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HomeRacingGreat Lakes Grand Prix Day No. 1—Storm Troopers

Great Lakes Grand Prix Day No. 1—Storm Troopers

Owner/driver Darren Nicholson and Giovanni Carpitella continued their stranglehold on lane one in Class 1 pole position qualifying at the Offshore Powerboat Association-produced Great Lakes Grand Prix presented by XINSURANCE in Michigan City, Ind. The Australian-Italian cockpit combination claimed the prized position in its 47-foot Victory catamaran, 222 Offshore Australia, for the third straight race.

222 Offshore Australia took the pole position in Class 1 while Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping (above) dominated the Super Stock race in dreary conditions at the Great Lakes Grand Prix. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

“It’s much better being pole position than second because they need to hold their lane,” Nicholson said after claiming the inside lane on Lake Michigan. “It was difficult water, quite lumpy and bouncing around. It’s not easy water at all. There was a different wave pattern in different parts of the course.”

The weather didn’t help. A total of 56 teams descended on the venue that’s not far from Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan. After the Bracket 600 and 700 boats took to the course at 10 a.m. central time and competed under sunny skies, conditions started to deteriorate about an hour before the Class 1 boats took to the course, followed by the Super Stock race.

The Class 1 boats qualified based on their points position in the overall championship standings. After 222 Offshore Australia ran, the 47-foot Victory, Huski Ice Spritz, with throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Brit Lilly, took to the five-mile course.

The 222 Offshore Australia team of Darren Nicholson and Giovanni Carpitella claimed the pole-position for tomorrow’s Class 1 race.

Lilly said the rain didn’t make it harder to see the course, but reading the waves was challenging.

“I could see the other end of the course, but the way it was foggy rain you couldn’t tell if was a jet ski wave or a 12-foot wave,” Lilly said. “I like to help Steve read waves, but I couldn’t tell nothing.”

Curtis felt like one of the two Mercury Racing 1,100-hp engines in his boat was not running at full capacity. “We think we’re down on power on one engine a little,” he said. “We’re chasing a gremlin somewhere. We’re just trying to pinpoint where it is. We have a super professional team that does great work and it’s not fair on them to have a boat that should be competitive.”

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Today’s gray-on-gray water-and-sky, plus some light rain, made reading the course tricky.

Third place in qualifying went to throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Carlos de Quesada in the 50-foot Victory, Pothole Heroes.

“It was never rough, but by the time I went out for qualifying I could run 7 or 8 mph faster than I was earlier,” said Tomlinson who explained that a couple of corrections on the course could have moved the boat up the qualifying ladder. “I could have had it better, we were one hundredth behind Huski and I know two areas where we could have gotten a few tenths of a second.”

Behind the three established teams, new crews to Class 1 continued to try to make improvements. Owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil in the 40-foot Skater, Monster Energy/ M CON, continued to improve. Veteran throttleman Billy Moore joined owner Mike Falco in the Outerlimits entry, DeFalco, while throttleman Grant Bruggemann and driver Randy Kent filled in for the usual in-boat team of Alex Pratt and driver Miles Jennings in XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka.

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Both the DeFalco and XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka Class 1 teams made cockpit personnel changes ahead of this weekend’s competition.

After the Class 1 boats cleared the course, 10 boats in the Super Stock class took to Lake Michigan and the 32-foot Doug Wright, Savage, with throttleman Randy Sweers and driver Bryan Marquardt used the pole position to jump to an early lead. Another 32-foot Doug Wright, Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping, with owner/throttleman Billy Allen and driver John Strama, ran a close second and you could have thrown a net over the balance of the boats as Allied Construction Management, Jackhammer and LPC were battling for position.

By the end of the first lap, Team Allen had taken a lead the boat wouldn’t relinquish for the balance of the 11-lap competition. Fans of offshore powerboat racing were likely expecting the team of throttleman Julian Maldonado and owner/driver Reese Langheim to challenge for the lead but Allen and his team nailed the setup and stretched out their lead to a convincing win.

Even on races with poor visibility, the Super Stock-class Big East Construction catamaran is easy to spot.

“It was a little rougher water than what we’ve seen in the past and our boat runs better in the rougher water,” Allen said.

After about the fourth lap, the three boats leading the Super Stock race stretched out their leads. Jackhammer finished second followed by owner/driver Sean Conner and throttleman Shaun Torrente in the 32-foot MTI, Allied Construction Management.

“Billy Allen did a great job taking off at the beginning,” said Langheim of his fellow Lake of the Ozarks boater. “After the KLOVAR boat incident, that team deserved a win,” he added.

Torrente wasn’t necessarily “pleased” with third but remains positive about the progress the team has made with its new boat.

“The boat ran really well and we were happy with improvements we made with acceleration,” he said. “We could beat them down the beach, but we couldn’t beat them down the back.”

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With 10 teams in the field, the Super Stock-class fleet was the largest class of the day—and the entire weekend.

In addition to throttling his own boat, Allen throttles the 38-foot Skater, KLOVAR Motorsports, in Super Cat class. While the boat was en route to Michigan City from Lake of the Ozarks in Central Missouri, it was involved in an accident that severely damaged the boat and trailer.

One team member Nelson, who is only six years old, was injured in the crash and Allen dedicated the win to him.

“I talked to Nelson quite a few times through the week,” Allen said. “I talked to him yesterday and this morning before the race and I called him after we were idling in. He watched the races and went to the movies with his grandparents.”

Before the rains rolled in, the Bracket 600 and 700 boats raced. Unfortunately internet issues kept the livestream from airing for this race. In Bracket 600, the 26-foot Scarab, ST Racing, with driver Nick Hurlbot and throttleman Travis Blackmore, took first.

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Enjoy more images from today’s Bracket-class action.

Returning to the racecourse after their accident in Englewood, Fla., at the end of 2022, throttleman Johnny Saris and driver Michael Lang, ran in the top three for most of the race in their 26-foot Modern Marine, Moderation, but exceeded the class’ maximum speed and broke out. Third went to the Predator hull MDG Offshore, with driver Michael McColgan and throttleman Jason Govatos.

“It was sloppy,” Saris said of the conditions. “But it was great racing and great water.”

Bracket 700-class racers John Lezzatti and driver Jerry Harmant claimed the checkered flag in today’s race.

In Bracket 700, the 22-foot Velocity, Statement Bad Decisions with driver John Lezzatti and driver Jerry Harmant, took the unofficial win. Second went to driver Reynaldo Maldonado and throttleman Ricardo Maldonado in the 22-foot Velocity, Dee’s Nuts, while the Lauer Brothers Matt and Joe took third in their 21-foot Battle Wagon, Goofin’ Around.

Editor’s note: All results are provisional pending Offshore Powerboat Association approval.

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