Elijah and Bill Kingery (Boat No. 17) will look to finish first in the inaugural Daytona Beach Grand Prix of the Sea event this weekend.
PONCE INLET– Before he took his first steps or said his first word, Elijah Kingery went out on the water.
Four days after being born, Elijah took his first powerboat ride with his father Bill, who owns a performance boating shop in Radnor, Ohio.
For Bill, the conversation with his wife about the idea was brief.
“She goes, ‘You’re kidding me,’ and I said, ‘get in the boat, we’re going.’”
A little more than 21 years later, the father-son tandem will ride together in the Daytona Beach Grand Prix of the Sea, the first Powerboat P1 SuperStock Championship series event in the city’s history.
The Kingerys will race one of nine boats in the SuperStock competition, which will be held Saturday and Sunday on a two-mile course offshore behind the Plaza Resort and Spa on Atlantic Avenue.
“It’s just been a part of my life forever,” Elijah said about powerboat racing. “I’ve never really thought about it; I’ve just done it.”
In addition to SuperStock powerboat racing, the P1 AquaX USA, a personal water craft racing series, will debut in the United States.
World champion Jet Ski rider Alex Morgan, 41, from Guadalajara, Mexico, is excited at the opportunity to race in the ocean, rather than the flat waters of a lake.
“It’s a lot more challenging that way,” said Morgan, who has competed in 13 different countries including Italy and France. “It’s a European-style of a race where we start on the go. That’s the type of start that I’ve always enjoyed very much because you just flat-out go full speed right off the bat.”
Championship manager Azam Rangoonwala takes pride in bringing his brand of racing to one of the world’s great racing venues.
“Daytona is racing; that’s what it’s all about,” Rangoonwala said. “We really want to make this into a yearly event.”
This year, Powerboat P1 is scheduled to make five stops in the state of Florida, having already gone to Stuart and with races in Pahokee, Cocoa Beach and Marathon slated over the next three months.
Managing director Martin Sanborn said organizers would like to bring a national championship race to Daytona Beach next year, both kicking off and ending the season in the waters off the beachside.
Rangoonwala said there is also a possibility Daytona Beach could be considered as a host for the world championship in a few years.
“That’s always a possibility, especially somewhere with a racing pedigree like Daytona. It’s definitely possible,” Rangoonwala said.
Powerboat P1 will have its first true world championship in 2015, according to Sanborn.
The first installment has the support of local tourism officials. In April, the Halifax Area Advertising Authority board, which promotes the area as a vacation destination, voted to kick in $5,000 to assist in advertising and broadcasting the races.
Powerboat P1 currently holds SuperStock races in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates in addition to the United States.
Rangoonwala has expressed a desire to set up shop in China as well.
Each boat is made with stock specifications in mind — 28-feet long, weighing around 3,500 pounds with an Evinrude 250-horsepower engine that tops out at speeds between 65 and 70 mph.
Before and after every race, boats are weighed to prevent cheating.
“Going into the first turn, you can see all the boats are so even,” Rangoonwala said. “It’s really all about the driver and the navigator.”
Rangoonwala said Powerboat P1 builds each competitor’s boat, and drivers have three options for owning them — buying one brand new for $100,000, buying a secondhand boat for $55,000 or leasing a boat for a year at a cost of $7,500.
The course is just about two miles long and will feature a dogleg, meaning, as opposed to NASCAR, drivers will have to make right and left turns.
The Kingerys, who finished fourth in the United States’ standings last year, had never been to Daytona prior to this weekend but were drawn to the idea of competing in the backdrop of racing history.
The entire family traveled 17 consecutive hours in an RV from Columbus, with Elijah at the wheel the whole way.
This weekend, Elijah will drive his first open-ocean race, but as it’s always been, his father will be there every step of the way.
“We do it as a family sport,” Bill said. “That’s the neat thing about boating — you can go out and race the boat, especially this boat, and on weekends you can put in a rear seat and it’s a pleasure boat. It’s got a lot of stickers on it, but it’s a pleasure boat.”