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Scioli, Buzzi team for Superboat win

Certainly, Daniel Scioli can't expect the same adulation that many of Argentina's finest athletes receive from their adoring fans.

But if his current streak continues, the Argentine driver might start making some waves in his homeland.

Especially after capturing the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix Powerboat racing championship Sunday afternoon off the Gulf of Mexico in Sarasota.

It was Scioli's debut at the event, and he made it worthwhile.

"I think this sport is gaining in popularity in my country," said Scioli, who lives in Buenos Aires. "It's just a matter of making the right moves, having a great team and of course to keep on winning."

Scioli did just that as he drove his blue and red Superboat La Gran Argentina through the 120-mile course at an average speed of 120 mph. The 10-litre, 560-cubic inch, 1,100-horsepower engine craft was the only diesel-fueled boat in a field that included favorite JAWS, which set a course record (158.452 mph) Friday in a preliminary race.

"We are very confident of our engine and what it can do," said Fabio Buzzi, the designer and builder of the 50-foot La Gran Argentina. "We built it to win and it handled real nicely today."

Scioli and Buzzi had some help, as JAWS broke down after the first lap and Alcone Motorsports' 46-foot Skater, which was leading the race, missed a turn and was disqualified.

"There were a lot of buoys and turns out there," Buzzi said. "It was really tough to make all the right turns successfully and continue to keep a top speed. You really had to have a dependable and reliable boat which we counted on from the start."

It wasn't just the boat that the pair counted on.

For the past few races, Scioli and Buzzi have relied on each other. Three weeks ago they finished second to Skater in Miami, and they teamed to win several races around the United States and in Buzzi's homeland of Italy.

"We are both professionals and want to win badly," said Scioli, who was mobbed by members of the Argentine media after taking the checkered flag. "When we met six years ago we both had a plan to win a world championship together."

That plan appears to be on target, especially for Scioli, who has endured the anguish of a sport not without danger.

The veteran powerboat racer lost his right arm in a powerboat accident and has an artificial limb. He uses his left arm to maneuver the high-powered boat while Buzzi is his throttle man.

"I've won a world championship before and have helped this sport become better known in Italy," said Buzzi, who won the world championship in 1988. "The basic secret to winning for us is to start and to finish. Reliability means everything. Hopefully, we've started a trend."

The race was marred by a collision involving two speedboats in which six people were thrown overboard. All six were taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital for treatment (See story, section B).