With yesterday’s St. Petersburg Grand Prix, offshore powerboat racing returned to the Southwest Florida city after a 17-year absence in fine style with 41 boats in the 10-class field. The day’s action included standout performances in the Super Stock and Mod V classes and more in front of thousands of fans, many of whom enjoyed the competition up close from St. Petersburg’s public pier.
For true fans of the sport, St. Petersburg’s public pier was the best place to catch all the action. Photos by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
The first race of the day featured a fierce Super Stock-class battle. From the green flag, CMR Racing throttleman Shaun Torrente and driver Eric Belisle set the early pace in their 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran. Hot on their tale for the first half of the nine-lap race on the six-mile course was the Jackhammer team cockpit duo of driver Reese Langheim and throttleman Ricky Maldonado in their 32-foot Victory cat.
Performance Boat Center throttleman Rusty Williams and driver Myrick Coil battled Jackhammer for second place for several laps before overtaking them in their 32-foot Doug Wright cat. In the final two laps, Williams and Coil were gaining ground on CMR Roofing but ran out of time before a pass would have been possible.
CMR Roofing’s Shaun Torrente and Eric Belisle claimed victory in the ever-competitive Super Stock class.
Though the Jackhammer team crossed the finish line in third place, hitting the No. 1 turn buoy on the sixth lap earned them a penalty. That not only landed Langheim and Maldonado in eighth place, it moved the Wicked Powerboats team of Mike Bethan and Todd DeFilipps to third place.
“We spent a lot of time getting the boat ready in hot and humid weather last week to make necessary setup changes ahead of this race,” Torrente said. “We kept within our target lap times and focused on managing our race to hold off Performance Boat Center.
Until the they struck a turn buoy, Jackhammer’s Reese Langheim and Ricky Maldonado were headed for a third-place Super Stock-class result.
“We have great spotters who informed us of Performance Boat Center’s position on the last few laps,” he continued. “I decided to push harder once we knew they were making up time so we didn’t have a stressful last-lap scenario.”
The greatest crowd-pleaser of the day came in the Mod V class with home team Visit St. Pete/Clearwater V-bottom throttled by Nick Imprescia and driven by Ian Morgan—a couple of talented and ambitious 20-year-olds—taking their first victory in only their second race in the category. Imprescia and Morgan fended off a strong challenge from Team Punisher’s Charlie McCarthy and Anthony Silveria on the first lap as well as the always competitive veteran Boatfloater.com and Sun Print teams.
Newcomers to the Mod V class, Nick Imprescia and Ian Miller won one for the home team.
“The team gave us a great boat today and they deserve everything they got,” Imprescia said. “Ian did an awesome job on the wheel—I was really impressed with his driving today. To win our sponsor’s home race and deliver the first checkered flag for them and our team principal was very rewarding.”
With just the M CON and Chariots of Fire teams in the Supercat contest, the class continued its season-long turnout shortage. But that didn’t stop either team from racing hard and putting on a good show for the fans in their 11-lap contest.
“The water conditions were in our favor for sure—75 percent of this course was turning, so we propped accordingly knowing that only 25 percent of the race would be about speed on the straights,” said Tyler Miller, the owner and throttleman of the M CON Skater Powerboats 388 catamaran who shared the cockpit—as he has all season—with driver Myrick Coil. “What a great place to get a checkered flag.”
As they have all season, the M CON team’s Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil put on a show despite scant competition.
Assigned to the Class 1 ranks so far this season for its move to Mercury Racing 860 engines instead of spec Supercat-class power, SV Racing shared the course with M CON and Chariots of Fire.
“We’re 800 pounds heavier than M CON, so they had the acceleration on us,” said Vinnie Diorio, who co-owns and throttles the 39-foot Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats catamaran with driver Simon Prevost. “With the weight we have onboard, there isn’t necessarily a performance advantage over the Supercat engines with our Mercury Racing 860s.
“Longevity is the advantage we have,” he added.
In the eight-lap Stock-V class contest, the Relentless team of Travis Pettko and Rob Hartmann lived up to its name and took the checkered flag ahead of Shocker’s Chris Colson and Olivia Perry. Class newcomers Pete Riviero and Richard Garcia of The Firm/MSP Recovery Racing finished third.
The LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness cockpit pairing of driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Kevin Smith jumped out to a massive lead at the beginning of the Stock V race. But snake-bit as they’ve seemed to be all season in the 29-foot Extreme Lilly built himself at his shop in Arnold, Md., a broken propeller blade ended their race early.
The Relentless team once again lived up to its name in the Stock V class race.
“We got left at the start because the boat wouldn’t get on plane and our engine went into guardian mode four times,” said Hartmann, who throttles the Relentless raceboat. “Once we got on plane, we managed to reel-in everyone including Brit, who unfortunately dropped out early.”
With 10 boats taking the green flag for its seven-lap contest, the Bracket 500 class saw big-time attrition as just half of the fleet actually finished the race. But to no one’s surprise, the Shoreline Plumbing team of driver Brent Appiarius and throttleman Joe Reilly continued their winning ways and took first place ahead of the hard-charging Bulletproof Racing and Team Woody outfits. Team Woody driver J.J. Turk and throttleman Micheal Stancombe actually crossed the finish line ahead of Appiarius and Reilly. But a top-speed breakout landed them in third place behind the Bulletproof Racing entry driven by George Ivey and throttled by Craig Belfatto.
Shoreline Plumbing (center) notched yet another strong performance in the Bracket 500 class.
Class 6 featured a race long battle between Gerard Marine manned by driver Mark Conrod and throttleman Chase Gerard, and the Southern Arbor Services’ father-son team of Damon Marotta Jr. and Damon Marotta Sr. Gerard Marine was declared victors after GPS data revealed Southern Arbor Services exceeded its class speed limit, demoting them to second. Mechanical misfortunes struck Bad Company’s Will Seamen and Chad Pyland on lap one, forcing their early retirement.
Richard Davis and Don Urfer of Cigarette Justice League were awarded first place in Class 4 with their only competitor Burning Man placing second with a 30 second penalty.
Though the seven-lap Bracket 700 class had just two teams on the course, it didn’t lack for drama thanks to hull delamination for the 21-boat Jackhammer team boat throttled by Julian Maldonado and driven by Brian Guy. The hull damage was enough for the boat to begin taking on water and forced Maldonado and Guy to immediately try to head for shore.
“I’m not sure if we hit something or not,” Julian Maldonado said. “I noticed we started getting wet in the cockpit, and wetter as time went on so I knew we had a problem. I tried to keep us on plane to get back to the crane, but we had to stop and get some water pumps on the boat.”
The Bracket 700 class Jackhammer team had to exit early due to hull delamination that threatened to send the boat to the bottom of Tampa Bay.
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