"We consider ourselves as genuine Championship contenders," is the bold claim by team principle Chris Witty with the news that Fountain Powerboats, one of America’s leading high-performance boat manufacturers and Ilmor, one of motor sport’s most prolific and successful engineering firms, have announced their involvement to contest the 2007 UIM Powerboat P1 World Championship.
The new team will be run under the control of Fountain Worldwide, the international sales arm of the North Carolina-based company, whose President is Florida-based Englishman, Craig D. Wilson. The race team will be based at Fountain’s new British dealership in Bournemouth, Hampshire, and will be competing in the Evolution class.
Fountain Worldwide is the exclusive distributor for Fountain Powerboats outside of the USA and operates in association with 16 dealers internationally including Scandinavia, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and the UK. International sales for Fountain boats has grown impressively in recent years from 3 million USD in 2005 to a projected 10 million for 2007 which is one of the reasons why Fountain Worldwide decided to enter Powerboat P1.
"We looked at the structure of the P1 rules, which encourages teams to race with production based products, and felt it was a series we needed to be involved in," says Wilson. "Interest in the Powerboat P1 series has been growing in the USA, partly through its TV exposure over here, and when Chris Witty approached me at the Miami International Boat Show in February, we started to look at ways of putting an entry together."
The 40’ race boat, built specifically to the P1 power-to-weight rules, is an evolution of Fountain’s highly successful SuperVee hull which won the 2005 and 2006 US National Championships as well as the 2005 World SuperVee title. It will be looked after by ex-Victory Team crew chief Steve Lawrence with the full technical support and input from former circuit boat racer and Harmsworth Trophy winner Mark Wilson of Twin Disc and will run with American-built Arneson surface drives.
Persuading Ilmor Marine to become involved in the programme was also a coup for this highly experienced team with Witty having already forged a relationship with the Formula 1 and Indy Car engine design experts by using their ’marinised’ 8.3-litre Dodge Viper lightweight V10 engines in a limited race programme in the USA last year.
Paul Ray, the English CEO of Ilmor’s North American operation, echoes similar words to that of Wilson when giving the reasons why they’ve become involved in Powerboat P1. "We’re in this business to sell engines, so the production based format that P1 offers was sufficient motivation for us to become involved," says Ray.
Created in 2004, Ilmor Marine Engines is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ilmor Engineering Inc, the internationally acclaimed race engine manufacture, and is located in Plymouth, Michigan. Ilmor Marine manufacture, supply and support a line of high-performance marine engines, based on the 8.3-litre Dodge Viper V10, re-engineered for use in the extreme world of high-performance powerboats.
The V10’s normally-aspirated power output, lightweight and impressive torque were all sufficient plus points for Ilmor to recognise its potential as a high-performance marine engine which has subsequently been proved an unqualified success in the USA.
The first Ilmor V10 on sale in 2004 was rated at 550 HP and became an instant hit with many new customers. The 625 HP variant soon followed with equal acclaim and now they have created a 700 HP version. The race team plan to use the 625 HP versions - in order to meet the class power-to-weight requirements - which have a unique sound and will certainly appeal to all powerboat fans.
Fountain Worldwide boss Craig Wilson, 27, will form part of the two-man race crew operating the throttles. The team will make its Powerboat P1 debut at the second event of the 2007 season, the Italian Grand Prix of the Sea, taking place over the weekend of 26th/27th May. An official announcement of the driver line-up and team sponsors will be made prior to the opening P1 event, the Maltese Grand Prix of the Sea, on 5th/6th May.