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Sarasota Going with New Race Organization/Series in 2015

A longtime staple of the Super Boat International offshore racing season, the Sarasota Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix will be run under a different sanctioning body as part of a new series in 2015. According to a press release from the newly formed Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix National Championship Series, the Sarasota, Fla., event will be part of a five-race series next year that “is affiliated with the American Power Boat Association and Union Internationale Motonautique, and will utilize Offshore Powerboat Racing Association to run on-water and technical activities.”

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Next year’s Sarasota Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix will be held under a different sanctioning banner. Photo by Jay Nichols/Naples Image

OPGP will handle all off-water aspects of the series. Jason Miller, the organization’s general manager, said in the release that the new venture is aimed at providing racers with a well-defined points system and a professional atmosphere that allows them continuity in their racing.

“We’ve set up a system that focuses on racers and giving them what they need to be successful,” Miller said. “OPGP will be set up like NASCAR, with testing, qualifying and racing, as well as a professional marketing and branding system that will bring national and international attention to the sport of offshore. We want our race sites to be a showcase for the world’s best racers and all they bring to the sport. These race weeks will be impressive events from before the first boat arrives through Sunday night.”

Miller added having the Sarasota event on the schedule is the key success of the new series. “Sarasota is one of the premier sites in all of (offshore) racing and we’re honored to be able to have it on our schedule,” he said.

“As Festival Director for a race site with a 30-year history, I am looking forward to working with OPGP in planning our 2015 race over the July 4 weekend,” said Lucy V. Nicandri, executive director, Suncoast Charities for Children, in the release. “As a new organization, the opportunities OPGP will be able to offer our charity, other race sites, and race teams is very exciting and will have a significant impact on the sport of powerboat racing for years to come.”

SBI president John Carbonell could not be reached for comment before this story went live. However, according to a source close to the organization, SBI received notice today that that Sarasota organizers were not going to send a contract and will not move forward with its longtime sanctioning body next year.

According to Steve Curtis, the United States representative for the Spirit of Qatar team, the OPGP is not being financially backed by the team, as has been rumored.

“That’s not true at all—absolutely not,” said Curtis via telephone from England today. “Sheikh Hassan (the leader of the team) is definitely not involved in it. But we do plan to race in Sarasota next year, and if the series does what it says it will, we will participate in its races next year. We also plan to run in SBI next year, as well as Key West this year.”

According to the release, Miller, who served as race director for the Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind., for seven years, and of the Maple City Grand Prix USF1 Powerboat race in LaPorte, Ind., for two years, will head OPGP. Former Offshore Super Series president Mike Mares will lead the OPBRA effort.

OPGP’s five North American sites will feature a five-class field, with class-specific races in the Extreme, Super Cat, Cat Light, Super Vee and Vee Light classes.

Editor’s note: Look for an in-depth follow up story on the Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix National Championship Series early next week on speedonthewater.com.

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