In the heyday of Class 1 offshore racing, teams competed for pole position points as well as overall race-win points for the season’s duration. This year, the concept was reinstated by P1 Offshore at the Sarasota Grand Prix on the July 4 weekend and carried over to the Play Tradez Offshore Grand Prix, the fifth stop in the 2022 American Power Boat Association (APBA) offshore powerboat racing season.
In the second race that saw pole-position qualifying for the boats in Class 1 and the first for Super Cat, there was one thing that all the competitors could agree on. Photos by Jeff Helmkamp copyright Helmkamp Photos.
“I think it’s really good,” said Grant Bruggemann, throttleman for the Pro Floors Racing team in Super Cat. “It lets the most prepared team have the pole position. It sorts us out and gets the right boats in the right spot.”
First up were the four boats completing in Class 1, which consists of catamarans in the 42- to 47-foot range powered by twin Mercury Racing 1,100-hp turbocharged engines with the lone exception being the V-16 engines in the 42-foot MTI catamaran, JBS Racing.
When the teams took to the course, the 47-foot Victory, Huski Chocolate, with throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Travis Pastrana, dropped the gauntlet, taking a somewhat wider line to try to keep engine rpm and boat speed up over the four-mile course.
Prior to the pole-position event, teams tested and practice on the Lake Michigan racecourse.
When it was all said and done, Huski Chocolate, captured the pole position with sister-ship 222 Offshore Australia in lane two, followed by the new-for-the-class MTI cat, GBX Racing, in lane three and JBS Racing in lane four.
After the team ran its qualifying laps, Pastrana wasn’t sure who was fastest, saying, “It’s hard to tell, the 222 boat took the inside and we swept and kept more speed.”
Asked what it was like to compare qualifying for automotive competition in rally or stock cars, Pastrana said, “The times are really close,” he said. “With Rally and the shorter track, the whole field is separated by fractions of seconds.
“It’s not less challenging in offshore, but you can make some errors and still have a decent time,” he continued, noting that he and Curtis have a give-and-take approach with each providing input on what makes the boat run at its most competitive speed. “I give him my input and he gives me his, which is much more accurate.”
The Play Tradez Michigan City Grand Prix is the first race to see the Super Cat class use qualifying instead of drawing cards or points to determine lane position for tomorrow’s race and all seven teams seem to be in favor of the concept.
The first team to take to the course was owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil in the 38-foot Skater, M CON, and the team set the number for everyone else to chase, with a best time of 2:11:44 over the four-mile course.
Next came the 39-foot MTI, Pro-Floors with owner/driver Wayne Valder and throttleman Grant Bruggemann, followed by owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller in the 38-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports, so these three teams will make up lanes one through three.
The 38-foot Skater, Graydel, which won the season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla., had intercom issues that preventing the in-boat team of throttleman Billy Moore and owner/driver Chris Grant from testing as many props as they would have liked. For qualifying, the team opted to use the opportunity to test a set of propellers instead of going all-out for the pole, so it will start from lane four tomorrow.
The newest entry in the Super Cat fleet, the GBX Racing MTI catamaran will take earned lane No. 3 for tomorrow’s contest.
The 39-foot Outerlimits cat, SV Offshore Racing, will start in lane five with the Muller brothers, Chase and Jax and their 40-foot Motion, Wicked, taking lane six. The Skater 388, Liquor Split, had to scratch.
The Super Cat competitors all said they were eager to start the race tomorrow and that they would like to see the pole-position qualifying continue.
“It’s awesome because then we know where we’re at as far as setup,” said Vinnie Diorio, throttleman for the SV Offshore Racing team.
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