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Mercury Racing Midwest Challenge Coming Into Focus

With the Mercury Racing Midwest Challenge less than a month away in Sheboygan, Wis., offshore powerboat racing will return to the high-performance marine engine and accessories company’s home state for the first time in two decades. The August 11-13 Sheboygan happening is the third event this year—the first was during the Miami International Boat Show and the second was last month in Charleston, S.C.—celebrating the Fond du Lac operation’s 50th anniversary.

Performance Boat Center is one of what could be as many as 12 Super Stock-class teams competing in Sheboygan, Wis., next month. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Racing is set for Saturday, August 12, and Sunday, August 13, and will feature action in Class 1, Super Stock and 450R Factory Stock ranks, as well as the Formula One tunnel-boat series. All classes that will compete during the weekend run Mercury Racing power, which was a prerequisite for inclusion in the event, and are slated to compete both days on Lake Michigan.

For Class 1, the Sheboygan event will comprise the fourth and fifth races of the six-contest Union Internationale Motonautique World Championship Series organized and marketed by United Kingdom-based Powerboat P1. It will follow the Offshore Powerboat Association-produced Great Lakes Grand Prix, in Michigan City, Ind., August 3-6.

“It will be fantastic to race in Mercury Racing’s backyard and hopefully meet some of the people who put together the racing products,” said Steve Curtis, the throttleman for the Class 1 Huski Ice Spritz team that took first place in the 2023 Class 1 series season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla. “I’ve been racing Mercury engines for just over 40 years—my first race boat was in a 27-foot Cougar Cat with a pair of 2.4 EFIs two-stroke Mercury outboards and now I’m running a pair of 1,100-hp, quad-cam four-valve Mercury inboards in a 41 foot Victory cat. Technology has come a long way in powerboat racing and Mercury has always been at the forefront.”

The Class 1 series could have one of its largest turnouts in Sheboygan.

Curtis said he expects no less than seven Class 1 teams to compete in Sheboygan.

“I’m particularly looking forward to seeing all the other categories of race boats like the Formula One tunnel hulls,” he added. “I’m sure it’s going to be an awesome weekend of races and parties.”

On that note—meaning parties—a Block Party is tentatively slated for August 11 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at City Green Park in downtown Sheboygan.

While the Sheboygan event isn’t part of the five-race American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series, it will be the fifth of seven races on the Super Stock-class internal championship schedule.

“I look forward to racing in any new place and it’s really nice that Mercury Racing is rolling out the red carpet for the racers,” said Myrick Coil, the driver of the Osage Beach, Mo.-based Super Stock-class Performance Boat Center team. “I’m looking forward to watching all the other classes, especially the tunnel boats, run too.

“And being up north in Wisconsin during the summertime when it’s 100 degrees at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri isn’t a bad idea,” he added, then laughed.

The 450R Factory Stock class also should see five or six boats in the Sheboygan mix. Ricky Maldonado, who throttles the Doug Wright Powerboats/Waves And Wheels catamaran with rookie driver Logan Adan, said he’s eager to compete not just as a racer but as part of the team at Manatee Marine Unlimited in Palmetto, Fla. which is a Mercury Marine Platinum dealer.

“That gives us a ‘special’ motivation to show up at this race and prove—if there’s anything else to prove— who we are in the offshore racing industry,” Maldonado said. “The other part of the story is that it’s also a new racecourse that has zero data for everyone, so that makes it a very exciting and intriguing venue.

“We’re more than ready and will be a force to be watched closely,” he continued. “We are going with only one thing in mind and that is winning.”

The chief executive officer of Powerboat P1, Azam Rangoonwala described his organization’s involvement with the Sheboygan-based celebration of Mercury Racing’s 50th anniversary as “an honor.” Rangoonwala and other Powerboat P1 representatives, including his father, Asif Rangoonwala, who founded the organization 20 years ago, will be there to enjoy the event.

Said 450R Factory Stock-class throttleman Ricky Maldonado, “We are going with only one thing in mind and that is winning.”

“It’s also great to work with Tim Seebold and the Formula One powerboat circuit—we worked with the Mercury Racing team to find the perfect venue where we could race both F1 and offshore powerboat racing at the same venue both within line of sight of the VIP section,” Azam Rangoonwala explained. “I can’t wait to get into the two-seat Formula One demo-boat with Tim Seebold and experience the sensation of tunnel-boat racing.

“The Mayor and City of Sheboygan, as well as Visit Sheboygan, have been extremely welcoming,” he added. “We hope to return here in the future as well.”

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