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Nailing the Setup At The PlayTradez Great Lakes Grand Prix

After watching the Super Stock class race that included an outboard engine falling off a boat at the PlayTradez Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind., veteran throttleman Billy Moore changed the setup for the Skater Powerboats 388, Graydel, that he runs with owner/driver Chris Grant.

After sunny, calm conditions on Saturday at the PlayTradez Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind., the teams that watched Sunday’s weather with a wary eye gave themselves the best chance to win. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

“I told them boys when we watched the Super Stock race, I said ‘Cocoa Beach setup,’” Moore said after he and Grant dominated the Super Cat race, the fifth of the afternoon on Sunday.

When the crew tried to object, saying that the Thunder On Cocoa Beach season-opener had been much rougher, Moore and Grant weren’t having any of it. Many teams admitted to incorrectly choosing a calm-water setup, but Moore stuck to his guns.

Moore wasn’t the only one. Ricky Maldonado, the throttleman and crew chief for the 32-foot Victory, Jackhammer, that won Super Stock, changed his boat’s setup to the same that he used to win Cocoa Beach. In the same class, throttleman Ryan Beckley of the 32-foot Doug Wright, Celsius, pulled his boat back out of the water at the last minute to change props. He and driver Chris Hopgood ran with the leaders at the start and had their best finish of the year.

For the first time ever, officials at the Offshore Powerboat Association, which produced the Michigan City event, used time-trial-style qualifying for the Super Cat teams on Saturday instead of drawing lanes. All the competitors applauded the move and said they hoped to see more of that at future events. The four boats in Class 1 also had to compete for pole position. They had done the same at the previous race in Sarasota, Fla., which was organized by Powerboat P1.

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With 57 registered teams spread across 11 classes, the Great Lakes Grand Prix delivered a full day of action on Lake Michigan.

The PlayTradez Great Lakes Grand Prix was the fifth race of the American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series. All afternoon on Sunday, OPA officials were battling rain and thunderstorms, but they managed to get all the events in with the last race of the day delayed by an hour.

At the start of the Super Cat race, Moore and Grant were in lane four while owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil in the Skater 388, M CON, had put down the fastest qualifying time to claim lane one. The 39-foot MTI cat, Pro Floors Racing, with owner/driver Wayne Valder and throttleman Grant Bruggemann qualified in lane two and alongside were owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller in the 40-foot Skater, WHM Motorsports.

When the green flag flew, Graydel and M CON separated themselves from the fleet within a half lap, while Pro Floors held third. It didn’t take long for Moore and Grant to lengthen their lead and then it was just a matter of everything holding together for 13 laps on the four-mile course in Lake Michigan.

After having problems with his intercom during testing, Moore lost in-cockpit communication with Grant on the third lap on Sunday, but it didn’t appear to slow the boat as it flew level and held a commanding lead until the checkers flew.

“I’m used to these conditions,” Moore said. “It’s a different rough, I felt at home in this stuff.”

Realizing they had missed the setup, Grant Bruggemann and Wayne Valder of Pro Floors Racing opted to spare the equipment and simply finish the race.

As they had done in Cocoa Beach, even though Moore and Grant built up a big lead, they didn’t back off by much. “I’d rather keep the intensity where it’s at because at that point you don’t get complacent,” Moore added. “I’m focused and Chris is focused, and I want to keep that focus.”

Graydel was followed by M CON and Pro Floors. Bruggemann said that once realized he over-propped his boat, he settled in to make sure the team finished on the podium and didn’t needlessly beat up the equipment. “We did the best we could with the boat we had,” he said. “We have a boat that’s not broke and two motors running.”

Also on the course with the Super Cats were the twin 39-foot MTI 390XR catamarans in the 450R Factory Stock class. Randy Keyes and throttleman Billy Allen took the checkered flag in KLOVAR Motorsports over throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Taylor Scism in MTI Racing.

KLOVAR Motorsports prevailed in the two-team 450R Factory Stock-class battle.

In the fourth race of the day, the Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 boats took to the course with throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Travis Pastrana in the 47-foot Victory, Huski Chocolate, claiming the pole position on Saturday. Running a nearly identical Victory hull, driver Darren Nicholson and throttleman Giovanni Carpitella were in lane two in 222 Offshore Australia, the boat sponsored by the Australian Royal Navy. Running a new MTI catamaran, Miles Jennings and Alex Pratt were in lane three in XINSURANCE Good Boy Vodka and throttleman Micheal Stancombe and owner/driver Jeff Stevenson were in lane four after having mechanical issues on Saturday in the 42-foot MTI, JBS Racing.

Also reminiscent of the Cocoa Beach, Fla., season-opener, 222 Offshore pulled out to an early lead with Huski Chocolate in second. The course had roughed up and at one point heading to the western end of the course, Jennings and Pratt took a flyer and landed hard on its side and rear with the boat sustaining significant damage. The team still managed to finish the required 10 laps. JBS had to pull off the course before completing the distance.

Unlike Cocoa Beach, 222 Offshore Australia experienced no mechanical issues and cruised to an impressive win. Pastrana said that the Huski crew was a little off on the setup.

“It was a lot rougher than we expected,” he explained. “We didn’t have the torque we needed. 222 did a better guesstimate and they drove extremely well.”

Darren Nicholsen and Giovanni Carpitella notched their first Class 1 win of the seaon in 222 Offshore Australia.

With clouds and rain threatening all day, the teams were battling visibility challenges as well as whitecap-driving winds and confusing seas. The third race saw the nine-boat Super Stock fleet take to the course. Shaun Torrente and Sean Conner had lane one in their 32-foot Doug Wright, CMR Roofing, with the 31-foot Legend, Steele Racing, in lane two and the 32-foot Doug Wright, Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping, in lane three. CMR and Jackhammer pulled out to an early lead with Loren Peters and Anthony Smith in the Lake of the Ozarks-based 32-foot Doug Wright, LPC, in third and Beckley and driver Chris Hopgood running fourth in Celsius.

The winner from St. Clair, Mich., the week before, Performance Boat Center, pulled off the course early and Team Allen’s difficulty-plagued season continued a couple laps later when it had to do the same.

Jackhammer and LPC made their way past CMR and in the first half of the 11-lap competition, Peters and Smith checked out, opening up a big lead. At one point, they stood up the boat, but didn’t stuff on re-entry, something that just about every boat in the class did during the race. About a lap later while heading for the western end of the course, one of LPC’s Mercury 300R outboards broke off. The wiring harnesses and tie bar kept it from sinking to the bottom, but the boat’s transom was torn off and it was taking on water quickly. Safety crews got the boat under tow and got it back to the cranes without sinking.

Peters was astounded by the help he received from his competitors and other people back at the pits. “It was so overwhelming, it almost brought me to tears,” he said.

In addition to competitors offering help, Douglas Marine president Pete Hledin was giving Peters advice on how to reinforce the transom.

Because the 300Rs are taller and heavier than the 300XS outboards the teams had been running, the impacts and weight influence is different when the boat is running in rough conditions.

“We had been talking about how to reinforce the transom,” Peters said. “Now I guess we’re the guinea pigs.”

The Super Stock race continued with Jackhammer taking the win followed by CMR and the 32-foot Doug Wright, CELSIUS, in third.

The win put Jackhammer in a commanding points lead. “We had a good start and it felt like our setup was right,” Langheim said. “The whole crew at Manatee Marine Unlimited made it happen.”

The Jackhammer team exited Michigan City leading the Super Stock-class points chase in strong fashion with three races in the APBA series remaining on the schedule.

Asked what he and Maldonado do with all the trophies, Langheim said he likes to spread the wealth. “I give away my trophies,” he said. “Usually whoever works the hardest on our team that weekend gets the trophy.”

Second-place finisher Torrente said he and Conner had an issue with the escape hatch on their boat and slowed momentarily. When they got back up to speed, “We saw yellow flags everywhere,” Torrente said.

For the PlayTradez team of Randy Sweers and Bryan Marquardt, just making it to the Great Lakes Grand Prix was a victory. Read the story.

Confusion ruled the second race of the day that included boats in the Modified V category, plus Class 4 and Class 5, which are bracketed by top speed.

In Modified V, Nick Imprescia and Ian Morgan were in the 32-foot Phantom, 151 Express, and they battled with Steve and Stephen Kildahl in Boatfloater.com, a 30-foot Extreme and Team Sunprint, a 30-foot Extreme crewed by owner/throttleman Steve Miklos and driver Steve Ferhmann. Brian Forehand and Vinnie Diorio ran fourth in the 29-foot Outerlimits, Marker 17 Marine. While running second, 151 Express spun in the turn at the eastern end of the course, but got back on plane and back in the hunt. Team Sunprint held the lead for a while until the boat’s steering column snapped.

Marker 17 Marine moved to the front, hoping to repeat its dominant performance from St. Clair.

In Bracket 400, the start had a great visual with the 30-foot Challenger, Crazy Rythm, running side-by-side with the 41-foot Apache, Predator, with the larger boat enveloping the smaller one. The 34-foot Phantom, Control Freak, and the 39-foot Velocity, GNS Motorsports, also had a good run in class.

Based on the livestream, Predator appeared to take the unofficial victory, followed by GNS Motorsports and Control Freak.

In Bracket 500, Stancombe and driver J.J. Turk appeared to continue their winning ways in the 30-foot Phantom, Team Woody, followed by the 29-foot Warlock, Bulletproof, and the Ultimate Racing Experience.

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Several teams left the Great Lakes Grand Prix with repair work to do.

The confusion came when some competitors pulled into the inside of the course after seeing one of the corner boats fly an orange flag. Officials decided to red flag the race and restart it with all the teams running five laps to the finish.

The biggest beneficiary of this was 151 Express, which was now back on equal footing with the competitors in Mod V. The Kildahls took the lead with 151 Express and Marker 17 giving chase.

Coming out of the turn at the eastern end of the course Marker 17 took a bad hop and rolled. Diorio and Forehand both exited the boat without problem and Forehand said there was only minimal damage to the boat.

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Marker 17 Marine’s bid for another Mod V-class checkered flag did not end well yesterday.

Boatfloater.com took the win with 151 Express in second and the 32-foot Phantom, XINSURANCE, third.

After having engine problems in St. Clair last week, Steve Kildahl said, “We put parts on the engine all week long. The only thing left that hadn’t have been changed was the alternator.” It turned out that putting on a new alternator solved the problem and gave he and his son, Stephen, the speed they were seeking.

The day kicked off at 11 a.m. local time with the Stock V boats and Bracket 600 and Bracket 700. The Stock V boats had a great battle at the front with the 30-foot Phantoms Shocker and Fastboys leading the way followed by North Myrtle Beach RV, Laticrete and Wazzup.

As has been the case all season, in Bracket 600, the 26-foot Scarab, Unsalted, battled with the 26-foot Joker, Deception, for the win with the former taking the honors. Deception took second followed by Vroom Vroom. In Bracket 700, a boat hooked early.

While battling for the lead in Stock V, Shocker lost power steering and spun in front of Fastboys, which ran over the top of its competition trying to avoid a collision. The 22-foot Nitra, Mean Streak, which was competing in Bracket 700, ran over the top of Fastboys, ejecting its occupants. (Though injuries were sustained, details were unavailable at press time.) The Bracket 700 results were Goofin’ Around, Chug It and Mini Gini.

“Power steering was coming and going and we went into that turn and spun right around,” said Chris Colson who owns and drives Shocker with throttleman Raymond Evans. “It was not the outcome we wanted but it was nice to be up front for the first time.”

For the new Fastboys boat, Bolinger put in a standard bilge pump that takes care of normal water accumulation with the usual float switch. He also had an emergency high-capacity unit installed and he turned on that one to keep up with the water that was coming in after the bellows was torn off the boat’s drive that sustained the worst damage in the crash.

The battle for the Stock V checkered flag went to the father and son Wazzup team of Ed and Anthony Smith (in the background), who notched their second win in just seven days.

The top three finishers in Stock V turned out to be Ed “Smitty” Smith and his son, Anthony, in the 30-foot Phantom, Wazzup, followed by Laticrete and You Gun Learn.

Editor’s note: Official results were not available when this story went live today. Look for official results on the OPA website when they become available.

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