This one is a story as much about reminiscing as it is about racing: here’s why.
“The events will bring great nostalgia to those that remember how racing was… bring excitement to those experiencing the stadium’s magic for the first time,” Powerboat P1 CEO, Azam Rangoonwala said.
And that’s exactly how it went! The return of powerboat racing to Miami Marine Stadium welcomed rookie and veteran fans as the P1 SuperStock fleet took the green flag following a 26-year hiatus at this iconic venue.
Located on Virginia Key, the historic Miami site boasts an impressive resume: the first stadium purpose-built for powerboat racing in the country. Back in the day, the 6,566 seat stadium hosted a myriad of mega powerboat events including Unlimited Hydroplane, Inboard, Outboard and Grand National categories until its final major race (and the first time I ever saw the Unlimiteds run): the 20th Annual Budweiser Hydroplane Regatta in June 1990.
Regrettably, the watersports haven was declared unsafe, shuttered in 1992 following Hurricane Andrew and until last weekend, powerboat racing was a thing of the past.
“It’s so exciting to see boat racing back at the Marine Stadium,” Duke Waldrop, whose storied powerboat racing career includes membership in the prestigious APBA Hall of Champions and Honor Squadron told me. It was echoed by stellar hydroplane driver Steve David, who retired in 2013 after garnering 521 career wins. “Miami Marine Stadium created a home for Florida hydroplane racing. Just to see the stadium’s resurgence and maybe regaining its former glory, I’m inspired.”
A former Sr. Vice President of APBA and VP, Sales & Marketing with OMC Hi-Performance, Waldrop reflected on his can’t-forget moments. “I raced there several times with Red Adair for the 9 Hour Enduros, also ran the last race there with a Jersey Skiff… think we finished third with the Jersey. One of our boats, Rawhide, was used (during the racing scenes filmed at the stadium) in the Elvis Presley 1967 movie Clambake.”
The P1 SuperStock Championship, boasting the largest one-design race series in the world, worked overtime with community leaders to bring powerboat racing back with the inaugural P1 Miami Grand Prix. “The fact is that it happened against all odds,” Steve David said. “Don Worth (co-founder of Restore Marine Stadium and a non-racer) was the sole cheerleader for bringing it back.”
The long-awaited return to Miami Marine Stadium lured the high-performance crowd, as well as those who played a part in its legacy. One of my race weekend highlights: listening to stories of Vida Sirois-Houser (her late husband, the legendary Popeye’s throttleman Bill Sirois, ignited the waters in his #998 tunnel boat during the stadium’s glory days of racing). “The Lemans starts were the best. It was so exciting to see who would get ahead and round the first buoy.”
Although Mother Nature created a mix of challenges including inclement weather, it was game on as “the SuperStock powerboats had to wait til Sunday to race, due to local marine life appearing including, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles,” Azam Rangoonwala explained.
Entering its eighth season, the 2018 series unleashes a new Panther sporting a re-design by Wilson Custom Composites and 300XS Mercury Racing power package that has upped the speed of the 29’ vee hull to 75 mph: clearly evident once the racing action started.
At the start, Geico grabbed the lead of the 8 lap race, followed by Visit Jacksonville and 2017 Champions Frank & Al’s Pizza. Early deck-to-deck racing ensued along the 1.6-mile course between Geico and Frank & Al’s Pizza as the teams vied for the lead; however, by Lap 2, Frank & Al’s Pizza made their move, gained a sizeable lead and never looked back.
Driver Frank Silva and navigator Chris Mejias captured the checkered flag and continued their winning ways as the pair piloted Frank & Al’s Pizza across the finish line.
Their early-in-the-race positions remained for Brian Maine and Tony Knight aboard Geico Racing as the team took second, while George Ivey and Brian Lynch in Visit Jacksonville rounded out the podium.
Bobbye Miller Kenyon is an award-winning journalist whose high-performance articles appeared in Hot Boat Magazine, along with fast-paced marine industry news in her Hot Sheet Column, from 1997-2008 and Powerboat Magazine from 2009-2012. She received a special award from the State of Kentucky in 2014 as she was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Steven L. Beshear for her writing efforts that showcased the diverse boating locales throughout the Bluegrass State. Her company, Offshore Public Relations, is a multi-faceted firm that has represented marine industry leaders and champions in the offshore racing arena. A native Miamian, she enjoys boating off the Florida Keys waters of Key Largo to Islamorada and the lakes of the Kentucky countryside.