Date: Wed 15 Nov 2017

A look back at the boats that have raced

The boats we have seen race since P1 has changed significantly from when the series first launched in 2003 to where we are today.

Nettuno, Italy hosted P1’s debut race over 14 years ago as 36 to 43-foot mono-hull offshore boats competed to become the first Grand Prix of the Sea champion. Just six boats, many of them with aluminium hulls, took part in the first-ever P1 event but the foundation had been set and it set in motion a resurgent period in offshore racing.

Boats evolved dramatically from 2003 through to 2009, reflecting changes in the marine market and by 2008 the fleet had grown impressively to more than 20 boats. Teams came from three categories – fully supported works or factory teams, satellite teams enjoying some level of factory support and more traditional owner/drivers teams enjoying little or no factory support.

The sport was based on two types of boats:

  • Evolution class racing – closed cockpit boats measuring between 36 – 43ft in length, with engine capacity ranging from 11 litre naturally aspirated petrol engines to 13 litre turbo-charged diesel engines; these boats could reach speeds in excess of 130mph.
  • SuperSport class racing – open canopy boats, measuring between 33 – 42ft in length, with engine capacity ranging from 8.3 litre naturally aspirated petrol engines to 8.4 litre normally aspirated diesel engines; given their open cockpit designs, top speeds for these boats were limited at 85mph.

High operating costs and the economic downturn limited team numbers and the series was moved away from these classes at the end of the 2009 series. In 2010, P1 took over the Honda Formula Four-Stroke Series and operated it for a year, but at the same time set about commissioning the design and build of its own custom vessel – the P1 Panther – ahead of the 2011 season.

The Panther, a 28ft twin-step mono-hull powerboat built around a single engine outboard, was designed specifically for SuperStock racing. The twin-step vessel was the outcome of premier engineers and designers working together and was rigorously tested to ensure the highest possible performance, safety and crew ergonomics. Powering the boats when they first launched was the Evinrude E-TEC 250HO engine, a low-noise and low-emission engine, following a partnership with Bombardier Recreational Products. With a two-stroke engine, racers were able to reach speeds of over 70mph.

The BRP partnership continued until the end of 2016 and made their final outing at the inaugural P1 SuperStock UIM World Championship event in India in March 2017. Ahead of the 2017 season, P1 inked a new deal with market leaders, Mercury Racing, to become an official engine partner for the series. The partnership started with P1’s US Championship in 2017, with all competing boats being fitted with a new 300XS engine.

To be approved for racing and to comply with the regulations, the hulls of Panther race boats can't be modified and race propellers are handed out before each weekend by the technical scrutineering team to ensuring a level playing field and parity across the fleet. Also, to further ensure all boats are as equal as possible, key components on each engine are sealed prior to the opening race so no modifications are allowed.

The only two variables are the amount of fuel a team chooses to run, though they need to ensure they make the minimum post-race weight of 1,650 kilograms. With parity across the competing boats it then boils down to the driver and the navigator in the boat and how they perform as a team as they battle it out on the water.

As P1 has moved away from chequebook racing to a more affordable and accessible form of the sport, the series has delivered some incredible racing, new competitors, fierce battles and drama throughout the seasons and 2018 is sure to be another blockbuster chapter in SuperStock’s illustrious history.

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