Though the 39th annual Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix kicks off today at 1 p.m. with Bracket 700-, 600- and 500-class racing, there’s already been plenty happening this week at the famed Southwest Florida venue. Fans in town Thursday, for example, got a look at look at the new XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka 48-foot MTI tearing across Sarasota Bay for its first test session, and the team followed it up that evening with a party at its nearby Bradenton facility.
Both speedonthewater.com reporters expect CMR Construction and Roofing to make the podium this afternoon at the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
There are 64 teams spread across 14 classes in town for the Powerboat P1-produced event. Despite the toasty weather typical to Sarasota this time of year, the racers were out in full last night at the welcome party in the pits to mingle with their friends and fans. With this morning’s drivers meeting in the books, teams are back in preparation mode. For the aforementioned Bracket classes as well as the 11-team Super Stock class, which is slated to take the green flag at 3 p.m., that means making final setup decisions.
Between those two contests, the six Class 1 teams in town for what is the second race of the Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 World Championship Series—as well as the third race of the American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series—will determine their starting-lane fate with a qualifying round. That action is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
As for the classes that will race tomorrow on the six-mile course, meaning Mod V, Bracket 400, 300 and 200 classes at 10 a.m., Super Cat class at 11:30 a.m., Class 1 at p.m. and 450R Factory Stock at 2:30 p.m. Practice opened today at 9:30 a.m. and will close at 1 p.m.
With a victory last month in Cocoa Beach, Fla., the Bracket 500-class TFR/XINSURANCE team enters today’s race with plenty of momentum and inspiration.
Today’s Predictions And Wild Guesses
The largest of Bracket-class fleets, the Bracket 500 category has eight teams in town. With a win in last month’s at Thunder On Cocoa Beach event, the TFR/XINSURANCE team of driver J.J. Turk and throttleman Micheal Stancombe have to be considered the team to beat, particularly as the Sarasota race is a hometown event for Stancombe—as if the forever-fired-up veteran offshore racer needs extra motivation.
With owner/driver Reese Langheim and throttleman Julian Maldonado sharing the cockpit of their 32-foot Victory catamaran powered by twin Mercury Racing 300R outboard engines, the Super Stock Jackhammer team will be going for its third consecutive win this season. That fact, plus their 2022 regular-season performance that saw them earn an APBA National Championship, makes them my pick to take the checkered flag this afternoon.
Can the Jackhammer duo of Julian Maldonado (left) and Reese Langheim win their third race consecutive race this season in Sarasota?
The Performance Boat Center team of driver Myrick Coil and throttleman Rusty Williams always seem to find a way to the podium and they tend to get more difficult to beat as the season progresses. So I pick them to finish second today.
As for third, when I spoke to CMR Construction and Roofing team owner/throttleman Shaun Torrente at the Mercury Racing 500R introduction and 50th anniversary gala two weeks ago in Charleston, S.C., he was delighted with the progress he and driver Sean Connor have made with their reconfigured 32-foot MTI raceboat. Though Torrente won’t be in the cockpit this afternoon—he is in France for an F1H2O race with his Team Abu Dhabi outfit—John Tomlinson is subbing for him. And “replacement” throttlemen don’t get any better.
Speedonthewater.com contributing editor Eric Colby, who is once again covering the offshore racing season for the daily news site, offered a few forecasts of his own. (OK, I asked him for his picks.) Colby said he believes today will be a winner for Northwing team driver/owner Daren Kittredge and throttleman Grant Bruggemann. “I think Grant and Daren are going to have a good weekend,” he said.
Scenes from last night’s Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix welcome celebration in the pits.
Colby suspects that Big East Construction team driver/owner Cole Leibel and throttleman Gary Ballough “are due” for some good fortune, which is why he sees them finishing second.
Colby also has CMR Construction and Roofing taking third despite the absence of Torrente, who is a ferociously talented competitor—and one savvy enough to pick his finest possible replacement.
“Johnny continues to get more seat time in the boat and he’s just too good to not expect him to be on the podium,” Colby explained.
Of course, predictions are only that (although by pure blind luck I did pick the Miss GEICO team to earn back-to-back Super Boat International Unlimited-class world championships in 2015 and 2016, and it did) and mostly just for fun. By the end of the day, the truth will be revealed.
And that’s what we love about offshore racing. It’s not about what you say. It’s about what you do.
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