Key West Worlds Finale: Twice as Nice

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Racing: Key West Worlds Finale: Twice as Nice

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After finishing second in day one of Class 1 racing at the offshore racing world championships in Key West., Fla., last Friday, throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Carlos de Quesada in the 49-foot Victory catamaran, Huski/Alegra Motorsports, took advantage of some early chaos to leap out to the lead on Sunday.

This was a key move because the conditions on Sunday were calmer. Having no traffic in front of them let the duo run the line they wanted on a day that awards double points for completing more laps on their way to victory at American Power Boat Association/Union Internationale Motonautique-sanctioned event.

Many competitors pulled double duty in Key West, but only John Tomlinson finished the weekend with two world championships, proving why he is considered by many to the best throttleman in offshore powerboat racing. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

“You have to be considerably faster to get around someone on this course,” said Tomlinson who captured the world championship in the Class 1 race and the first UIM title with driver Taylor Scism in the 450R Factory Stock class, which became an official APBA class this year.

It’s a strategy that has played out on Sunday in the Race World Offshore season finale in Key West for decades. Typically, Wednesday and Friday are single-point races while Sunday requires teams to complete more laps to earn those valuable double points. It lets a team that didn’t start well finish strong and still be in the hunt for a podium at the end of the week. It also rewards consistency for teams that run well, but don’t necessarily take a checkered flag on any of the three days.

But this year, there was no Wednesday race because of high winds caused by Hurricane Nicole. This gave any team that finished well on Friday an advantage going into Sunday’s races.

The rough conditions for the Friday’s contest gave the advantage to competitors who had experienced Key West’s volatile nature, but Mother Nature took a day of rest on Sunday. The course and winds were calm with no chance of rain. Several throttleman who pulled double duty, competing in two races, made late propeller and setup changes after being on the 4.38-mile course for a race.

Flying First Class
The 47-foot Victory, Huski Chocolate with driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Steve Curtis finished first on Friday followed by Tomlinson and de Quesada and driver Miles Jennings and throttleman Alex Pratt in the 42-foot MTI, Good Boy Vodka/XINSURANCE. That boat had to scratch for Sunday because of some bottom issues. The 50-foot Mystic, df Young, with owner/throttleman Rich Wyatt and driver Marc Granet, also scratched because one of its Stotler Racing engines broke on Friday.

This left a four-boat fleet in Class 1 on Sunday with owner/driver Jeff Stevenson and throttleman Mike Stancombe in the 42-foot MTI, JBS Racing, and Mike Falco and throttleman Chris Hanley in the 48-foot Outerlimits, DeFalco Racing. Nigel Hook and driver Jay Johnson in the 52-foot Mystic, Ocean Cup, and the 46-foot Skater, Rare Stash Bourbon, made up the Extreme class.

Ocean Cup’s error created chaos in the Class 1 fleet.

With the boats in the Extreme class starting in the outside lanes, the Class 1 boats were inside with lane position determined by inverting their order of finish from Friday. This put the Huski boats side by side in lanes three and four.

When the green flag flew, Ocean Cup got out to what looked like a good lead, but the boat veered across the course to the left in front of the rest of the fleet. Then it appeared to turn back to the right, again in front of the other boats.

“I said, ‘Steve they’re going to the wrong buoy,’ said Lilly. “I went right through their roostertail and then I had to do it again. That’s the most dangerous thing I’ve ever seen.”

Down on power, Huski Chocolate 21 could not make up lost time.

Lilly said that having to make the evasive maneuver cost he and Curtis about 10 seconds to their teammates and because he had to drive through Ocean Cup’s roostertail twice, Huski Chocolate’s Mercury Racing 1100 Comp engines ingested saltwater and continued to lose power as the race went on.

Hook apologized to the Huski team’s crew chief Gary Stray. He said that by the time Johnson realized he was inside the buoy, he had to react to make the buoy that marked the entry to the turn.

“When you head to turn one you need to have a heading and follow it,” he explained. “He was seeing the buoy on the inside.

 “At the speed we’re going, you only have to be a little bit off to miss the buoy,” he continued. “For the show, all the boats starting together is good, but they need to put a bigger marker out there.”

Curtis’ and Lilly’s misfortune left the inside lane open for Huski/Alegra Motorsports. “I was far enough back, about a boat length behind Steve, and I went inside,” said Tomlinson. “After that I was able to squeeze out front and keep about two or three seconds on him.”

On a course of the size of Key West, once a skilled strategist like Tomlinson has the lead, it’s tough to take it away. He throttled Huski/Alegra Motorsports to the first of Tomlinson’s world championships on the day. Curtis and Lilly took second while owner/driver Jeff Stevenson and throttleman Mike Stancombe took the final podium spot in their 42-foot MTI, JBS Motorsports.

M CON Breaks Through
In the week’s final race, nine Super Cats and five boats in the Stock 450R class took to the course. On Friday, throttleman Billy Moore and owner/driver Chris Grant put themselves in the command position winning in their 38-foot Skater, Graydel. Second went to owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil in the 38-foot Skater, M CON, while the 38-foot Skater, Liquor Split, with throttleman Jimmy McIntyre and driver Jason Ventura took third.

With representatives from Monster Energy—the M CON team’s Class 1 sponsor starting in 2023—Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil left Key West with their first Super Cat world championship.

After having to pull off the course with a slit steering hose early on Friday, throttleman Grant Bruggemann and owner/driver Wayne Valder basically set up their 42-foot MTI catamaran, CELSIUS on all-or-nothing mode. When the green flag waved, they used the inside lane to blast to the front to a lead that they would not relinquish.

“We were hoping M CON would take the bait and chase us and maybe break,” said Bruggemann. “Once they backed off and we had a lead, we just took care of the equipment.”

Though they won on Sunday, a Super Cat world championship was not in the cards for Wayne Valder and Grant Bruggemann of the CELSIUS team.

Attrition played more of a role in Sunday’s calm conditions. Graydel pulled off with trim issues and owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller blew a new motor in the 40-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports, after three laps. Liquor Split pulled off soon after with its own mechanical problems.

This left the door open for the 39-foot Outerlimits, SV Offshore Racing, to claim a hard-earned third place on Sunday and a podium finish for the week.

“It’s the best we’ve ever looked and felt,” said throttleman Vinnie Diorio who partners with driver Simon Prevost from Canada. “If we wouldn’t have tested yesterday, we wouldn’t have finished today.”

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The SV Offshore Racing team notched its strongest outing to date.

In the end, M CON claimed its first Super Cat world championship after Coyle convinced Miller that he didn’t need to track down CELSIUS. Bruggemann and Valder finished second in the championship followed by SV Offshore.

“It was a long time coming,” said Miller of his first Super Cat title. “With 16 laps, we wanted to put the boat into position to win and after about four or five laps, Myrick said, ‘We don’t have to beat CELSIUS.’”

Miller admitted that the message didn’t sink in for another couple of laps. “We were coming out of the harbor turn and I said, ‘OK, I don’t need to beat them.’”

Miller explained that the team had been watching the weather predictions for Sunday and knew the winds would lay down. The M CON team set up the boat accordingly.

But it had additional motivation to do well. The team’s transportation specialist Craig Amptmeyer had a scooter accident earlier in the week that put him in intensive care with multiple injuries. Doctors almost sent him to Miami, but instead operated on him in Key West.

Amptmeyer recovered well enough to get out of the hospital on Thursday evening and he rested on Friday and Saturday so he could be in the pits for Sunday’s finale.

As if that wasn’t enough, the team found some engine issues late Friday. Mike D’Anniballe of Sterling Performance Engines worked side by side with the M CON crew until the wee hours of Saturday morning to resolve the problems.

When Jay Muller’s day ended early, he and Mauff safely crossed the course to head back into the pits. This left Muller the opportunity to watch his sons Jax and Chase complete the race in the 40-foot Motion, RPI/Wicked, complete the laps to finish the race after breaking an engine on Friday. They also finished one place ahead of their dad in the final standings.

Her Father’s Daughter
Also on the water with the Super Cats was the five-boat 450R Factory Stock fleet, and the boats were competing to make history in the first UIM world championship for the class. After the Class 1 race, Tomlinson made the call to go down one propeller size for the 39-foot MTI catamaran, TS Motorsports, that he races with Taylor Scism, the daughter of MTI Powerboats founder and owner, Randy Scism.

At the tip of the 450R Factory Stock class since it launched two years ago, Taylor Scism and John Tomlinson delivered a history-making performance in Key West.

At the start, Tomlinson’s decision proved to make the difference. TS Motorsports could out-accelerate throttleman Gary Balllough and driver Willy Cabeza in the 39-foot MTI, GC Racing.

“I didn’t go too tall on the prop,” said Tomlinson. “I put on something a little smaller. That’s what got us out front and we were able to stretch the lead.”

Added Ballough, “We were running good and had one bigger prop than the guy that won it. We had the legs but they had the acceleration.”

Driver Francois Pirelli and throttleman Michel Karsenti in the 38-foot Doug Wright, Gladiator-Canados got past throttleman Billy Allen and driver Randy Keyes in the 39-foot MTI, KLOVAR Motorsports, to claim the final podium spot.

After spearheading the effort to get the 450R Factory Stock class recognized and spending 2021 running unopposed, Scism was emotional after winning the first UIM world championship in the category’s history.

“It feels incredible,” she said. “Key West has such a strong history for my family, it was emotional crossing the finish line.”

Through a combination of her efforts on the racecourse and gracious professionalism off it, Scism has become a role model for young girls—one even dressed up as her for Halloween—and women.

“When we did the awards, there were 10 little girls waiting,” she said.

The GC Racing team took second in the world championship standings followed by Gladiator-Canados.

Team Allen Lawncare Cuts The Glass

Bill Allen and Cody McDowell were the models of consistency, which led them to a UIM Super Stock-class world title.

Even with a couple of scratches after Friday’s action, the Super Stock class still had the largest fleet on Sunday with 10 boats. As they did in race one, Ballough and owner/driver Cole Leibel charged to the lead in the 32-foot Victory, Big East Construction. The team held a significant lead for the first half of the race before a blown fuse brought their day to a halt.

To explain just how much of a lead Big East had, it’s best to let Coil, who was driving the 32-foot Doug Wright, Performance Boat Center, with throttleman Rusty Williams in second.

“We went out there and had a good race today,” Coil admitted. “I thought we were going to get second to Big East.”

The breakdown hit hard for Ballough, particularly because his cockpit-mate is the nephew of offshore racing great Lorne Leibel.

“It was a big moment of disappointment because I wanted to show Victory what I haven’t shown them thus far,” said the veteran racer who is harder on himself than any competitor could be. “I don’t need another world championship (he has 18), but I was sitting in there with a guy whose been coming down here since he was four years old.”

But Ballough always took away at least one positive note from the experience.

 “We know we can run out front, we know the boat is going in the right direction,” he said. “You can learn more about your boat here in a week than you can learn in two seasons of testing.”

After finishing third on Friday, the 32-foot Doug Wright, LPC, with owner Loren Peters and driver Anthony Smith took third again Sunday. Fourth on Sunday went to owner/throttleman Billy Allen and driver Cody McDowell in the 32-foot Doug Wright, Team Allen Lawncare.

Combined with its first place on Friday, Team Allen Lawncare claimed the world title in Super Stock for 2022. The rebound victory on Sunday put Performance Boat Center in second followed by LPC in third. All three teams call the Lake of the Ozarks in Central Missouri their home-water.

Said Myrick Coil of the Performance Boat Center team, “Lake of the Ozarks, one, two, three.”

While Friday had bumpy conditions from the start, Sunday brought conditions that appeared to have been ordered by the Key West chamber of commerce. Fans lined the seawall as they looked forward to a good day of racing.

Wild From The Start
The first start on Sunday didn’t disappoint. After being down 700 rpm, the 32-foot Phantom, 151 Express, with throttleman Nick Imprescia and his best friend/driver Ian Morgan finished a distant second to the father-son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl in the 29-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com.

When the Cigarette Hawk officials’ boat that was pacing its 90th race flew the green flag, 151 Express and Boatfloater.com took off, leaving behind the 30-foot Phantom, Sheriff Lobo, which calls Trinidad home.

After completing turn one, the two boats raced deck to deck coming into Key West harbor with both drivers saying after that they weren’t giving an inch. They headed back out to turn one carrying lots of speed into the turn. Boatfloater.com carried a little more speed, took a bad hop and hooked before rolling, said Stephen Kildahl. He and his dad were OK and the boat was righted before it was towed in.

The Kildahls emerged from the mishap unscathed.

“They had a lead and we let them take the corner they wanted,” said Imprescia.

After the incident, he and Morgan made sure they finished their required 10 laps to claim their first world championship.

“We just put it on cruise control,” said Imprescia. “We made sure we made each lap cleaner and cleaner.”

Imprescia is the son of legendary throttleman Joe Imprescia who won plenty of his own championships. Nick knew it would be emotional when saw his dad waiting at the cranes with a big smile on his face.

“I saw my dad and I just balled my eyes out,” he said. “That’s a moment I’ll keep with myself forever.”

Legacy offshore racer Nick Imprescia and his cockpit-mate Ian Morgan savored their Mod V-class victory.

In the Stock V race, six single-engine boats powered by a Mercury Racing 525 EFI competed for the title and the leaders were the 30-foot Phantom, Shocker, throttled by Patrick Romeo and driven by owner Chris Colson. Second was another 30-foot Phantom, Laticrete, with owner/driver Chris Uzzolina and throttleman Rob Hartmann. They were followed closely by Friday’s winner, another 30-foot Phantom, Fast Boys, with owner Ken Bolinger and Forrest Riddle and a sister hull, North Myrtle Beach RV, in fourth.

Shocker and Laticrete traded the lead a few times and eventually the latter maintained the advantage. The Shocker team was pushing hard as the laps wore down and took a flyer while trying to overtake the 30-foot Phantom, Octane. When Shocker came down, the two boats collided with Octane sustaining significant damage, but the canopy did its job. The crew of throttleman Kevin Campbell and driver Brian Lamonica were banged up, but they walked away. Phantom Boats owner Will Smith said the damage to the boat was enough that it would need to be replaced.

Shocker got back under power and finished the race, but Colson said he and Romeo may have overdone it.

“We were running out of time to catch Laticrete and we took the turn hotter than we should have,” he said.

Though no one was injured, the incident between Shocker and Octane took both boats out of the Stock V contest.

Shocker also sustained noticeable damage and the team still plans to race at the Offshore Powerboat Association’s championship event in Englewood, Fla., next weekend.

After winning on Friday and finished second on Sunday, Fast Boys took the championship in Stock V ahead of Laticrete and Shocker.

Bracket Class Breakdown
With the UIM world titles for all V-bottom on the line next weekend at the Offshore Powerboat Boat Association World and National championships in Englewood Beach, Fla., the Bracket-class turnout in Key West was light. But that didn’t stop the teams from going all out to take home a Race World Offshore title.

In Bracket 300-class action, after the 42-foot Fountain, Harpoon Harry’s, used its advantage to its size on Friday, Billy Shipley and Chad Woody blasted to the lead in their 35-foot Fountain, Team Woody on Sunday. The two boats battled for supremacy, and the bigger Fountain spun, giving the lead, the win on Sunday and the RWO world championship to Team Woody. Harpoon Harry’s accumulated enough points for second while the 42-foot Cigarette, Cigarette Justice League, took third.

The battle between Team Woody and Harpoon Harry’s saw Bill Shipley and Chad Woody take the win.

In Bracket 400, Bill Simmons and Jason Zolecki took their 34-foot Phantom, Simmons Racing, to the world championship. Simmons also owns the Octane boat. Second in the class went to the 38-foot Phantom, OC Racing, that made its debut in Key West, while the Texas-based 39-foot Velocity, GNS Motorsports, took third.

After grabbing the checkered flag at the finish line on Friday, Stancombe and driver J.J. Turk, the reigning world champions in Bracket 500, in the 30-foot Phantom, Golfin’ Gator Team Woody, defended their title on Sunday. Second went to Rob and Vinnie Winoski in their 30-foot Phantom, Bronx Phantom. Despite breaking at the finish line on Sunday, Elijah Kingery and Craig Belfatto in the 29-foot Warlock, Bulletproof/Goodcars.com, held on for third place in the championship.

Simmons Racing took top honors in the Bracket 400 ranks.

In Bracket 600, the Key West based 25-foot Baja, Power House Racing, with Nelson Sawyer and Damon Marotta, Jr., took the hometown win by grabbing checkered flags in both races. Second went to the 26-foot Corsa, Gerard Marine/XINSURANCE and the smallest boat in the fleet, the 21-foot Superboat, Jackhammer, placed third. The 22-foot Velocity, Steele, ran unopposed in Bracket 700.

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Enjoy more action from the 2022 Race World Offshore APBA/UIM world championships in the slideshow above.

Editor’s note: The 2022 offshore racing season will wrap up next weekend in Englewood Beach, Fla., with the Offshore Powerboat Association World and National Championships. Look for coverage of the two-race event from contributing editor Eric Colby on speedothewater.com.

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