Before June 30, throttleman Scott Begovich, driver Marc Granet, race/team manager Gary Stray, and everyone involved with the Miss Geico Racing team—not to mention its fans—was working through the mostly lackluster 2012 offshore powerboat racing season and very much looking forward to 2013. That’s because in 2013, the Geico crew was finally going to get some consistent head-to-head, turbine-class competition from the Spirit of Qatar, which currently has a 50-foot-long turbine-powered offshore racing catamaran under construction at Mystic Powerboats in Deland, Fla.
But as John Lennon said, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, and the Miss Geico team’s plans changed radically when their own 50-foot, turbine-powered Mystic cat burned to the waterline during practice at the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix on that dark day in late June in Sarasota, Fla. (See Miss Geico a Total Loss) The fire started when a high-pressure fitting on one of the gear boxes failed and caused a mist of oil to revert back into the exhaust system. Neither Granet nor Begovich was injured, but in minutes the boat was completely destroyed.
In the immediate aftermath, no one in the Miss Geico camp knew what the team’s next move would be.
“We lost our boat,” said Granet. “We sure didn’t plan on that. It’s a huge loss you just don’t expect.”
One thing was certain: Neither the team nor its title sponsor was in a position to swallow the $1.5 to $2 million replacement cost for the 50-footer. Still, no one wanted to call it quits.
“We have an obligation to our sponsor and our fans to finish the season in a Miss Geico boat,” said Granet.
In surprising move, the Miss Geico racing team purchased Maritimo, a former Victory Team 43-foot cat reportedly based on the original 43 Tencara cat, to run for the balance of the 2012 season. More surprising, however, was the team’s decision to go with piston rather than turbine power.
“No one is running in the turbine class right now,” said Granet. “We are dying to compete with someone, so we are going to run piston engines.”
The 43-footer was setup up to run in Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 competition with Mercury Racing 1075SCi engines. While those engines are out of production, the Fond Du Lac, Wis., engine builder did have a pair in stock, and the Geico team purchased them for their replacement boat.
“Even if Mercury Racing 1350s were available—and they weren’t—we would not have had enough time to do all the reconfiguration work, including fiberglass work, required to install them and still finish this season,” Granet explained. “We have a responsibility to our sponsors to finish the season. This is a smart power choice, not just because the boat is set up for it, but also because Scotty and I need to learn it. It’s a completely different boat from Miss Geico, with a completely different power curve—piston as opposed to turbine. We are not going to push it out there. We are going to take it easy.
“For competitors who have always wanted to ‘beat Miss Geico,’ this would be a good time to try,” he added, then laughed.
Granet added that Stray, who also is the team’s chief rigger and setup man, is already familiar with the 43-footer. He worked the catamaran extensively when it was part of the Victory Team fleet. Stray’s existing knowledge of the boat, Granet said, should provide the team with a setup advantages on the racecourse.
Granet and Begovich will campaign the boat in the Extreme class on the Super Boat International and Offshore Powerboat Association circuits. Noted Extreme class teams include Gasse and CMS—both 48-foot MTI catamarans—and Cintron, a 50-foot Mystic cat.
After the season, Granet said the team plans to rebuild the canopy to the same standards of the former Miss Geico. As for the team’s future turbine-class plans, Granet said they will have to wait.
“Our turbine program is continuing, but we will focus on it at the end of the season,” said Granet. “It takes a lot to field a boat at this level, so we need to focus on the business at hand. I’ve spoken to the Qatar team. They understand that we have a budget and we’ll have to see what happens. They understand that we lost our boat, and that no one expects that. Turbine programs are so expensive—look, an entire country is funding one.
“We need to finish out this season, and we need to continue to put on a show,” he added.” “As I said, we are dying—dying—to compete with someone. It’s becoming a great story, and we’re looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.”