THE ALL-AMERICAN TEAM GETS READY FOR THE POWERBOAT P1 SCANDINAVIAN GRAND PRIX
Gothenburg, Sweden is a world apart from San Diego and Long Island, and Nigel Hook and Joe Sgro are packing and putting on their “game face” for The Land of the Midnight Sun and the penultimate round of the Powerboat P1 World Championship.
The Championship finds itself in a rather strange situation at this juncture, as the British Silverline team, racing US built Sterling Performance engines in a modified canopied Fabio Buzzi hull that they last year raced in the SuperSport class, is leading the points standings at 500; that is 119 points above the second place SNAV Outerlimits and 129 points ahead of the 3rd place Smash Cigarette. The Lucas Oil Outerlimits team is 4th, 163 points behind. “It’s amazing that the fastest boats on the circuit aren’t even in the running,” said Sgro, “We’re all fighting for second place!”
The points standings were further escalated by an additional 50 “Reliability Points” that the Silverline team was awarded for using the same engines for the first half of the season. Another 50 Reliability Points will be available at the end of the season. “If they get those points as well, that’s like winning a whole race (100 points value) that the rest of us didn’t get a chance to run!” Sgro commented.
This year’s races have been primarily in calmer waters, due to some of the new locations and weather conditions-- even at sites formerly-known for their rough water, like Malta. “In the flat water, the engines and drives take a beating,” says Sgro, “In the rougher water, the hull takes a beating, but you can slow down a little when it’s rough. You can’t slow down in the flat water because everyone is running so hard and fast—but the Silverline guys are going about 90, so they’re not getting the same wear and tear as the rest of us. We just can’t run that hard on the same engines—they have to be re-built,” he added.
Servicing the Lucas Oil boat has been a challenge as Outerlimits in Rhode Island and Chief Engines in Florida are working in their respective shops and shipping equipment around the world. "It is a huge challenge operating on a different continent outside of EU customs,” states Hook, “However, this is what we signed up for and this is what makes us push harder as the season gets tougher. Being based in the United States with the boat in Europe it makes it difficult for everything to be 100% and we are doing everything possible to be on top form come Sweden,” adds Hook, ever the optimist.
The competition this year has been fierce as the two Outerlimits teams (one American, Chief-Powered and one Italian, Mercury-powered), the Italian Cigarette team and the new Belgian Fountain team, both Mercury-powered, are very closely matched and have brand, nationality and team rivalries. “We know we have a real good boat—it’s always a race between us and the [Outerlimits] Italian team,” says Sgro, “but the Cigarette in flat water is a really fast boat—and the Fountain is very, very fast—we’re just waiting to see what their dyno’d power is at this race.” Because the Fountain was a later-season entry, there wasn’t time to dyno the Mercury Racing engines prior to its first race in Turkey, but the power-to-weight ratio information, and how it compares to the other Evolution class boats, will be known in Sweden. Each of these teams has won a 2009 Championship race and been on the podium several times—and each has experienced costly equipment failures—both in dollars and points. But for those boats in the “chase,” Silverline stands apart, earning its first podium with a 3rd place finish in Italy when four out of the seven boats competing in Evolution class retired before the race was over.
This is understandably a frustrating situation for the racers who are pushing themselves and their equipment hard, but that is not to say that Silverline navigator, Jan Falkowski and driver and throttleman, Drew Langdon are not doing the same. They are just running older equipment that is not “up-to-speed” with the newer and sleeker American-built boats. As Mike D’Anniballe described their engines, (originally built for Giacarlo Cangiano for the Donzi in which he won the 2006 P1 World Championship), “Those engines are the pinnacle of simplicity—carbureted, standard ignition and based on a recreational boat engine—but they’re strong!” They prove the old racing adage, often attributed to US World Champion Gary Ballough, “It’s not how fast you go, it’s how long you go fast!”
With these thoughts racing through their heads, the teams are all gearing up for the four very important races ahead. “We just need to finish the next four races,” said Sgro, “We’ve re-built the engines and changed the fuel system for more even distribution. We need to test more so we can see how everything is running and see what the water is like.” Hook agreed, "I think we have the best boat and have proven many times she is the fastest and our goal is to prove that once again."
The SuperSport class will also have some American focus this race, as Rik Wimp, President of Arneson Industries will travel to Sweden to support the British Donzi Team 26. The 38 Donzi has Arneson ASD7 surface drives and American-built Sterling Performance engines and after a strong start to the season has suffered prop and engine issues as the season progressed. Wimp is hoping to help Daniel Cramphorn and Kim Collins to overcome their gremlins that have plagued the SW1 Capital-sponsored team and get them back into top form.
Aeromarine President, Carmen Betanger Martin will also come to Sweden to talk business with the Ciantar family who is considering using Aeromarine windscreens on its Chaudron boats. Chaudron already uses American-made Latham Marine steering equipment on its boats and has been impressed by the durability of the parts.
The Powerpole takes place on Friday afternoon, August 7 with the Sprint race on Saturday and the Endurance race on Sunday. Sweden is 6 hours ahead, so set your clocks for a 7:45 AM (EST) race start on Saturday and Sunday and catch all the racing action with Martin Sanborn and Steve Ancsell on P1 Radio.com. The excitement builds in Sweden next week, and the season will culminate in Sicily September 11-13.