Superboat Class Engine Spec Change Targets Reliability and Cost

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When the Super Boat International Key West World Championships kick off in November, all of the Superboat-class catamarans will have reconfigured engines under the hatch. Gone for the 2012 Worlds are the twin 850-hp naturally aspirated engines with up to 12:1 compression ratios and 7,800 rpm maximum operating speeds. They’ll be replaced with engines—still naturally aspirated—limited to 9.5:1 compression ratios, 7,000-rpm maximums and no horsepower restrictions. 

The primary reasons for the significant Superboat-class engine specification change with a little more than a month to go before the Key West Worlds is to improve engine reliability and keep down costs for Superboat teams. That’s according to Tony Marcantonio, the owner and driver of the J.D. Byrider 38-foot Skater catamaran that competes in the class. Marcantonio and others in the Superboat ranks, including Billy Mauff, created the new engine spec, which has been adopted into the 2012 SBI rulebook.

“We wanted to come up with an engine that would last for a year before it needed a rebuild,” said Marcantonio. “My guy rebuilds my engines for $12,000 each, so that’s $24,000 a year. I guarantee you, I’m the least wealthy guy running in this class and I think that’s cheap.

“At 6,800 rpm, big-block engines are still pretty healthy,” he added. “Much above that, they start to break down.”

Marcantonio said he has spoken to five Superboat race teams that have made solid commitments to race in Key West with the new engine spec.

“I don’t think you’ll see the 130-, 135-mph race speeds you saw from our class before, “ said Marcantonio. “I think you’ll see race speeds of around 120- and 125-mph. But that’s about right for some of these older cats with older canopies. So the change is about safety as well.”

(Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images)

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