2023 was a season of great change and growth. The average race entries were up from 55 in 2022 to 64 boats in 2023. It was also a fine season for racing, with a wide range of weather conditions. It was also a season that had a new infusion of young racers, who made an impact from the start.
Offshore and Upbeat!
The 2023 APBA Offshore season was one of significant growth and many changes. A large part of the APBA Offshore 2023 rulebook was redlined and new rules came into force. The way that points are allocated changed dramatically. Points stay with the boat. Don't expect points if your boat doesn't get to the start line. If you are the only boat racing in a particular class, no points. If only two boats are racing, both of you receive half points.
The classes had also been modified to encourage competition. The new rulebook had a major effect on the "Vee" classes, with Stock V boats rushing to upgrade to the more powerful Mod V class. The more flexible rules also allowed one Bracket 500 team, Seven Powerboats to come in from the cold as twin engines were now allowed. The Bracket 400 class saw a few of its boats migrate to the 200 class, including the class leader Predator.
Marathon 7 Mile Grand Prix
Despite the fact that this was a “new” event, and the season was starting much earlier, a very impressive fleet of sixty-four boats turned up to race in Marathon for the inaugural 7 Mile Grand Prix.
The entry list gave some pointers to the way 2023 was to shape up. Eight Super Cat teams entered, beating the best turnouts in the previous two years. In Factory Stock 450, six boats entered when only three boats had raced in this new class in 2022. A total of ten boats entered the Mod V class, many of them former Stock V teams.
On race weekend, despite good conditions on Saturday for the Bracket classes and the Super Cat pole race, Sunday started with tornado warnings.
The Mod Vs and Bracket 500s kicked off the racing on Sunday, with delays in starting as the weather waxed and waned. When the race started, Marker 17 Marine lost a drive skyward, and 549 Team Farnsworth / Hancock Claims lost their entire crew! Ervin Grant and Rob O'Connell were launched into the spray like rag dolls. After the red flag, the race completed successfully.
Next off were the six Factory Stock 450R boats, but the conditions were now so bad that both Hank's Saloon and GC Racing Team went over, causing the race to be ended. The remaining races were cancelled on advice from the Coast Guard. As the Super Cats and Super Stocks didn't race, it was decided to award half points to the Super Cats based on the finishing position in the pole race and 35 points apiece to the Super Stock teams.
Despite Mother Nature's best efforts, the race teams were positive, as the high turnout showed it was going to be an exciting season.