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HomeRacingMidwest Challenge Day No.1—Size Qualifies

Midwest Challenge Day No.1—Size Qualifies

The first action of the weekend at the inaugural Mercury Racing Midwest Challenge took place in challenging conditions on Lake Michigan. Winds whipped up the 6-mile course off the coast of Sheboygan, Wis., and there was even rain that challenged the competitors’ visibility during the Class 1 World Championship Series qualifying round on Friday.

Today’s Class 1 qualifying round at the Mercury Racing Midwest Challenge in Sheboygan, Wis., saw John Tomlinson and Carlos de Quesada claim lane one in Pothole Heroes, one of the largest boats in the fleet. Photos by Brad DiMaggio copyright Scrapyard Media

Owner/driver Carlos de Quesada and throttleman John Tomlinson in the 50-foot Victory, Pothole Heroes, took advantage of having one of the largest boats in the class by claiming the pole position completing the fastest lap of the day in 3:39.48.

They only ran one lap because the crew found that an engine mount for one of the Mercury Racing 1,100-hp turbocharged motors was broken before the boat headed out. The team ratchet-strapped the engine in place and crossed its fingers for what probably felt like the longest lap ever.

“This boat shines in the rough pretty well,” Tomlinson said. “Today reminded me of the ocean, we had a nice consistent swell coming in. It wasn’t too unpredictable.”

He said that even though the forecast is for the course to flatten out tomorrow, he’s happy to be in the inside lane. “I’d rather be in lane one no matter what,” Tomlinson said. “Even if it’s flat calm, you still want to be in lane one.”

The 222 Offshore Australia team of Darren Nicholson and Giovanni Carpitella claimed lane No. 2 behind Pothole Heroes.

Pothole Heroes was followed by owner/driver Darren Nicholson of Australia and Italian throttleman Giovanni Carpitella in the 47-foot Victory, 222 Offshore Australia, in 3:45.12. A little more than four seconds behind were throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Brit Lilly in the 47-foot Victory, Huski Ice Spritz, at 3:49.75, and not even a second behind were throttleman Grant Bruggeman and driver Randy Kent in the XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka 48-foot MTI.

The other 50-foot boat in the fleet, the dfYoung Mystic with owner/throttleman Rich Wyatt and driver Hugh Fuller, checked in fifth at 3:52.38. They were followed by owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil in the 43-foot Skater, Monster Energy/M CON, and owner/driver Mike Falco and throttleman Billy Moore in the 44-foot Outerlimits, Team DeFalco.

Nicholson said he and Carpitella were expecting Pothole Heroes to run well and that the forecast for improved conditions tomorrow will play a role with the team’s setup. He also said that the unusual format of running back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday will play into how hard the team runs.

“The hard part is if it’s going to be rough like it was today, it’s hard on the gear and the potential to bust stuff is high so it could be the end of the championship if you bust something,” Nicholson said.

Claiming lane No. 4 was a solid result for Grant Bruggemann and driver Randy Kent, who are running just their second Class 1 race together this weekend in the team’s 48-foot MTI, XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka raceboat,.

Because one leg of the course is close to a breakwater that keeps waves from pummeling the harbor, the rebound affect also needs to be considered.

“It died down a lot,” Nicholson said. “But the shape of the wave and the ability to send you up in the air, it’s hard to get the props in the water.”

Huski Ice Spritz throttleman Curtis said that the two-race format adds to the challenge. Huski Ice Spritz came into the weekend only five points behind 222 Offshore Australia, so a mechanical issue that comes about from attrition can play a key role in the championship. “I’m not particularly keen on a two-race format,” Curtis said. “If you have a bad day tomorrow, you’re done for the weekend.”

Not even a full second behind the Huski Ice Spritz team was XINSURANCE Good Boy Vodka, which was good news to Bruggemann. “Randy and I are fine in the boat together,” he said. “We need more out of the boat now in a rough-water setup.”

For pole-position qualifying, the team ran with an outboard rotation on the boat’s Mercury Racing Dry Sump Six drives, which results in the boat spending more time in the air. “The boats take so much banging,” Bruggemann said of the conditions for qualifying. “It’s hard on the equipment. It’s brutal out there. The Class 1 teams are earning their paychecks.”

Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil are continuing to dial in the Monster Energy/M CON Skater catamaran, which is the only new boat in the Class 1 fleet.

Looking forward he said that the two-race format feels like the annual world championships in Key West where teams have to look at keeping the equipment together in addition to running for the win.

“Tomorrow brings another weather pattern and strategy will come into it,” Bruggemann said. “We need to conserve our equipment, too. Anyone of the boats can have a good day and win.”

Nicholson brought up the adage that offshore powerboat racers have been told since first entering the sport. “To come in first, first you need to finish,” he said.

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