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Fireworks On The Water In Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix

After his canopied catamaran, Pro Floors Racing, claimed a hard-earned checkered flag in the Super Cat class at the 37th annual Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix, owner/driver Wayne Valder enthusiastically waved the checkered flag as the MTI catamaran idled along Lido Beach with the fans cheering. About an hour earlier, driver Travis Pastrana did the same on the deck of the 47-foot Victory catamaran Huski Chocolate after a hard-fought victory in the Southwest Florida contest, event No. 3 in the eight-race American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series.

The first of several incidents today saw the Super Stock-class Big East Construction duo of Cole Leibel and Gary Ballough roll in their 32-foot Victory catamaran. (See the entire sequence below). Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

“The boat ran well and Wayne drove a great race,” said Pro Floors throttleman Grant Bruggemann of Grant’s Signature Racing. “We’ve been testing a lot and the boat ran great.”

Bruggemann said he also had been dealing with some health issue in the weeks leading up to the race and he’s finally feeling better so he was on his game in his hometown.

Added Valder who flies up from New Zealand for each race, “We had a hell of trip getting here. We’re very happy.”

The Pro Floors Racing team of owner/driver Wayne Valder and throttleman Grant Bruggemann took the Super Cat class victory in its MTI.

When the green flag flew in the third race of the day on the 6.7-mile course in the Gulf of Mexico, M CON owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil charged out to an early lead in Miller’s Skater Powerboats 388. Pro Floors, the only 42-foot MTI and the oldest boat in the Super Cat fleet, ran second not far behind and owner/driver Chris Grant and throttleman Billy Moore held a solid third position in their 38-foot Skater Graydel while owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller ran fourth in their 40-foot Skater WHM Motorsports.

The Super Cat fleet had seven boats including Vinnie Diorio and driver Simon Prevost in the 39-foot Outerlimits SV Offshore Racing, the 38-foot Skater LiquorSplit with driver John Paul Emmons and throttleman Jimmy McIntyre and the 38-foot Skater Justice League with Donn Urfer driving and Richard Davis throttling.

With M CON leading, the boats were headed north on the outer leg of the course, and Miller and Coil took launched skyward. “We were listening to our spotters and were about 3 to 4 seconds ahead,” Miller said. “Just about the time I thought I could trim up a little and we took a flyer.”

Their time in the air let Pro Floors gain ground as the two boats rounded the turns at the northern end of the course. When the boats passed a buoy that created a small dogleg before the start-finish line, you could see Pro Floors set up at an angle that positioned the boat for a straight shot to turn No. 1.

“We felt we had the legs on them and we hoped the length of straightway was long enough to enable us to do it,” said Valder, adding that when the boat’s Kasse Racing engines spooled up, it out-accelerated M CON and took the lead in the turns at the southern end of the course. With clean water in front of it, Valder and Bruggemann pulled away.

“Once you get clean water, you can drive wherever you want,” Brueggemann said. “We got the fuel burn right. We had the drive height correct. It was just a good day.”

M CON took second in Super Cat, but Graydel ran out of fuel and was passed by WHM Motorsports for third, unofficially.

A pair of 450R Factory Stock teams—KLOVAR Motorsports and TS Motorsports—from the Lake of the Ozarks area in Central Missouri also ran in the Super Cat race. Both teams campagin MTI 390X catamarans powered by Mercury Racing 450R outboard engines. For the second time this season the KLOVAR cockpit duo of driver Randy Keys and throttleman Bill Allen bested Taylor Scism, who was joined in the cockpit of their 39-foot by her MTI founding father Randy Scism (the senior Scism subbed in for throttleman John Tomlinson, who had another commitment this weekend), in TS Motorsports.

In a move that would prove wise based on today’s wild ending—and more on that later—officials at Powerboat P1, which produced their second event of the year, made a smart call, opting to have the boats in the 500, 600 and 700 classes run on Saturday. This let them start today with the boats in Class 400 as well as the Stock V and Mod V classes, effectively moving up the schedule by about an hour for Sunday with weather moving in late in the day at the north end of the course.

The extra time would come in handy.

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Check out the slideshow above for more images from Sunday’s competition.

Exciting Start
All about V-bottoms, the first race of the day began at 10 a.m.

In the Stock V class, which consists of 30-foot V-bottoms with enclosed cockpits powered by sealed Mercury HP525 EFI engines, Brit Lilly celebrated his 38th birthday by partnering with throttleman Jay Muller to take a wire-to-wire win in the 30-foot Extreme, LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness. In addition to racing the boat, Lilly built it. Normally, Kevin Smith throttles for Lilly, but business commitments prevented him from attending, so Muller, who also throttles WHM Motorsports in Super Cat, filled in.

Second place went to driver Ken Bolinger and throttleman Forrest Riddle in their new 30-foot Phantom Fastboys Racing.com that ran strong all day. The 30-foot Phantom Shocker with driver Chris Colson and throttled by Raymond Evans appeared to finish third, but due to technical issues, they were moved to fourth. Their bad luck gave Pastrana and driver Jim York third place in the 30’ Extreme Twisted Vee.

Brit Lilly and Jay Muller won the Stock V class in the LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness Extreme.

“I didn’t think it was possible to win on your birthday,” said Lilly, adding that he thought racing relatively early race would have served up calmer conditions and he would have shifted weight accordingly.

In the first mishap of the day, driver Dante Napoli and throttleman Mikey Bocchino in the 30-foot Phantom You Gun Learn were running a strong second behind LSB when they came upon the 39-foot Velocity GNS Motorsports, a Class 400 entry that was running off the pace and throwing a sizable wake. LSB had gone way outside to overtake the slower boat and stay away from the worst of the wake. You Gun Learn attempted to go to the inside between the larger boat and the buoy marking the dogleg in the course.

You Gun Learn took a couple of bad hops and on the second one, the boat nosed in and pitched before almost rolling over. It hit the buoy and popped it. The boat and crew didn’t appear to be harmed and remained upright, but they were definitely shaken up.

Hometown Winners
In Mod V, Sarasota’s own Steve Kildahl and son Stephen Kildahl throttled and drove their 30-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com, to the lead at the start and never looked back. Charlie McCarthy and Anthony Silveira in their 30-foot Phantom, Punisher, and Steve Miklos and Steve Ferhman gave chase in their 30-foot Extreme, Team Sunprint, challenged but attrition reared its ugly head with Punisher and Team Sunprint experiencing mechanical issues.

The Boatfloater.com father-and-son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl took the checkered flag in the Mod V class.

Stephen Kildahl said he and his father, Steve, who hasn’t missed a Sarasota race since the event started, had a propeller that they knew would accelerate well and that the pace boat threw the green flag when the boats were running pretty slow.

“We got out front on the first turn and never looked back,” said Stephen. My wife was spotting and told us the time intervals. Once we knew we could conserve, we went into cruise mode.”

The victory was Stephen’s 31st and when asked what number win this was for his father, he laughed and said, “Dad has been as careful as me about keeping track.”

Second in the Mod-V class went to Punisher followed by Team Sunprint.

The Big Show
Because weather prevented the Super Cats from running last year, race officials didn’t want the fans deprived of seeing the biggest, fastest boats, so the second race of the day on Sunday was Class 1 around 11:30 a.m. with three boats—the 47-foot Victory Huski Chocolate, the 47-foot Victory 222 Offshore Australia and the 42-foot MTI JBS Racing. The fourth entry, 345 Racing/XINSURANCE, had a mechanical issue on Saturday and couldn’t make the start. It was the team’s second premature exit in as many Union International Motonautique World Championship Series races, which also is being produced the Powerboat P1/P1 Offshore outfit.

When the green flag flew, throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Pastrana jumped to an early lead, but then slowed when one of the Mercury Racing 1,100-hp engines in Huski Chocolate went into guardian mode, which basically requires coming off plane, shutting down the engine and re-starting. This let driver Darren Nicholson and throttleman Giovanni Carpitella jump out to the lead in 222 Offshore Australia. Because owner/driver Jeff Stevenson was experiencing some health issues, McCarthy took his place at the wheel of JBS Racing with throttleman Michael Stancombe.

An exciting race, the Class 1 contest ended with Huski Chocolate earning the victory.

Curtis and Pastrana got Huski Chocolate back in the game and initially, they were at least a full straightaway behind 222 Offshore Australia. Pastrana said that Curtis didn’t say much as he started increasing the boat’s speed. “I giggled to myself, ‘Now I know I’m going to know what fast feels like,’” Pastrana said.

In many offshore raceboats with a veteran throttleman and a relatively inexperienced driver, the throttleman instructs his driver, but in Huski Chocolate, Curtis took a different approach.

“He really trusted me,” Pastrana explained. “As we came into the south turns, I said, ‘We’ll go wide and stay wide open on the first buoy.’”

The tactic let them keep up their speed and they made up about eight seconds on that lap. Crew chief Gary Stray and Curtis made the right call on the boat’s setup and Huski Chocolate consistently made up time on 222 Offshore Australia. After making the pass midway through the race, Huski Chocolate extended its lead and cruised to an impressive victory followed by 222 Offshore Australia and JBS Racing, which pulled off with a mechanical issue.

Final Mayhem
In the final race of the day, 10 Super Stock catamarans took the course in what promised to be a hotly contested race. As the fleet headed to the northern end of the course, Big East Construction—a 32-foot Victory cat—took a weird hop in a following sea and rolled heading into turn three. Throttleman Gary Ballough and driver Cole Leibel emerged from the incident injury-free.

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The Big East Construction incident appeared to come out of nowhere.

When the rest of the fleet re-started, the raceboat carnage continued. It’s not certain which incident happened first, but throttleman Shaun Torrente and owner/driver Sean Conner hit a wave in the 32-foot Doug Wright, CMR Racing, and when they came down, the front of the sponsons basically blew off as the boat appeared to implode. The driver and throttleman were OK, but safety crews put the boat on the beach and filled what was left with flotation bags to try to tow it back to the crane.

In a separate incident at the southern end of the course, the 30-foot Skater, Steele Offshore Racing, with owner/driver Dominick Steele and throttleman Julian Maldonado rolled just past the start-finish line. With three separate incidents, officials were left with no choice but to call the race.

At this writing, a winner has not been announced.

It is worth noting that the three incidents occurred in a race where the weight that the boats in the Super Stock class were required to show on the scale when they were pulled out after the race was adjusted a couple of times and many teams were forced to add ballast to meet the number.

The final race of the day, the Super Stock contest started much better than it ended.

Editor’s note: An award-winning writer and former Powerboat magazine editor-in-chief, Eric Colby is covering the American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series and the Union International Motonautique World Championship Series for speedonthewater.com this season.

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