In the roughest offshore powerboat race of 2023, owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil jumped out to an early lead in their 38-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran, M CON/Monster Energy, at the Great Lakes Grand Prix presented by XINSURANCE in Michigan City, Ind., and remained there until they were presented with the checkered flag.
With a strong win at the Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind., Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil made an emphatic statement about their intentions to repeat as Super Cat national champions. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Coil and Miller stuck to their usual race-day morning, completing the required physicals, and then headed to the beach to check out the conditions. After racing was delayed a few hours because of fog, the teams finally got to head out on the 4.4-mile course at the southern end of Lake Michigan.
“We both had an idea in mind about what our setup was going to be and we stuck with our gut from our decision this morning,” Miller said.
Weather was the story of the weekend. Lake Michigan whipped up confused seas that the most veteran competitors called the roughest they’d seen in recent memory. The competition for the 56-boat fleet started with bracket racing in clear conditions on Saturday and then the Class 1 teams qualified in the rain, followed by the Super Stock fleet racing in a downpour.
Said M CON team owner/throttleman Tyler Miller when it came to setting up for the rough-water event, “We stuck with our gut.”
Sunday morning brought fog that limited visibility and kept the safety helicopters from flying. Officials from the Offshore Powerboat Association were left with no choice but to push back the start time for racing by about three hours.
The eight boats in the Super Cat class were the second race of the day and the teams agreed to cut back from the original 13 laps to eight. M CON/Monster Energy jumped out to the lead followed closely by owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller in the 40-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports, and owner/driver Chris Grant and throttleman Billy Moore in the 38-foot Skater, Graydel. After winning the previous two races, the 40-foot MTI, Valder Yachts, ran fourth followed by Rollin’ Transport, CR Racing, Dirty Money and Wicked.
The three boats at the front of the pack separated themselves and about midway through the race, Graydel got around WHM for second place.
“As rough as it was, I had a fun race—I was happy to be with the lead boats,” said Muller, who added that one of the exhaust headers started to come off one of the boat’s Sterling Performance engines, which cut the power. “We were lucky to finish.”
Yesterday’s Super Cat contest was at times a high-flying affair.
Moore was battling his own mechanical issues with one of the engines bogging down when the boat would take a hard hit in the rough conditions that most racers described as steady three- to four-foot seas with bigger holes, especially near the finish line.
“When I tried to lock in on M CON, the harder the hits we took, it was getting worse,” Moore said. “So I was trying to keep it as steady as possible and keep going forward.”
The newest boat in the class, the 38-foot Skater, Dirty Money, had a new crew in the boat’s enclosed cockpit. Rusty Williams, who throttles the Performance Boat Center entry in the Super Stock class, was driving Dirty Money with throttleman Bill Pyburn. They moved up to as high as fourth place and then when they were on the outer leg of the course the boat tripped and stuffed in a nasty crash.
“We were pushing the boat hard and it felt like we slightly tripped it,” Williams said. “We planted the nose and the boat split in two. The cockpit stayed dry the whole time. We got out of our seats, flipped over, and went out the bottom of the tunnel.”
Neither racer was hurt in the incident, but the damage to the boat was extensive—more than likely beyond repair.
Miller said that once he and Coil got out to the lead, they settled into a rhythm and made sure they ran consistently to take the win after the race was red-flagged because of the Dirty Money crash. Graydel finished second and WHM held it together for third.
“There was a few shots we took where we said, ‘That one kind of hurt,’” Miller said. “But all in all it felt good, you’re so amped up you don’t feel a lot of that stuff.”
Valder Yachts throttleman Grant Bruggemann said his team’s boat was over-propped and wasn’t handling correctly. “It was a host of small problems that resulted in a poor handling boat,” he explained. “The water up here is so hard to read.”
While the safety teams tried to secure the Dirty Money boat, officials brought the seven boats in the Class 1 fleet out on the course. The teams sat for a while and then ran multiple parade laps before the green flag flew.
As they seem to have done all season, owner/driver Darren Nicholson and throtttleman Giovanni Carpitella in their 47-foot Victory, 222 Offshore Australia, made good use of the pole position they earned Saturday, blasting out to an early lead. They were followed closely by driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Steve Curtis in their 47-foot Victory, Huski Ice Spritz, and driver Carlos de Quesada and throttleman John Tomlinson in the 50-foot Victory, Pothole Heroes.
Strong from the start, the 222 Offshore Australia team took the Class 1 checkered flag.
Bruggemann pulled double duty, throttling the 48-foot MTI, XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka, with driver Randy Kent and was consistently running fourth. Moore also was making his first appearance of 2023 in Class 1 in the 48-foot Outerlimits, DeFalco Racing, with owner/driver Mike Falco. Unfortunately, the multiple parade laps caused the boat’s windshield to fog up.
“The windows started to fog and I couldn’t see what was in front of me so I told Mike to pull,” a frustrated Moore said after the race.
Miller and Coil continued to improve in their new Class 1 boat, the 43-foot Skater, Monster Energy/M CON and owner/throttleman Rich Wyatt and driver Hugh Fuller in the 50-foot Mystic, dfYoung, were off the pace after a temperature sensor wire fell off one of the boat’s Mercury Racing 1,100-hp engines on the first lap. One of the biggest boats in the fleet, dfYoung looked to do well in the waves.
“Very disappointing,” Wyatt said in a text. “We could have run well in those conditions.”
The new Monster Energy/M CON team had its strongest performance to date.
After a couple of laps, Pothole Heroes got around Huski Ice Spritz and Tomlinson looked to be using his boat’s size to his advantage to try to run down 222 Offshore. The boat appeared to hook a couple of times and Tomlinson explained after the race he lost the ability to trim the boat.
“I got it to where I wanted to leave the trim, but I couldn’t fine-tune it,” Tomlinson said.
Then at the north end of the course, the boat launched and hooked when it landed causing the team to miss a buoy, which resulted in a one-minute penalty. To add insult to injury, the boat broke a driveshaft coming across the finish line.
This left the door open for Huski Ice Spritz and Curtis and Lilly made a last-minute charge that came up just short. Nicholson and Carpitella took their third straight win with Huski Ice Spritz taking second and XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka claiming the final podium spot.
After his team jump-started its 2022 season with a win in Michigan City, Nicholson said this year’s edition of the race was more challenging conditions-wise.
“We had the big props on and got to where we thought it was OK,” he said. “The waves were coming northeast and then the opposite with the groundswell with the wind coming in against it.”
He admitted that before Pothole Heroes lost its trim that the boat was probably the fastest on the course. Looking ahead to next weekend’s race in Sheboygan, Wis., Nicholson, who lives in Australia and flies over for every race, said he’s staying in this country between events.
Lilly said that if the race was one lap longer than the required 13, Huski Ice Spritz might have had a chance to run down the leader.
“I wanted that victory bad today,” Lilly expressed. “As we were burning some fuel off and the CG was coming in; the two of us were starting to mesh in there.”
For Bruggemann and Kent, getting on the podium after only about 20 minutes of test time in XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka was a promising start. “We were just trying to maintain that fourth spot and were doing the best we could with the boat we were given for that day,” Bruggemann said.
The weekend wrapped up with four boats in the 450R Factory Stock class and Ed Smith and Anthony Smith thrilling the fans on the beach with the roar of the engines in their Vee Extreme entry, the 40-foot Fountain Powerboats V-bottom, Knucklehead Racing.
Despite significant weather delays, the 14th annual Great Lakes Grand Prix delivered plenty of rough-water action.
In the 450R Factory Stock race, the 39-foot MTI, GC Racing, with driver Willie Cabeza and throttleman Gary Ballough jumped out to an early lead followed by driver Logan Adan and throttleman Ricky Maldonado in the 38-foot Doug Wright, Doug Wright Powerboats, and Tomlinson and driver Taylor Scism in the 39-foot MTI, MTI Racing. The new team of 16-year-old driver Caleb Mead and throttleman Shaun Torrente ran fourth in the 39-foot MTI, MF Racing.
Because of time constraints and the conditions, the lap count for the race was cut to six and GC Racing held the lead for a few laps before Doug Wright Powerboats got around them. MTI Racing then got around GC Racing as well and Tomlinson and Scism set their sights on the Doug Wright.
“I could see I could gain on them here and there,” said Tomlinson, but he didn’t want to push too hard in those conditions.
Ballough echoed Tomlinson’s comments, especially considering that Michigan City wasn’t a points race for the class and they will run on Saturday and Sunday at Sheboygan.
“We just tried to keep the boat together,” Ballough said. “The conditions were a great equalizer. We couldn’t even see 100 mph.”
Adan, who is 18, held onto first place and a got well-earned checkered flag. “This was my first Great Lakes rough-water race,” he said. “I kept telling Ricky to open it more and he said, ‘That’s all we have.’”
The 450R Factory Stock win was sweet for rookie driver Logan Adan and veteran throttleman Ricky Maldonado in their Doug Wright Powerboats catamaran.
He said that he and Maldonado have logged countless hours testing and just getting more comfortable together in the boat. “I don’t think I’ve had a week off this summer,” he said.
When the boats that were supposed to start the day at 10 a.m. Central time finally headed out onto the course, fans on the beach for the 14th anniversary of the race cheered. There were three boats in Bracket 400, five in Bracket 500, one in Bracket 200, two in Bracket 300, two in Mod V and two in Stock V.
In Mod V, owner/driver Chris Colson and throttleman Raymond Evans took top honors in their 30-foot Phantom, Shocker. Second went to throttleman Steve Kihdal and driver Stephen Kildahl in the 30-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com.
In the Stock V class, driver Jimmy Wessel and throttleman Robby Goodwin, ran unopposed to the checkered flag in their 30-foot Phantom, Cigar Monster Racing.
Grant Greytok and Bill Reeves ran unopposed in Bracket 200 in their 39-foot Velocity, GNS Motorsports.
Two canopied Fountains put on a show in Bracket 300. Driver Cade Herbott and throttleman Keith Herbott in the 38-foot Fountain, Mr. Herbotto, used their boat’s size advantage to claim the win. Driver Billy Shipley and owner/throttleman Chad Woody in their 35-foot Fountain, Team Woody, finished second.
In Bracket 400, the team of throttleman Jason Saris, driver Johnny Saris and navigator Verne French took a hard-earned checkered flag in their 33-foot Cobra, Saris Racing, followed by driver Ken Hobden and throttleman Chuck Schell in their 28-foot Challenger, Crazy Rhythm. Third went to driver Raul Gascot, Jr., and throttleman Raul Gascot in their Spectre catamaran.
“It was solid four- to six-footers,” said Johnny Saris after the race. “And it was still pretty foggy.”
The team of owner/throttleman Fran Vellutato and driver Mike McColgan moved up to Bracket 500 class in their 26-foot Scarab, Rum Runners, and had a good battle with driver Lou Laferrara and throttleman Tom Crowley in their Kryptonite, TC Marine.
Rum Runners took the win with Vellutato joking that there was no concern of breaking out of the 75-speed limit for the class.
“We couldn’t see half the track,” Vellutato said. “We had to go three-quarters of the way down the straightway before we could see the lighthouse.”
With a win in Michigan City, the 222 Australia team’s Darren Nicholson and Giovanni Carpitella had plenty to celebrate.
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