DANA POINT — Driver Bruce Penhall and throttle man Dennis Sigalos won their class the first three years of the Ocean Spray Offshore Grand Prix, but after crossing the finish line first last year--despite competing in what is now a Super Vee boat--they wanted to put the faster catamarans behind them again.
Penhall, of Laguna Hills, and Sigalos, of Newport Beach, driving the Ocean Spray Crave the Wave scarab, led the first six laps of the nine-lap featured race Sunday before Jelly Bean Gone Again and Ragamuffin Peppers picked them off and crossed the line first.
At least Penhall-Sigalos won their class, which is more than can be said for Ragamuffin Peppers, a Modified catamaran driven by Huntington Beach's Craig Ferguson and throttled by Chino's Rique Ford.
Ferguson and Ford led the seventh and eighth laps on the eight-mile course and were two miles from the finish when they lost the starboard engine or stern drive--Ferguson didn't know which--and their lead.
"We couldn't believe it," Ferguson said. "We saw the finish line in front of us when we lost power."
First place in the Modified class went to Alamo's Rick Bowling and San Jose's Brian Connors in Jelly Belly Gone Again. Bowling and Connors crossed the line six seconds ahead of Ragamuffin Peppers and about 40 seconds in front of Ocean Spray after 72 miles.
It was the second consecutive American Powerboat Assn. victory for Jelly Belly Gone Again, which blew a motor on Friday during testing and used a replacement engine that already had seven races behind it.
"I don't know if anyone's ever gotten that many races out of an 800-hp engine," Bowling said. "Usually you have four races [then] you rebuild them."
The catamarans stole Ocean Spray's thunder. It was the host boat competing in the back yard of its two drivers.
"It's always a goal to beat the modified boats, but in all reality, they're supposed to beat us," said Penhall, who has never lost a class race in four years at Dana Point.
Penhall said Sunday's race was Ocean Spray's party, and the boat backed up the challenge as best it could. But as the water got smoother as the race wore on, it was passed by both catamarans--which are suited to smoother water.
"They set the pace," Bowling said of the Ocean Spray crew. "Those guys are hard chargers and don't hold back.
"I didn't want to run as hard as I could. We didn't want to lead, we wanted to stay close. Sometimes it's easier to let the competition make mistakes."
Notable finishers in other classes included: Factory I, Sam Beller, Anaheim, Ultimate Warlock, first place; Production IV, Martin Sanborn, Garden Grove, License to Thrill, first; Stock, Dave Thomas, Huntington Beach, Speedwear, second; Production I, Michael Gray, Irvine, Airborn, second; Production II, Jeff Minor, Newport Beach, Ultimate Energy, second; Production III, Steve Paliska, Foothill Ranch, 291 Racing, Foothill Ranch, third; Offshore A, Raoul Broch, Costa Mesa, No Limits, seventh. . . . In class B, Citgo Supergard, driven by Nigel Hook with Huntington Harbour's Cheryl Williams as navigator, finished first.
The only major incident that took place involved No Stress Express, driven by Fred Inman of San Dimas, who flipped in the Offshore A race. Rescue workers reached them in 25 seconds; there were no injuries.