In this document we will comment on the competitive abilities of various production pwcs with respect to endurance (aka offshore) racing. While we will occasionally make references to the machines’ abilities stock form, at Group K we have no interest in how these machines can fare in stock form. We are interested in each machine only as a platform…that is, how competitive it can be made to be. While there are various 785 cc classes and 785 competitors, this document will focus on the machines that can contest for the open (or overall) win. Whether we like it or not (we don’t), the attention in endurance racing is on the open class and the overall winners.
Even though we view each machine in it’s “intelligently modified” state, this does not mean that we have a “cost is no object” perspective. While the exact dollar number of BP racing’s claim rule has yet to be set in stone, we believe it will end up in the $10,000 range. To that end, we will be viewing each machine’s abilities within a $10k total cost. We feel very strongly that the absence of this mindset is what allowed the costs of closed course racing to go through the roof.
Going one step beyond the cost of construction, we are well aware of the cost of operation (fuel, etc) and maintenance (pistons, rings, etc). Unless otherwise specified, we will be referring to modification levels that will require no more that 2 piston/ring replacements per season. Gasoline’s will be another story. Competitors will simply have to face the reality that running a 130+ hp engine at full throttle for over 2 hours at a time may require “better than” 92 octane pump gas.
Contrary to what most folks believe about endurance racing, sheer horsepower and sheer peak water speed are not the sole ingredients for a winner. In fact they barely make the list. The following is our list of priorities:
1 – Reliability – The best rider with the fastest boat cannot compensate for a dnf. Reliability also refers to the ability to have a minimum of “lap time extending” problems during a race. Flying for the first few laps is no advantage if your have to limp to the checker flag.
2 – Good control at high speed in rough water conditions – This is a hull design trait. The bravest rider with the fastest boat cannot overcome the handicap of repeated high speed bails/swims during an endurance event. As a closed course racer, you can get away with riding “way over your head” for 10 minutes. Attempting to ride over your head for two hours is very high risk and unwise…the odds are against you.
3 – A physically fit rider – Being fit decreases your odds of getting “snapped” off at speed, and reduces your swim time if you do get snapped off.
4 – Minimal loss of “smooth water” peak speed ability as water conditions become rough – This is also a hull design trait. There are many hulls that can run great “glass water” speeds on a radar gun. However the hulls that succeed in offshore are those that loose the smallest margin of that speed in 1 -2 foot chop. There aren’t many that do this.
5 – Fuel Range – Maximizing your water speed while minimizing your fuel consumption is the name of the game. While triple 46s look attractive in your garage, they loose their charisma when you have to pit twice as often as everyone else. Endurance racers have learned that large carbs are great for swift acceleration, but they are not necessary to generate competitive, sustained, straight line speeds. Most endurance racers have also learned that holding the throttle wide open “all” the time does not always net the higher speeds, but it does net the higher fuel consumption rates. Riders that have learned “throttle management” (in high speed rough water conditions) have been able to add another lap to each tank of fuel. This sounds like a pretty good idea after the first time you run out of gas just a short distance from the pits. When modifying your endurance boat, the best rule of thumb is “are you getting a 1 mph speed advantage for each 5 minute range loss compared to the longest range boat?” Another perspective is, do you have a 5 minute fuel range advantage for each mph down to fastest platform?
6 – Ability to perform normally with low fuel levels (high speed left and right turns) – Having a huge fuel tank is no good if your boat doesn’t offer strong, normal performance right down to the last drop. The worst example of this is the Sea Doo XP (96). While this boat has a 9 gallon tank, you will experience fuel starvation in high speed turns after burning 5 gallons. This is partly due to the strong lateral G’s this hull is capable of, but still…running out of fuel is running out of fuel. Furthermore, this same machine will completely run out of fuel with about 1.5 gallons left in the tank…turning or not. The XP is not alone in these areas. “Some” of this problem can be overcome by modifying the fuel pickups…some you just have to live with.
7 – Strong and predictable acceleration (for wave and wake jumping) – As each race wears on, it’s nice if you can use the acceleration control of your machine to jump rough water in a way that minimizes the pounding that your (already tired) body must take.
8 – Less hull weight or extra hull length – You can minimize the abuse to your body (and muscles) by choosing a boat that has either of these features. As a rule, more physically fit riders do better with a lightweight choice, where less fit riders will do better to choose a longer hull.
Are these all illusive and hard to define qualities?…you bet they are. That’s what makes the choice of “best machine” or even “good machine” somewhat subjective. The choosing is so hard because (as in most forms of racing) many qualities must be measured against the most successful current platform. However as development goes on, that top platform is a constantly moving target. Just the same, we feel pretty safe about our observations and recommendations.
THE TOP OF THE 1996 HEAP
While many different machines will have occasional success this year, we believe that the two platforms that will take riders consistently into the top finishes are the Sea Doo GSX 785, and the Yamaha Wave venture 1100.
GSX 785 – While the GSX is not particularly fast in stock form (about 56mph), in a reliable level of modification (like our SS1 format) the smooth water ability is about 62 mph. Even that speed is not spectacular, but the fuel range at that speed (about 100 minutes) is very spectacular. Along with these qualities, the GSX hull scores higher in the #2 and #4 categories than any other platform we have seen to date (these are the two hardest categories to score high in). If the GSX has one gleaming quality above all other machines, it’s the ability to loose a minimum amount of speed and momentum in high speed, rough water conditions. It bears noting that the competitive GSXs will seldom lead the early laps of a race. These are machines that normally move to the front at the half way point or later.
Wave Venture 1100 – The 1100 Venture shares all of the qualities of the GSX…except fuel range. Our best modification for endurance racing Ventures (the Type 2 1130cc big bore) will drive this three seater into the 61-62 mph range. The major advantage of this boat is it’s sheer size. In extremely rough water conditions (that may have many GSX pilot’s legs flying) the Venture can maintain good hookup and great control. This sheer size and great control allows Venture pilots in “average” physical condition to ride along side “athletes” on GSXs in big water. The Venture is the ideal race boat for the weekend warrior who isn’t working out as much as he (or she ) would like. In the smooth water races, the Venture’s size becomes a peak water speed handicap. But smooth water at endurance races (especially in open class) is becoming more and more rare.
THE BEST OF 1997
Yamaha GP 1200 – This hull is a quantum leap of improvement over the old 1100 WaveRaider. It turns great, it has worlds better high speed stability in rough water, and it has gobs more bottom end acceleration. Our best modified GPs (as of this writing) will run 68 mph on glass. However neither these high output GPs, nor the stock 59 mph versions, can hold a candle to the high speed, straight line, rough water control of the modified GSX and Venture. This is a situation that may change as more development is done with the GP plates, grates, and sponsons. However even then, the faster triple 44 carb equipped GPs will have to overcome their title as the undisputed leaders of gas guzzling. With good throttle management, the fast (44 carb) GPs will still only be able to run about 40 – 50 minutes on a full tank of gas.
Sea Doo ’97 XP 785 – This machine could likely become a mid season head turner. The engine development for this platform is already done (on the current GSXs). The 11 gallon tank should net it a 70 – 80 minute range. The hull (slightly longer than the GSX) should offer excellent high speed stability, and the suspended seat will likely offer a clear rider comfort advantage over all other open class contenders. Some riders are concerned about the extra weight of this XP, but the full tank XP will only be 25 lb more than the full GSX 785. The early season hype claimed that these machines would run 55 mph in stock form. If that’s so, getting into the necessary low 60’s (mph) shouldn’t be tough. However some recent banter floating around the business says that true production models may only run 51 mph. We do not care to take part in this sort of rumor mill, nor do we try to speculate on what’s “real” until we radar the production boats ourselves. The one thing we can say…if the ’97 XP 785 runs only 51 mph in stock trim, it will be hard pressed to be competitive in endurance racing in “any” level of modification. If it can run 55 in stock form, we will consider it to be a very significant mid season contender for the overall win.
Kawasaki ZXi 1100 – These machines didn’t get much attention from the high performance aftermarket (or the endurance racing community) because of the infamous “high speed instability” recall of summer ’96. While they are certainly nice machines, they are not exceptional in any of our priority categories. Our Sleeper ZXi 1100s will run 62 -64 mph on glass, however they loose much more speed to the rough water than the GSX 785. In our modification, we chose to remove the accelerator pump feature on the triple 40 mm carbs to improve fuel range. We think this would be an important mod for anyone seriously undertaking a Kawasaki 1100 effort.
Kawasaki STX 1100 – While it is slightly slower on smooth water than the ZXi hull, this long hull is a great choice for riders looking to excel in rough water events.
Sea Doo GSX 947 – This machine will not be available until sometime in May (we are told). By then, most racers will already have made their choice and built their race boat. Just the same, if the slightly heavier 951 shares all the high speed handling traits of the 785, these machines will be very competitive in stock form. The only possible disadvantages might be the fuel consumption caused by the dual 46 carbs (that it supposedly uses), and the extra weight of the engine. Any 951 owner that wants to go out and beat the fast GSX 785s of summer will have their work cut out for them (just ask the racers who thought they were going to kick everybody’s butt at the first races on their new GP 1200s.) Since the 951 motor/pump is an “all new” platform, there is no existing specifications for engine builders to “plug in”. With limited availability of boats and spare parts, it may be tough to get big increases of reliable speed from these boats until very late in the points season.
Polaris SLTX 1050 – There has been much speculation about the presumed speed of these machines. We can only comment on what we’ve seen…we’ve seen the 2 and three seaters run exactly the same speed…59 mph. While the two seat SL model may have great glass water abilities, the current rough water handling of this hull out rules it as a serious contender in any endurance events. The SLTX 3 seater hull has all the ingredients of a great rough water endurance platform. However the 3 seater 1050, like the GSX 785, will likely be a late race leader instead of an early race leader.
Sea Doo GTX – What this boat lacks in speed , it can easily make up for in rider comfort and high speed stability. Few riders consider the GTX as an open class contender. However a Sleeper equipped GTX can accelerate, and top end, right along side a stock 96 XP. We believe this machine is the most under rated of the open class contenders. The GTX will require long distances, and rough water, to shine…but in those conditions it will shine. Like the GSX, these boats will lead at the end…not at the start.
Sea Doo 96 XP (97 SPX) – This boat has been dominant in most IJSBA closed course events. However, in endurance racing, it subjects it’s operator to very bouncy and “busy” ride. There have been a few riders in 1996 that have had good results with their XP. However in 1997, anyone that takes an overall on an XP will have to be “very” physically fit (not to mention very skilled). Many riders considered the XP to be a sure winner in the 90 minute long course (like a giant 1.5 – 2 mile closed course) event. However the affair mentioned “1/2 tank fuel starvation” problems (in full speed sweepers), and the smaller fuel capacity, will always be a slight handicap for front running XP riders.
Tigershark 1000 – So far as power potential, the 1000 could be a competitive driveline. Unfortunately the high speed, rough water , handling of this hull will make it very difficult for the 1000 to compete with the other open class machines.
Yamaha Raider 1100 – While these boats will likely become the absolute kings of smooth water grudge racing, their feasibility in rough water endurance racing has passed. The high speed, rough water, antics of the 1100 Raider hull has scared the hell out of countless professional and novice class racers alike. In 1996, the Yamaha factory hand made a few (18) good handling race hulls for IJSBA closed course racing. These hulls can certainly do well at some smoother events, but they are few…and they offer a very “punishing” ride to the operator in the harsh pounding of “big water” racing.
AS INFORMATION ABOUT THE NEWER MACHINES BECOMES AVAILABLE, WE WILL UPDATE THIS DOCUMENT.