Text and photos by Andy Newman
KEY WEST, Florida Keys - Although she had watched her son compete in offshore powerboat racing events throughout the world, Maria Esther Scioli never had an opportunity to view Daniel Scioli race in the venue that has provided the 39-year-old Buenos Aires appliance distributor with his greatest powerboat racing accomplishments.
So Daniel Scioli thought it was only appropriate to fly his mother to the May 19th Key West Grand Prix. But on April 29th, the day he purchased the airline ticket, Maria Esther lost a battle to lung cancer.
"I've been having a rough time (with her death), because she was the one that motivated me to compete, especially after the (1989 racing) accident in which I lost my arm," Scioli said by phone from Buenos Aires. "The best I can do now is to honor her by continuing to race."
Scioli said he will dedicate La Gran Argentina's 1996 racing campaign to his mother. Back as throttleman of the 50-foot, fin-tailed monohull is Italy's Fabio Buzzi, one of the sport's finest throttlemen.
After securing a Superboat title at last November's Key West world championship, Scioli said his team has boosted La Gran's four, diesel-powered engines to 1,150 hp each. Hull modifications are to provide for quicker and tighter turns.
"Others (racing teams) are improving and introducing new equipment," Scioli said. "We are going to have to race very hard and very well to defend the championship."
Among eight other Superboat class boats that have pre-registered for the race, Scioli's heftiest challenge is likely to come from Matt Alcone of Laguna Beach, Calif., and Jerry Gilbreath of Newport Beach, Calif., in Alcone Motorsports. The duo hold the fastest average race speed of 117.25 mph set at last September's Atlantis-Bahamas Super Boat Challenge.
The Grand Prix will inaugurate a class change for Super Boat Racing (SBR), Inc. The Superboat Limited class is to replace the Open class, according to SBR President John Carbonell, who said the new name will provide for better identity of the large boats.
Noticeably absent in Superboat Limited will be Stuart Hayim, a Great Neck, N.Y., racer who has won four consecutive world championships in Recovery. Hayim indicated that business and personal commitments will keep him away from his 46-foot catamaran this year, but said a return to the sport could not be ruled out.
"I had a great ride and got my money's worth 10 times over," Hayim said. "But right now I have family, personal and business commitments that have to take priority. "I can't come back unless I can do it in a professional way with commitment and vengeance," Hayim said.
Offshore racing aficionados who examine the Key West course will notice a significant alteration. Problems in negotiating wet and dry pits space on the U.S. Navy's Truman Annex have forced Carbonell to relocate the dry pits to Higgs Beach and the wet pits to Oceanside Marina. Because of that, he added, the race course will be positioned on the south side of the island and will completely avoid Key West harbor, a traditional favorite viewing area.
Carbonell added that the best, free vantage point for the Key West Grand Prix would be Smathers Beach along South Roosevelt Boulevard. He expects a field of 40 boats to line up for the 1 p.m. start opposite White Street Pier.
The event is slated for one-hour, tape-delayed television broadcasts on ESPN and a two-hour live broadcast for television outlets in Argentina and Uruguay.
For race information, call SBR at (305) 296-8963 daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For accommodations and other details, contact the Key West Visitors Bureau, toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, at 1-800-LAST-KEY. Elsewhere call (305) 294-2587 daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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