“That gives us the opportunity to run some conservative races and not have to hang it on the edge,” Buis said.

In the Bracket 700 race, 15-year-old throttleman Owen Buis and brother-in-law Ricky Harmeyer continued their winning ways in the 22-foot Activator, XINSURANCE/Statement Marine. Driver Lou LaFerrara and throttleman Kyle Zangle ran a strong second place in their 21-foot Shadow, Team Shadow.

Penalties for exceeding the class’ 60-mph speed limit were assessed to the 22-foot Velocity, Hartman/XINSURANCE, with owner/throttleman Jerry Hartman and driver John Iezitti. This moved Jax and Chase Muller up to third in their 22-foot Velocity, Chug It. Michael and Anthony Guido finished fourth in their 21-foot Shadow, Lake Hopatcong Marine and Hartman/XINSURANCE wound up fifth. These results are official on the RWO website.

Harmeyer said the southerly leg of the course was “sportier” than the outer stretch heading north. He and Owen Buis picked up yet another checkered flag and maintained their lead in the national championship by earning double first-place points.

They were in the right place at the right time.

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