Speedboat Fans Watch Racers Cap Off Season

Boat racing fans watched Sunday as Laith Pharaon and John Tomlinson took their eighth open division victory of the season in their boat Zerodefect during the Ventura Offshore Grand Prix at Ventura Harbor.

Sunday marked the final meet of the 1996 American Powerboat Assn. season, and the several thousand fans who spent the afternoon watching the races from the beach, from their own pleasure boats along the 8 1/2-mile course or from the Ventura Pier, saw some exciting racing.

Zerodefect had a tough time breaking out of a three-boat pack at the beginning of the 10-lap race, but as soon as Tomlinson, 33, on the throttle, and Pharaon, 28, behind the wheel, broke away from the others, they were gone--no one came close to catching them during the second race of the afternoon.

After the race, a proud Pharaon said, "To quote that great American, Douglas MacArthur, 'There is no substitute for victory.' "

The soft water conditions were no problem for the Zerodefect crew. However, the occasional chop threw the 45-foot Skater into the air every now and then. "J.T. and I got our pilot's licenses today," Pharaon said.

The Class D event in the afternoon also proved to be quite a race. Runnin' Wild, a 35-foot Motion driven by Jason Curtis with his father, Ben, at the throttle, and the 37-foot Ocean Spray Wellcraft, with Bruce Penhall driving and Dennis Sciyalos providing the power, traded first place for the first five laps.

Team Curtis held on to the lead from lap 6 through the end of lap 8 to bring home the win.

A crash during the first race showed there are limits to racing even if the boat is named No Limits. The crash occurred on the second of seven laps, when the 26-foot Scarb flipped coming out of turn 2. The bow of the boat sank near the Ventura Pier and the boat was towed back into the harbor.

The throttle man, Raoul Broch of Mission Viejo, was not injured. The driver, Steve Simon of Sarasota, Fla., was taken to Ventura County Medical Center and treated for minor back injuries, said a hospital spokeswoman. He was released soon afterward.

Sunday night, officials were still trying to decide if the results of the M Class would stand. The boat Out of Bounds was reportedly carrying three people, but the crew registered just two people, said chief referee Mike Tomlinson.

Out of Bounds came in second behind Ragamuffin, driven by Rique Ford with J.J. Stanton at the throttle.

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