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Late-race jitters not enough to stop 'Spiderman' tandem

Throttleman Todd Welling and driver Jimmy Speros thought of what could go wrong, but nothing did in their dominating V bottom class win.

By RODNEY PAGE
Published June 28, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - As the green flag dropped on the Offshore Super Series V power boat race Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay, the all red, Skater boat Spiderman gunned to the inside and took the lead. On each lap, driver Jimmy Speros and throttleman Todd Welling increased its lead over the other six boats in the V bottom class.

To those watching from the Pier or on the nearly 500 private boats lining the south and east sides of the course, it appeared Spiderman was on cruise control. But inside the cockpit, Speros and Welling were braced for the worst.

In their last race, April 25 in Biloxi, Miss., the boat broke down with 11/2 miles left. It wasn't until the checkered flag dropped on Sunday's 12-lap, 57.6-mile race that Speros and Welling finally relaxed.

"At the start of the race it's great and you start settling into a rhythm," Welling said. "Then you start going, "What if? What if?' Every little noise bothers you. Every lap gets a little tighter and a little tighter."

There were no troubles this time. Spiderman averaged nearly 90 mph on the 4.8-mile course.

Adrenaline, which won the season-opening Biloxi race, finished second. The Switch was third. The field was reduced to seven before the start when Lucas Oil was forced to the wet pits with mechanical problems.

Adrenaline throttleman Scott Conrad conceded that conditions favored Spiderman, and the only chance of catching it was with a mistake or breakdown.

"We knew this race was not really our kind of water," Conrad said. "Spiderman is faster in the flat water. We just wanted to keep the pressure on and hope they made a mistake or something happened. We have to keep the pressure on in case there is any mistake.

"But in these conditions today this is exactly what's going to happen."

The Switch, second in Biloxi, started slowly and spent the rest of the race trying to catch up. By the time it found its top speed, the other two boats were too far gone.

"The whole race we were dealing with wakes," The Switch driver Curt Watkins said. "Adrenaline had a good line so we would either be in their wakes, outside their wakes or inside their wakes. We tried but we couldn't get out of them."

The next race is July 30 in St. Clair, Michigan.

"When we hit the green flag it just walked from the start," Welling said. "It felt great. The turns were great. It's like back to the good old days again."

In the four-boat V-Lite category, run concurrently with the V boats, Wildcard won just ahead of Typhoon. Hocus Pocus was third and Team Imco was fourth.

"We ran consistently," Wildcard throttleman Lazard Fontecha said. "We saw (Typhoon) creeping up so we stepped on it a little bit and it worked out. The boat ran well."

[Last modified June 28, 2004, 01:00:37]


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