As the graphite grey Cigarette Racing 41’ AMG Carbon Edition pulls away from the dock, captain Bud Lorow engages the engines. Shifting the centre console boat into gear, a shudder coils through the fiberglass and carbon fibre composite hull — portending something special, and perhaps a little bit terrifying, is afoot. The vessel makes its way through Biscayne Bay, the white and turquoise skyline of Miami in front, mangrove to the right. From this vantage point Magic City resembles the jaw of a giant dragon with pearly asymmetric teeth.
After we pass under the Rickenbacker Causeway and enter open water, Lorow turns. “Ok y’all ready?” he asks, grinning widely. The veteran champion racer confidently pushes the throttle forward and the vessel lurches to life. One more push and I’m holding onto the cabin’s frame for dear life, white-knuckled. A massive wake spreads behind us as we disappear more pedestrian watercraft with disdain.
There is absolutely no need for a pleasure craft to go this fast. But then again, neither Cigarette Racing Team nor AMG, Mercedes Benz's performance division, are known for their restraint. So here we are, cruising Biscayne at 80mph. And while the two companies share a penchant for speed, they also share a demand for extreme engineering.
I witness that firsthand the following morning when I visit Cigarette Racing’s cavernous facilities in Miami’s Opa-Locka suburb. What instantly impresses upon entering is just how immaculate their workspace is: concrete floors you could eat sashimi off of, boats polished and gleaming, not an oil stain or stray wrench to be seen anywhere. “When I bought the company I said to the production manager, ‘We’re going to have to reflect a Formula One paddock here,’ ” Skip Braver tells me of the day in 2002 when he salvaged Cigarette Racing from bankruptcy.
Across a vast wooden desk, relaxed and amicable, Braver epitomises the role of a Miami speedboat CEO. “And he said ‘Skip, we’re not cooking tomatoes here!’ I said I know we’re not cooking tomatoes, but you gotta clean up! “ We want this place to be something special right away. It’s not tough,” he continues. “If you walk into a [factory] and it’s a mess, and there’s no organisation, and it’s filthy dirty, what’s it say about your boats? How are you treating your tools?”
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