To his impressive list offshore racing credentials that include going undefeated to claim an American Power Boat Association world crown in 1996 and following it up with a Union International Motonautique Class 1 world title in 1997, throttleman John Tomlinson added back-to-back Super Boat International Superboat-class world championships with the Performance Boat Center team in 2016 and 2017. As soft-spoken as he is fiercely competitive, Tomlinson and Performance Boat Center team driver Myrick Coil are working hard to complete a trifecta with another title at the SBI Offshore World Championships Nov. 5-11 in Key West, Fla.
But this time around in Key West, Tomlinson, who co-owns Miami-based TNT Custom Marine with Mike Thomas, his longtime business partner, will have something else on his plate. He’ll be throttling one of two 40-foot catamarans for the Dubai-based Victory team, which formerly dominated U.I.M. Class 1 competition, in SBI’s Superboat Unlimited class.
The Class 1 series is, by all accounts, long gone and not coming back. But with the relatively recent plan in the SBI Unlimited-class ranks to downsize power next season with twin 1,100-hp turbocharged engines as the maximum allowed, the Victory team sees a new opportunity to compete. The team currently runs Lamborghini engines in the 1,000-hp range, so meeting the proposed 2019 Unlimited-class power limit won’t be a problem.
To test the domestic waters, so to speak, the Victory team is bringing two home-built 40-footers, one with Lamborghini engines and another with Mercury Racing 1100s, stateside this season. As previously reported, they’ll compete at the SBI National Championships in Clearwater, Fla., and the SBI Key West Worlds.
Tomlinson met with Victory F-1 team manager Scott Gilman, a world-champion tunnel-boat racer who currently lives in Italy, during last weekend’s Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind., to finalize the deal. Fellow offshore racing world champion Gary Ballough has been tapped to throttle the other Victory cat—at this point Tomlinson said he’s not sure if he’ll throttle the Lamborghini- or Mercury Racing-engine-powered 40-footer.
Yet to be named, both drivers will be from the Victory team.
“I talked to (Performance Boat Center team co-owner) Mark Waddington, and he said as long as it doesn’t conflict with my role for them he’s fine with it,” said Tomlinson. “If for some reason they run the Superboat and Superboat Unlimited classes together, I’ll have to with the Performance Boat Center team. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I talked to Deanna Carbonell of SBI, and she said they plan to have the usual three races in Clearwater and the usual four races per day in Key West. So there shouldn’t be a conflict.”
Although Tomlinson said he’s looking forward to running in the Unlimited ranks again—he last ran with driver Jeff Harris for the CMS team in 2015—he doesn’t expect to be competitive in the Victory boat.
“We’ll be running 1,100 horsepower, so we won’t be able to compete with the 1750 boats,” he said. “But those Victory boats still run really well.
“The Victory team is hoping to have a good showing in Clearwater and Key West,” he added. “They want to establish a presence in the U.S. for the 2019 season.”
At the very least, they’ve chosen the right men for the job.
Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.