When the American Ethanol Cat Team headed home to Michigan, mixed emotions were felt, leaving Key West, Florida’s 2016 Superboat Key West World Championships with despair, frustration, joy and exhilaration. “We put on a great show with the American Ethanol Unlimited Offshore Powerboat all season. We enjoyed meeting many fans and showing off the 40 ft. Skater, but mechanical gremlins keep us from our best on the water Key West”, commented Keith Holmes owner and throttleman.
The team brought high expectations down south for the Championships. At the Clearwater Nationals Superboat Race, #19 made strong run - leading over half the race - until an unexpected driveshaft failure, kept them off the podium. An impressive victory in Mentor, OH and another impressive 2nd place finish in Michigan City, Indiana and the American Ethanol team was ready.
Planning for 2-4 ft water, Wednesday’s race started with the American Ethanol Cat getting off to a rough start. “Off the first turn we got washed down hard and got push back into 8th place,” said Holmes. “Our plan was to to keep the boat together with heavier seas,” said Holmes. Driver, Ed Smith made up some positions, with some slick driving, as the American Ethanol Cat pushed into 4 place with 3 laps to go.
“Winning in Key West takes great strategy, perfect preparation, and some offshore luck.” Driver Ed Smith and throttle Keith Holmes, kept pushing - edging up the Cat’s average speed on lap 6, pushing a bit more on lap 7, “ We were reaching 155 mph down the straight away and looked to push the pace into the final remaining laps.”
Keith’s excited emotions soon turned to despair, with starboard engine gages reading hot, and a water intake issue forced a shut off. “When the gage starting moving to the red, my heart sank. We were forced to pull off. We had it in mind, to make our final push.”
Smoke soon billowed out of the hatch and the crew engaged the emergency plan. Holmes quickly opened the hatch and doused the flames, with Superboat safety crew nearby. Unfortunately the damage was done, as the fire pierced the engine and bilge, while lack of cooling caused engine failure. “A bottom of fiberglass hull shredded and was blocking the sea water pick up”, commented Holmes. “The cooling water couldn’t get to the engine.”
The crew, led by crew chief Mike Holford, worked hard to get the American Ethanol Cat ready. With extensive fiberglass hull repair and a complete engine exchange, the crew hoped to bring back the cat by Friday’s race. “A big shout out to team Geico and their crew member Eddie for helping us into the late hours helping with the hull repairs. We had a big spot to fix. To even think about running on Friday would take professional mastery. We came close to finishing, but couldn’t risk it and made plans for Sunday’s race,” said Holmes.
“We were excited to get back on the water for Sunday’s final race,” said Holmes. After making the start and then running into rougher 3-5 ft seas the decision to turn off, not risking further damage was made. “We were hoping for some lighter seas and realized that it wasn’t going to be our day.” After 2 laps the American Ethanol Cat headed to the pit area.
While the water wasn’t friendly, the land activities proved once again why Key West is a leading destination for offshore racing. “The street parade on Sunday was so much fun, with large crowds and great energy. We enjoyed greeting the fans and showing of the biggest, baddest, boats on the planet”, commented Holmes. “Friday night’s street block party was awesome, a big hit with all the fans. Key West is one of those places that you need to visit, especially during race week. We appreciate the love and hospitality.”
“The offshore powerboat family is full of great people, willing to go the extra mile to enhance our sport and help. The American Ethanol Cat Team is proud to call these people our friends and appreciate the great competition. A special shout out to the 2016 Super Boat International Unlimited Class World Champion Team CMS Offshore Racing/ Wake Effects #03. Rusty Rahm and Throttleman Jeff Harris - congrats.”
The Cat Crew will get to work on 2017 plans and look forward to race the liquid track. “A big thanks to Ignite Racing Fuels, Growth Energy/ American Ethanol, Raymond Cranes, Pro Flex/ Advance Fuel Systems and all our sponsors. We appreciate you support and friendships,” concluded Holmes.