Twin brothers Blake and Brock Gratton announced this week that they’re getting involved with boat racing again. The sons of late offshore racer Joey Gratton, who died from an accident at the 2011 Key West Offshore World Championships, have decided to sponsor a raceboat through Von Vape, their premium, black-label eliquid line for ecigarettes that they own with partners Joshua Unger and Francis Suits III.
The Von Vape partners, from left, Brock Gratton, Joshua Unger, Francis Suits and Blake Gratton, are going to be bringing a complete setup to all four P1 SuperStock USA races this season. Photos courtesy Blake Gratton
According to Blake, the company, which has grown tremendously over the past two years, was looking for diversified exposure so the brothers set up a meeting with Azam Rangoonwala, the owner and CEO of P1 SuperStock USA, and beginning with the upcoming P1 season opener in Tavares, Fla., on April 8-9, there will be two teams representing Von Vape.
Veteran offshore racer Mark Neiman, a German native who lives in Sarasota, Fla., and currently races his Phantom 9 raceboat in the Super Boat International Superboat Vee class, is teaming up with Von Vape’s Suits to race the P1 Panther raceboat, while Pro Circuit rider Eric Lagopolous, also from Sarasota, is expecting to impress his new sponsor with his second AquaX world championship.
Suits and Nieman are expecting to get in a couple of test sessions before next week’s season-opening race.
“P1 gave Brock and I our first opportunity to race together as a team in 2012 and we’re really excited to be a part of it once again,” said Blake, who called sponsoring a raceboat the next best thing to being in one. “Azam and his team have truly put together an incredible racing organization—we’re looking forward to the 2016 season.
“Deciding who was going to represent Von Vape in P1 SuperStock was an easy decision,” he continued, pointing toward Neiman’s experience in the European Honda Series as well as his dedication to the sport and desire to win. “This year there is going to be a lot of veteran racers in P1 and we wanted to make sure we had the team everyone was gunning for.”
Neiman and Suits are hoping to test the spec boat a couple of times before the season-opening race, which will feature an elaborate Von Vape setup.
The No. 361 Von Vape P1 Panther will be one of at least seven teams competing for the P1 SuperStock USA championships this year.
“I can’t wait to race P1 this season—some of my most memorable moments have been in spec racing classes because the boats are identical and it really comes down to driving skills,” said Neiman, who brings more than just driving skills to the table as he’s managed several race teams throughout his career. “What’s also appealing about P1 SuperStock is the TV coverage. The organization invests in the coverage and, from what I’ve seen, the production value is excellent.
“Am I going to tell you that the P1 Panther is the most exciting raceboat out there? No, but it’s all about the show really, and the organization and the teams are more than capable of putting on a great show,” he continued.
Brock Gratton said Von Vape opted to sponsor Lagopolous because he is a talented, local racer the brothers have known for many years.
“We knew he would be the perfect rider since he knows how to win races,” Brock said. “We’re excited to support Eric and watch him represent Von Vape all the way to the podium. It’s great to be part of racing again and we’re looking forward to a great year with our SuperStock and AquaX teams.”
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