Straight from the St. Clair River Classic just one week ago in Michigan, much of the offshore powerboat racing community headed to Michigan City, Ind., last weekend for the Great Lakes Grand Prix—the fifth of six races in the American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series. For yesterday’s competition on the 5-1/2-mile Lake Michigan course, a record-setting 52 teams were greeted by calm waters in the morning that, thanks to stiff offshore breezes, built throughout the day, turning lumpier as the four races progressed.
The Punisher team prevailed over a tough Mod V-class fleet yesterday in Michigan City. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill.
“We had a heck of a side-wind of 17 to 18 mph,” said Tyler Miller, the owner and throttleman of the Supercat-class winning M CON team, who shares the cockpit of the outfit’s 38-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran powered by Sterling Performance engines with driver Myrick Coil. “Myrick went out two races ahead of us in the Performance Boat Center/FASS Diesel Systems Super Stock boat and figured out the racing lines best suited to contend with the wind going down the straights and into turns.
Miller and Coil led flag-to-flag, finishing ahead of a couple of other Skater catamarans—WHM Motorsports and the new Chariots of Fire team, which retired halfway through the race.
“To beat WHM is a high accolade,” Miller said. “That boat is always fast and they were running with us for a bit at the start, so I thought we had a good battle on our hands.”
In the Super Stock class, CMR Roofing team owner/throttleman Shaun Torrente—the recent subject of a Speed On The Water documentary video—and driver Eric Belisle jumped out to an early lead in their 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran. Coil and Rusty Williams, his Performance Boat Center team cockpit-mate, chased hard but ultimately couldn’t match CMR’s pace and finished second, with the CR Racing team of Casey Boaz and Rob Unnerstall taking third and the Jackhammer team of Reese Langheim and Ricky Maldonado finishing fourth.
From Class 1 to Bracket 700, winners took center stage on Lake Michigan.
“That was an awesome race,” Torrente said. “We’ve been working hard on the balance of the boat and getting the setup where we want it for each condition we encounter.
“The water remained relatively flat but there were a few spots on the backside of the course that would get nasty out of nowhere,” he added. “All in all, we’re really pleased with our performance today.”
The Mod-V class saw a new winner in Team Punisher of Charlie McCarthy and Anthony Silveria over second-place finisher Pit Viper/Tug It. APBA series championship points leaders Steve and Stephen Kildahl of the Boatfloater.com/Scott Free Racing team finished third, bringing an end to their undefeated string of wins. Running in their debut Mod-V contest in the Visit St. Pete Clearwater/151 Express Phantom raceboat, Nick Imprescia and Ian Morgan exited their first contest in the class early with a broken drive following a hard spin-out.
“We didn’t necessarily have a go-to setup,” said Team Punisher’s Charlie McCarthy when asked what made the difference in their dominating performance. “Tony and I run really well together and communicate effectively in the cockpit, which is really important when running these boats.
“In 2019, we either won or broke—we feel we’re back to being in the right form again,” he added.
What qualifies as rough-water is relative to the size of the raceboat, especially in the Bracket 700 class.
You Gun Learn, driven by Dante Napoli and throttled by Mike Bocchino, took the win in the Stock-V class, followed by father-son team Ed Smith and Anthony Smith in Wazzup, and LSB/RevX Oil team of Brit Lilly and Kevin Smith in third. The first lap was a three-way battle between LSB, Wazzup and the Relentless team of Travis Pettko and Chase Muller. By the third lap, You Gun Learn began working through the field, catching LSB and Relentless in one go. You Gun Learn ultimately gained the lead from Wazzup’s Ed and Anthony Smith, paving the way to the first-place finish. This was You Gun Learn’s third consecutive win of races entered.
“Once we got air under the boat, it just started working,” Napoli said. “We nailed the setup, and I don’t think we realized until after the race when we saw our pace on video how right we got it.”
In Class 1, Miss GEICO’s Steve Curtis and Brit Lilly finished ahead of Vinnie Diorio and Simon Prevost—the second race of the season for the Canada-based racer who rejoined the team in St. Clair—in SV Offshore/Sweetwater, a Supercat-class 39-foot Outerlimits catamaran moved to the Class 1 ranks this season for its decision to run out-of-class-spec Mercury Racing 860 engines.
“We’re getting our seat time,” Diorio said. “Thanks to all our crew for all their hard work. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Running its 48-foot V-bottom, the SilverHook team of Nigel Hook and Jay Johnson exited the Class 1 contest early with a mechanical issue.
In the Bracket 700 class, Punisher was victorious over Jackhammer and Chug It. The Bracket 600 class contest saw Rum Runner take first followed by Deception and ST Racing. In the Bracket 500 competition, Team Woody outpaced Shoreline Plumbing and Mean Streak to earn the checkered flag.
After breaking out of their speed bracket in St. Clair, the Team Predator Apache came away with a win in Michigan City over the 38-foot Old School Cigarette, and GNS Motorsports, in what has become an enjoyable battle of classics in the Bracket 400 class.
The Bat Boat, a 44-foot batman-themed MTI was dominant in Bracket 200, followed by Team Woody and We On Top. Team Woody’s Bracket 300 entry ran unopposed, taking the win.
The Great Lakes Grand Prix is the summer’s biggest event for Michigan City, and as usual fans hit the beach in droves to catch the action.
Also running uncontested were driver Taylor Scism and throttleman John Tomlinson in the new Factory Stock 450R class. But for rookie offshore racer Scism, the Michigan City event still delivered a powerful learning experience in the team’s MTI 390X catamaran powered by Mercury Racing 450R outboard engines.
“I think it was the hardest race we’ve done all season,” she said. “Today was a driver and throttleman heavy day—definitely the most aggressive I’ve had to be on the wheel this season.
“It’s been nice to have different conditions at every race we’ve been to so far,” she added. “I’ve learned a lot.”
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