With almost three months between the Cocoa Beach, Fla., season-opener and today’s Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind., Super Boat International offshore racing fans have had to be patient this season. But their patience was rewarded today in two mostly flat-water contests on Lake Michigan that saw healthy fleets with three entries in the Superboat Unlimited class, six in the Superboat and Superboat Vee ranks and five in the Superboat Stock category.
WHM Motorsports ran consistenly and took the Superboat-class win in today’s SBI Great Lakes Grand Prix (click image to enlarge). Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
In the first race of the day—12 laps on the 4.2-mile oval course—the Superboat Vee and Superboat Stock classes provided runaway victories. The father-and-son duo of Steve and Stephen Kildahl led wire to wire in Boatfloater.com, their 29-foot Extreme V-bottom powered by a single 600-hp Innovation Marine engine.
“We kind of nailed our setup,” said Stephen Kildahl, who drives the boat. “It was a bit bumpier than people expected but we planned for it. It wasn’t rough by any means, but it was a litte bit bumpier than it was in yesterday’s practices. We knew Sunprint was always right there—we could see them entering the turn when we were exiting it. And we knew Brit Lilly and Ron Umlandt were just behind them in LSB. But we also knew if we didn’t make any mistakes we could get the win.”
Boatfloater.com led wire to wire in the Superboat Vee class (click image to enlarge).
While the Missouri-based duo of Casey Boaz and Rob Unnerstall held the early lead in its 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran CR Racing, it didn’t take long for Floridians Gary Ballough and Jimmie Harrison in their FJ Propeller 32-foot Doug Wright to catch them, take the lead and never let it go. For Ballough and Harrison, who finished first in the Race World Offshore Cleveland Construction Grand Prix on July 23 in Mentor, Ohio, and third in the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix on July 1 in Florida, it was their second SBI victory of the season.
With 19 laps to complete, the second race of the day saw the Superboat and Superboat Unlimited classes take to the course. With the exception of WHM Motorsports, which competed against MGI Digital/Konica Minolta in Cocoa Beach, it was the first SBI race of the season for the Superboat-class teams, which had opted out of SBI’s season-opener in May.
The Superboat class headed into the first turn in tight formation with Pro Floors Racing NZ-1 in the lead. Midway through the turn, Cleveland Construction rolled. Throttleman Grant Bruggemann and driver Ed Smith, who sustained no serious injuries, were able to escape from their upside-down canopied Skater 388 catamaran on their own.
Despite leading briefly, the defending Superboat-class national and world champion Performance Boat Center team of throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Myrick Coil exited the race early after a hard spin.
“We tore up some stuff today,” said Tomlinson, who in addition to his Performance Boat Center duties will throttle one catamaran for the Unlimited-class Dubai-based Victory Team at the SBI National Championships in Clearwater, Fla., and World Championships in Key West, Fla., later this year. “We were in the lead on the second lap, heading into the second turn. The back end came up and caught a little, but it usually just settles down. This time, it slid and we spun 180 degrees. We filled one of the (Sterling Performance) engines with water, and both the skegs are gone from the drives.
“But we’ll be ready for the next RWO race in Dunkirk,” he added. “The important thing today is that everyone is OK.”
WHM Motorsports driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller grabbed the lead and never let it go in their Skater Powerboats 40-foot catamaran, while a tight battle for second place developed between M-Con and Pro Floors Racing NZ-1—which was riding the momentum of a first-place finish in the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix last month—and continued until the Pro Floors duo of throttleman Wayne Valder and driver Chris Hanley pulled their MTI catamaran to the middle of the course with a mechanical problem.
For more action from today’s SBI Great Lakes Grand Prix, check out the slideshow above.
Prior to the start of the race, Muller and Mauff decided to go with a more conservative setup that they thought would be better-suited to the conditions.
“It was quite a bit rougher out there than people thought,” Muller said. “I knew everybody would be coming very hard. We saw Cleveland Construction roll behind us and saw Performance Boat Center spin so hard that it almost rolled. We just kept gapping M-Con by two to three seconds per lap and took the win.
“We needed that one, badly,” he added. “We had back luck in Sarasota and Mentor.”
The Miss GEICO team of throttleman Steve Curtis and driver James Sheppard blasted to an early lead in the Unlimited-class ranks and never let it go. But like the Superboat class, the Unlimited ranks saw a scary moment when Team CRC/Spooled Up Racing rolled during a turn. The boat came to rest right-side-up but appeared to be in danger of sinking thanks to serious structural damage to the 48-foot MTI catamaran’s hullsides.
No serious injuries were reported for Team CRC throttleman Mike DeFrees or driver Gary Ballough.Editor’s note: Results from today’s race are unofficial pending technical inspections. For officials results as they become available, visit the SBI website.