Grant Bruggemann, the hard-charging, 48-year-old veteran offshore racing throttleman and owner of Grant’s Signature Racing in Bradenton, Fla., has a new appreciation for all the things he used to take for granted. Walking his dog. Walking, period. Driving his truck to the store for groceries. Working impossible hours at his thriving business.
Currently being repaired, the Pro Floors Marine NZ-1 MTI catamaran (in foreground) will be rigged with Jon Kasse Racing Engines for the 2019 offshore racing season. Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
That’s what coming back from severe injuries—in Bruggemann’s case second- and third-degree burns to his 46 percent of his body sustained when gasoline fumes in a boat he was working on ignited—will do for you. Surviving and recovering from an incident that just as easily could have killed you has a profound way of enhancing your appreciation for everyday life.
“I am doing great right now,” said Bruggemann, who was in and out of the hospital multiple times after the January 18 incident and was nursed back to health by his wife, Kellie. “Every day gets better and better. I just have to keep mobile—and keep stretching.
“We are very blessed,” he continued. “We have very good friends. A lot of people reached out and went above and beyond and sent us everything possible that we needed. We feel very blessed, and are very humbled by all of it. But I also had a pretty good nurse, you know.”
Bruggemann will bring the same high level gratitude and appreciation to the cockpit of the Pro Floors Racing NZ-1 team this season when he joins veteran New Zealand-based owner/driver Wayne Valder in the cockpit of his 42-foot MTI catamaran for the six-race American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series this year. The series kicks off May 17-19 on the west coast of Florida with the 10th annual Thunder On Cocoa Beach Space Coast Grand Prix, and Bruggemann and Valder will be ready to run.
“I was very concerned about Grant, of course,” said Valder. “I told him, ‘If you’re not ready to go this season, I’ll wait until you are.’ But he assured me he’s ready to race and is looking forward to it, so it’s full steam ahead.”
For Bruggemann, who was born in Australia, and his Kiwi teammate, Cocoa Beach will be the fourth race they have run together and their first time competing in the canopied MTI catamaran. The MTI cat, which currently is being repaired by a local outfit in Sarasota, Fla., was damaged when it rolled during the 2018 Super Boat International National Championships in Clearwater, Fla. Neither Valder nor driver Chris Hanley were injured in the crash, but the 42-footer sustained significant damage.
For the 2018 SBI World Championships in Key West, Fla., Valder leased the former Cleveland Construction team’s Skater Powerboats 388 catamaran and invited Bruggemann to join him. Despite that it was the first time they had raced together, they led early in the Wednesday race before a mechanical issue (and subsequent engine-compartment fire) knocked them out of the contest. On Friday, they led for the race—and built a 20-second lead—before a blown water-hose knocked them out of contention. In Sunday’s double-points finale, they were mostly out of contention and completed just four laps before exiting with a mechanical issue.
Still, it was a promising, albeit frustrating, start for the cockpit duo.
“We’ve both had so many years of racing that we barely had to talk to each other as soon as we got in the boat,” said Valder. “It all came together very quickly.”
That boat was equipped with Jon Kasse Racing Engines, and when repairs on the MTI are complete and the cat is returned to Bruggemann’s shop, he’ll rig it with a pair of the Georgia-based engine-builder’s powerplants. “The Kasse engines gave us exactly what we were looking for in Key West, so we’re going with them again,” said Valder.
Bruggemann and Valder had a strong showing at the 2018 SBI World Championships in Key West.
Bruggemann and Valder said the team is planning on running the entire six-race APBA series, a product of a collaboration between the Offshore Powerboat Association and Powerboat P1, as well as in the Key West World Championship, regardless of which entity is awarded the five-year race promoter contract. (All Requests For Proposal were due March 6 and the contract should be awarded in the next two to three weeks.)
“I’m excited about it,” said Bruggemann. “This is the first year we’ve had a full race schedule like we used to in past years. We have a good, solid six races this season. For the last couple of years, we were lucky to have three or four. I think between OPA and P1 working together, we’ll have six really good events.”
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