On a typical offshore racing weekend, Saturday is reserved for testing and practice—essential for the teams but less-than-compelling fare for fans of the sport—and racing follows Sunday. But in addition to the standard practice sessions, the 37th annual Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix produced by Powerboat P1/P1 Offshore kicked off today with Union International Motonautique Class 1 pole-position qualifying and three Bracket-class races.
Huski Chocolate claimed the pole-position in today’s Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Class 1 qualifier. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
In the battle for Class 1 starting-grid position, the Huski Chocolate team cockpit pairing of Steve Curtis and driver Travis Pastrana took the pole position, running the fastest lap on the 6.7-mile course in their 47-foot Victory catamaran. Curtis and Pastrana topped 130 mph as they sped around the course in the Gulf of Mexico, claiming the inside lane for tomorrow’s race.
Unfortunately, the Victory-built sistership dubbed 222 Offshore Australia with throttleman Giovanni Carpitella and driver Darren Nicholson ran out of gas after running many practice laps before attempting to qualify.
Throttleman Mike Stancombe and owner/driver Jeff Stevenson in their 42-foot MTI JBS Racing wound up in the third lane for tomorrow’s start after encountering alternator issues. The 345 Racing/XINSURANCE boat, another Victory hull manned by rookie driver Alex Pratt and veteran throttleman Miles Jennings, broke a trim ram and never made the start.
Good fortune was on the side of Team Woody today in the Bracket 500 ranks.
After Class 1 qualifying concluded, the Bracket classes took to the course with boats in the Bracket 500 and 700 ranks competing. A 24-foot Baja called Power House Racing ran uncontested in Bracket 600.
At the start of the Bracket 500 race, Stancombe and driver J.J. Turk leapt to the lead in their 30-foot Phantom Team Woody, which was built in Sarasota, grabbing the inside lane and never relinquishing the No. 1 spot. Behind them, two 29-foot Warlocks, Bulletproof/Goodcars.com and Hammerheads/Fly SRQ, waged a torrid battle for the six-lap race in the Gulf of Mexico.
Owner/throttleman Craig Belfatto of Palmetto Beach, Fla., and driver Elijah Kingery held second place for much of the race in Bulletproof/Goodcars.com, but on the final lap, driver Dennis Austin and throttleman Don Jackson in Hammerheads/Fly SRQ got around them to take second.
Offshore Ohmies exits Sarasota with a Bracket 700 checkered flag.
For Stancombe and Turk, a little luck helped because they had power-steering issues on the first lap that plagued them throughout the race. “I slowed down to 55 mph on the last lap and all of sudden, we got it back and I nailed the throttle,” Stancombe said.
Belfatto and Kingery are a relatively new team and they were happy with the results. Belfatto owns the boat and said he was pleased with the outcome.
In the Bracket 700 race, it appeared the status quo reigned as the 21-foot Superboat Jackhammer led the way for the entire race with driver Brian Guy and throttleman Julian Maldonado once again running out front. But, as the old saying goes, that’s why you run the race. Bracket 700 has a maximum speed of 60 mph and race officials said erratic readings from Jackhammer’s required GPS unit showed the team exceeded the top speed. That led to a disqualification.
Though Jackhammer took the Bracket 700 checkered flag, the team was disqualified for breaking the class speed limit.
“It is what it is—we won the race and lost by GPS,” said throttleman Maldonado.
That moved the 21-foot Superboat Offshore Ohmies into first place after they dogged Jackhammer for the entire four-lap race. Third went to the 22-foot Velocity, Steele Racing/Velocity.
“We were pushing the entire time,” said throttleman Joel Murawski, who co-owns Offshore Ohmies with driver Ben Osypian. The boat that formerly ran as Evil Ways finished second at the season opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Enjoy more images from today’s Bracket-class action in the slideshow above.
A pair of cousins from Upstate New York, Murawski, who is 35 years old, and 40-year-old Osypian got their feet wet in the performance-boat world attending poker runs. “Just being around them, it was something that got me going,” Murawski said.
Today, Osypian lives in Flagler Beach, Fla., while Murawski calls St. Petersburg, Fla., home. When learning of their victory, Murawski said, “We were on them the entire time. I thought I broke out two solid times. My Simrad read 65 mph one time.”
Sometimes luck just goes your way.
Editor’s note: An award-winning writer and former Powerboat magazine editor-in-chief, Eric Colby is covering the American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series and the Union International Motonautique World Championship Series for speedonthewater.com this season. Look for coverage of tomorrow’s Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix races on the speedonthewater.com.
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