After the turbine-powered Miss GEICO offshore raceboat burned to the waterline last June during practice in Sarasota, Fla., the team replaced the 50-foot Mystic catamaran with a 43-foot Victory Team cat powered by Mercury Racing 1075SCi engines. Throughout the balance of the 2012 season, the team was dogged with mechanical problems in the piston-engine boat, which lead to widespread speculation on whether the GEICO campaign would return to turbine power this year.
That question was answered with the team’s announcement that it will run the first production pair of the new Mercury Racing 1650 Race engines, which are based off the Fond Du Law, Wis., engine builder’s game-changing quad overheard cam, twin turbocharged platform that was released a few years ago and has taken over the big-power segment of the go-fast boat world.
The 1650 engines will be available only to “qualified” professional offshore racing teams this month. The engine program deal between Mercury Racing and the GEICO team was completed on the eve of his year’s Miami International Boat Show.
“This is more than just the best-known offshore racing team running the latest and greatest power from the world’s leading high-performance marine engine builder,” said Marc Granet, the driver for the Miss GEICO catamaran. “This is two 825-pound gorillas teaming up to form one 1,650-pound gorilla.
“People talk about forming dream teams,” he continued. “This is a dream team made up of the best engine builder in the business, the best rigger in the business—Gary Stray—and the best racing team in the business. We’ve been fortunate, thanks to our sponsor and our exposure to the public through NASCAR events, air shows, and video features to be able transcend boat racing and be recognized by a much wider audience. This is a team of two remarkable brands joining forces to create something even greater.”
Until fire destroyed the Miss GEICO cat, the team had been the leading proponent and most consistent competitor in the turbine class of Super Boat International racing. To compete with the GEICO team, the Qatar Marine Sports Federation commissioned Mystic to build its own turbine-powered 50-foot Mystic cat, dubbed The Spirit of Qatar. (The boat is still under construction.) While Granet said the team had been looking forward to racing against another competitor that reportedly was committed to multiple events, they had to make their power decision independent of the Qatar team’s plans.
“Bottom line, while the proposed Qatar turbine boat is coming down the line, it is still one year away from being truly ready,” Granet explained. “Even if the Qatar boat came, we all know it takes a year to get any offshore race boat at this level, especially a turbine boat, right. And even if Qatar did show up, it was one turbine boat. For two years, we had begged—begged—to have somebody come race us. We even offered to pay for an equally powered boat to compete with us. Almost no one did.
“We decided that we could not bank our future on the unknown,” he continued. “What we did know was there were a lot of piston boats. While piston power was a change for us technologically, we thought the transition was manageable and that we have what it takes to run on the edge with the competition. So we made the decision to run with a known quantity.”