Powerboat P1 is the fastest growing marine motorsport series in the world and has a long term commitment to growing and developing the sport of power boating at all levels. The Powerboat P1 team works closely with the sports governing bodies, the UIM, APBA and the IJSBA. P1 has delivered more than 85 world championship events in over twelve different countries for more than a decade.
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But the 2023 edition saw three teams eschewing the tradition of backing off a little on Sunday because they had been so dominant in the races on Wednesday and Friday. Instead, 222 Offshore Australia, M CON/Monster Energy and Jackhammer went right back out to the front and ran hard to grab the checkered flag and the world championships in their respective classes on Sunday.
“It’s not easy to take it easy,” said 222 Offshore Australia throttleman Giovanni Carpitella, who claimed his first Key West world title alongside driver Darren Nicholson.
Carpitella travels from Italy to race in this country while Nicholson makes the trip from his home country of Australia. The duo continued its 2023 undefeated streak winning wire to wire on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday in a performance that hasn’t been seen in the larger classes since the days of Zero Defect’s streak in the mid 1990s.
For much of the Class 1 race on Sunday, the 50-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran, df Young Logistics, with owner/throttleman Rich Wyatt and driver Hugh Fuller, ran comfortably in second, continuing to improve and looking to claim a podium spot for the world championship. Then on the 10th out of 14 laps that the Class 1 boats ran, df Young pulled into the center of the course with a mechanical issue. Throughout the season, different teams in Class 1 had been experiencing water pressure issues with the Mercury Racing 1,100-hp engines that is the specified power for the class.
With df Young pulling out, Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil in their 438 Skater, Monster Energy/ M CON, moved up from third to second and owner/driver Mike Falco and throttleman Billy Moore took the final podium spot. Owner/driver Carlos de Quesada and throttleman John Tomlinson ran in fourth and the positions stayed that way for the balance of the laps on the 4.5-mile course.
Further explaining his initial statement, Carpitella said that when Monster Energy passed df Young, he and Nicholson knew Miller and Coil would make a run at the lead.
“We needed to pick up our pace,” Carpitella said. “The course was really challenging because it was three conditions in one. From one to two was like a jacuzzi and coming into the harbor it was calm.”
Miller and Coil continued to show the same tenacity in Class 1 that has made them so competitive in Super Cat. They went from just wanting to make laps early in the 2023 season to being competitive and leading laps in what many consider the sport’s premier class.
For the third-place DeFalco team, getting on the podium was a strong finish to 2023 and a warning shot for the class for the upcoming season.
“Billy figured it out,” said Falco, who added that the team’s 48-foot Outerlimits hull is already sold and headed to Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks. Moore will be preparing the Victory hull that he previously raced—yes the one that went airborne in Key West harbor a few years ago—for the 2024 season.
Moore said he dug into his years of experience and came up with a propeller tweak that he tried on a different boat 15 years ago. When he sent the props to Mercury Racing to be modified, the technician told him the changes couldn’t be reversed. Moore told him, “Don’t worry it’ll work.”
For the three days of racing in the southernmost city in the United States, 75 boats pre-registered and 71 were still competing on Sunday. The teams race for half points on Wednesday and Friday and full points for more laps in the finale. Friday served up the biggest conditions on the outer leg of the course from turn one to turn two, but the winds that were predicted for Sunday’s finale didn’t build as forecast. Still, there were some deceiving waves and the teams that guessed right on their setup were awarded for their efforts.
On the course with the Class 1 boats, but in a separate start were the three entries in VX class and the Extreme 1 team. When the green flag was raised, the 42-foot Fountain, Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims, with driver Christian McCauley and throttleman Jay Healy took to the lead, much to the delight of racing legend Peter Meyer, who was visiting the broadcast booth for the livestream. They were followed by owner/throttleman Bill McComb and driver Ed Wendt in the 40-foot Skater, Race Winning Brands. Robert Brockyer of Great Britain and driver Kirk Britto ran third in their 42-foot Fountain, Team 25. The 42-foot MTI, JBS Racing, with owner/driver Jeff Stevenson and throttleman Michael Stancombe ran unopposed in Extreme 1.
After four of the 13 laps in the VX race, Team 25 pulled off with mechanical problems. Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims extended its lead to run to the team owner Win Farnsworth’s first world championship followed by Race Winning Brands in second.
Even though they won races one and two, Miller and Coil in M CON/Monster Energy, their 388 Skater catamaran that had defended its national championship in Super Cat in 2023, Miller said he’ll always take the chance to run out front when the opportunity presents itself.
When the green flag flew on Friday, that opportunity was a little harder to come by because throttleman Bill Pyburn and driver Brit Lilly got a good start in their 388 Skater, Dirty Money, as did throttleman Casey Boaz and driver Rob Unnerstall in yet another 388 Skater, CR Racing/XINSURANCE. They were chased by Moore and owner/driver Chris Grant in their 388 Skater, Graydel, while throttleman Grant Bruggemann and owner/driver Wayne Valder ran fifth in their 40-foot MTI, Valder Yachts/Pro Floors.
By the end of the first full lap of competition, M CON/Monster Energy had moved to the lead it would not relinquish for the 14-lap Super Cat race, averaging about 94 mph on its fastest lap, which was a little more conservative than the 100-mph speeds they saw on Wednesday and Friday.
Lilly and Pyburn settled into second place and continued to develop their teamwork. Lilly has piloted boats in Class 1 and Super Cat in addition to his own hulls in Mod-V. Pyburn is a longtime performance boater that is new to racing but the team has gelled quickly.
Boaz and Unnerstall held onto third place, putting their veteran experience to good use. They were two-time world champions in the Super Stock class and Boaz owns Hering Propellers so you can guarantee that CR Racing/XINSURANCE had some finely tuned wheels putting the boat’s H.P. Mafia-freshened engines’ power to the water.
Grant’s bad luck in Key West continued when Graydel pulled off the course with another mechanical issue after three laps. That moved Valder Yachts/Pro Floors up to fourth place and Vinnie Diorio and driver Matt Jamniczky in the 39-foot Outerlimits, SV Offshore/Rollin’ Transport to fifth. After owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller had to pull off with problems in their 40-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports, Muller’s sons Jax and Chase pulled up to fifth in their 40-foot Motion, Wicked.
The teams held their positions with M CON/Monster Energy taking the win and the championship. Dirty Money and CR Racing/XINSURANCE finished second and third, respectively in the race and the championship.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” Miller said of being out front. “Nobody dictates where you can go on the course. If another boat dictates to you where you need to run, it makes your boat unhappy and makes a long day.”
This season is Miller’s seventh throttling his boat, which goes against the traditional grain in the sport’s upper classes. Most teams are set up with an owner/driver and a hired throttleman. Miller grew up racing motocross and he runs heavy equipment every day in his professional life.
“It all coordinates with what I feel in the boat,” he said. “Running a joystick in a trench digger or a backhoe is by feel.”
The Dirty Money team is a little different as well because the owner Beau Renfroe isn’t in the boat at all. He and his wife, Tiffiney are avid performance boaters and wanted to get into the sport.
“Tiffiney and I are proud of the whole team,” Beau Renfroe said, adding that when the team gets back to its headquarters in Stuart, Fla., it will open a rigging and maintenance shop for high-performance boats.
Pyburn said he’s excited about the future of Super Cat and acknowledged the effort of his crew and the hours put in prepping the boat.
“Thirty days ago, there was nothing in that boat,” Pyburn said. “Then we got to Key West and blew a motor testing. These guys haven’t slept much.”
Of his new throttleman, Lilly said, “Bill is everything I ask for in a throttleman—I’ve got full trust in him.”
Unnerstall said he and Boaz enjoyed the race but feels that the starts need some work.
“In every start, someone was not in position,” Unnerstall said. In offshore racing, starts are managed by officials in a pace boat who try to line up the competitors in as straight a line as possible before they throw the green flag. After RWO arranged for six starts in a day, some racers said the starts were rushed to make sure all the races could take place.
Continuing to wage some of the closest races in the sport, the 450R Factory Stock-class world championship came down to the wire with some questionable driving at the end. More on that in a bit.
With Shaun Torrente and owner/driver Willy Cabeza winning Wednesday in their 39-foot MTI, GC Racing, and throttleman John Tomlinson and Taylor Scism taking the checkered flag in the last corner on the last lap in their 39-foot MTI, TS Motorsports, on Friday, Sunday set up as a winner-take-all competition for the six boats in the class of 38- and 39-foot catamarans powered by twin Mercury Racing 450R outboards.
When the green flag waved, the first boat out of the harbor and heading into turn one was the 39-foot MTI, 151 Express, with throttleman Nick Imprescia and driver Ian Morgan. Running a close second were owner/throttleman Michel Karsenti and driver Ervin Grant in the 38-foot Doug Wright, Gladiator Canados. Throttleman Ricky Maldonado and driver Logan Adan were fourth in the 38-foot Doug Wright, Doug Wright Powerboats, followed by TS Motosports, which had the worst starting assignment in all three races, and GC Racing.
By the time the boats reached the finish line for the second lap, which is the first full tour of the 4.5-mile circuit, Gladiator Canados had moved into first followed by 151 Express, TS Motorsports, GC Racing and Edwin Scheer and Lee Murray in the 38-foot Doug Wright, Hank’s Saloon. Doug Wright Powerboats and TS Motorsports made contact in the turn in Key West harbor and the former was having problems with its new engines and fell off the pace in fifth and 151 Express had its own issues, running well back in sixth.
Averaging about 84 mph, Gladiator Canados maintained the point, followed by TS Motorsports and GC Racing for the duration of the 10-lap race. On the eighth lap, GC Racing looked like it was reeling in TS Motorsports, but then GC got caught in another boat’s wash in the harbor turn and the boat slowed before Torrente could get it going again. On the final lap, GC made a final charge going out of Key West harbor and headed toward turn one.
From turn one to turn two, GC Racing made up some time on TS Motorsports and Doug Wright Powerboats was still running but was off the pace.
“I told Willy, ‘Our championship is right there,’” Torrente said. “We just need one good lap to go take it.”
Tomlinson and Scism had been guarding the inside lane for most of the race and they set up to hold that position for the final turn. They passed the first buoy of the two-pin turn, but then Tomlinson said Doug Wright Powerboats turned in, blocking the lane. Scism had no choice but to turn so hard to the right that she hit her head on the inside of the canopy and sustained a concussion.
“Because they left us room going in and I had run the inside lane the entire race, I thought they would leave me room, but I should have known better,” Tomlinson said. “They’re not even in the hunt, why are they going from wide on the first buoy to close off the second buoy?”
In a text to speedonthewater.com, Maldonado said, “We don’t have much to say. We’ve been battling engine issues all week with out-of-the-box engines.”
After experiencing his own engine issues, but still persevering to finish in the points on Friday, Karsenti said his boat was set up right for Sunday’s conditions.
“We got inside of 151 and we were trimming a little higher,” Karsenti said. “But I have confidence in my driver.”
When the spray had settled, GC Racing claimed the world championship followed by Gladiator Canados and TS Motorsports.
Julian Maldonado had a better week than his dad, partnering with owner/driver Reese Langheim in the 32-foot Victory, Jackhammer, in the Super Stock class. As they had in the first two races of the week, the duo moved out to an early lead in the fifth race of the day on Sunday. Throttleman Scott Porta and driver A.J. Bogino gave chase in their 32-foot Doug Wright, CoCo’s Monkey, followed by owner/throttleman Billy Allen and driver John Strama in their 32-foot Doug Wright, Team Allen Lawn Care And Landscaping, and the 32-foot Doug Wright, Performance Boat Center, with Coil driving and Rusty Williams throttling.
The 11 boats in the class came out of turn two in a pretty tight bunch and Performance Boat Center hooked in front of Team Allen, causing Strama to make an evasive move that resulted in the boat rolling. Allen and Strama emerged from the boat with bumps and bruises, and the race was red-flagged while their boat was towed to the center of the course.
Jackhammer went three for three last weekend in Key West to earn its first Super Stock world championship.
Once officials cleared the course, Jackhammer resumed its lead and its primary challengers for the world title were not letting Langheim and Maldonado get away. Owner/driver Darren Kittredge and throttleman Boaz in the 32-foot Doug Wright, Northwing, ran a close second followed by owner/driver Chris Hopgood and throttleman Jay Muller in their 32-foot Doug Wright, Celsius, and CoCo’s Monkey in fourth. Owner/throttleman Loren Peters and driver Anthony Smith in the 32-foot Doug Wright, LPC, held fifth.
After a lap, CoCo’s Monkey moved around Celsius into third and the boats held their positions until the checkered flag despite a last corner charge by Northwing that came up just short.
“If you get out fast and have clean water, then you try to stay out front,” Langheim said after the race. “We had a good challenge first with CoCo’s and then with Northwing.”
Langheim said that when Northwing was charging, he couldn’t see the boat coming. “My camera shut off and my mirrors were to the sky. I had no idea where they were.”
For his part, Kittredge said, “We tried everything. The class is so high level, the boat flew level and it was predictable.”
Porta, who hasn’t raced in five years, said, “Learning this motor has been a fast download for me. It felt so much faster initially and then things started slowing down so I could process them.”
After taking a win on Wednesday and a second place on Friday, owner/throttleman Steve Miklos and driver Steven Fehrmann in their 29-foot Extreme, El Bandito/Sunprint, were in the driver’s seat for the championship on Sunday. It’s often said that a team can’t win the championship on day one, but if something goes wrong, it makes it much harder to take the overall victory.
Sunprint’s Steve Miklos and Steve Fehrmann weren’t even sure they were coming to Key West this year, but it turned out to be more than worth the effort.
Lilly and throttleman Jay Wholtman in their 29-foot Extreme, LSB Rev-X Oil/Speed Marine, were the perfect example of the adage. They broke a drive on Wednesday and then smoked the fleet on Friday and Sunday, but El Bandito Sunprint finished Friday and Sunday in second place, which was enough to give them the championship.
The father-son team of throttleman Steve Kildahl and driver Stephen Kildahl in their 29-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com, finished third all three days, which gave them the final podium spot. The team of driver Ken Bollinger and throttleman Forrest Riddle in the 30-foot Phantom, Fastboys, wound up fourth in the overall standings after running third place on Sunday.
The champions played the long game, making sure they stayed ahead of Boatflater.com, which could have snuck up on them.
“I don’t know that we could have caught Brit,” Miklos said. “By lap six, the course got rougher and we were concerned with where the Kildahls were.”
Considering how dominant LSB Rev-X/Speed Marine was while it was on the course, fans would be surprised to learn that it was the first time the driver and throttleman had teamed up.
“What Jay Whotlman did for me this weekend was beyond amazing,” Lilly said. “I’ve been blessed with great throttlemen my whole life. When I stopped racing with my dad, I assumed I would start throttling, but I’ve had so many great throttlemen.”
Steve Kildahl said his team cracked a blade on its preferred propeller and had to run a backup wheel. Echoing fellow veteran Unnerstall’s comments, the elder Kildahl, said, “The whole event was good, but the starts weren’t stellar by any means.”
In the final race of the week, the bracket class boats took to the course with the boats in Bracket 200 and 500 starting first followed by the entries in 400 and 700 classes.
In Bracket 200, the 39-foot Phantom, Justice League, with driver Cory Shantry and throttleman Richard Davis, took the early lead, followed by Keith and Cade Herbott in the 38-foot Fountain, Herbott Racing, and the 39-foot Phantom, OC Racing, with Joey Olivieri and throttleman Tom Madalena. Fans might have been surprised to see the 41-foot Apache, Predator, running fifth, but throttleman Nate Hunt, owner/driver Dean Stahlman and navigator Connie Hunt knew where they needed to be overall to win the title, taking more of an old-school approach.
Jim Simmons and throttleman Jason Zolecki earned a Bracket 400-class in Simmons Marine.
When the spray settled, OC Racing took the checkered flag, while the 44-foot MTI, Batman Racing with owner/driver Elliot Toth and throttleman Jax Muller, took second and Predator was third. That was enough for Predator/Stahlman Motorsports to defend its world championship in the class followed by Justice League and OC Racing.
In Bracket 400, owner/driver Jim Simmons and throttleman Jason Zolecki, just keep winning races and titles. Damon Marotta and owner/driver Mark Robbins had a good start in their 34-foot Phantom, Control Freak, leading the way for the first five laps of the eight-lap race; but to win in offshore, a team needs to complete all the laps. Control Freak had to pull out with an issue on the fifth lap, handing the lead and the championship to the Simmons Marine team. Owner/throttleman Chad Woody and driver Billy Shipley in the 29-foot Lavey Craft, Team Woody, finished second on the day followed by Jake Nicks and Mark Fernandez in the 30-foot Phantom, Allied Offshore.
Simmons Marine won the championship followed by Control Freak and drive Shaun Wall and throttleman Clyde Petty in the 32-foot Phantom, Buttraxx.com.
In Bracket 500, the team of owner/driver J.J. Turk and throttleman Michael Stancombe had what appeared to be a flag-to-flag win in their 30-foot Phantom, XINSURANCE/Golf-N-Gator, but officials penalized the team for missing a buoy. That put the 28-foot Manta, Sweat Equity Motorsports, with owner/driver Greg DiRenzo, driver Jeremy Bisson and navigator Angie Pierce on top of the world championship standings, followed by XINSURANCE /Golf-N-Gator. Third went to the national champions in the class, throttleman Elijah Kingery and driver Eric Ullom, in the 29-foot Warlock, Bulletproof. The 30-foot Phantom, Bronx Phantom/Marker 1 Marine with Vincent and Rob Winoski ran well through the week but hadn’t qualified to contend for championship points.
Arguably, the wildest ride of the day was experienced by the competitors in Bracket 700 class. The 21- and 22-foot boats powered by 300-hp outboards waged a torrid battle in the emerald waters off Key West. The winner for the day was the 22-foot Activator, Statement Marine Bad Decisions with Nick Buis driving and Owen Buis throttling. They were chased closely by Cameron Turk and Robert Bryant in the 22-foot Nitra, XINSURANCE/Golf-N-Gator and by Rick Raab and Scott Jobin in the 21-foot Superboat, Statement Marine Safe Cash and the second Statement Marine Bad Decisions boat, the 22-foot Velocity piloted by Dalton Palestra and Jerry Hartman.
When the six-lap thrashing concluded, the Buis family took the checkered flag followed by Matthew Beil and Ricardo Maldonado in the 23-foot H-Craft, a boat built in the United Arab Emirates while XINSURANCE/Golf-N-Gator crossed in third.
Their third-place finish was enough to secure the world championship for Bryant and 16-year-old Cameron Turk, who also claimed the national championship in the class. That could be enough to earn them a spot in the American Powerboat Association’s Hall of Champions for 2023. Statement Marine Safe Cash took second in the championship followed by the Buis family. Looking back on his rookie year, Cameron Turk said, “Never, ever would I have thought I’d be lucky enough to pull off one win. Then we got a podium in our first race and never looked back.”
It sounds like they imposed their will on the sport.
Pete Boden © Shoot to Thrill Pix