Depending on which offshore racer you ask, a one-week turnaround between contests is either a blessing or a curse—a blessing if you exit race No. 1 with your equipment intact and a curse if you don’t. Venue proximity also makes a difference, and in that regard last weekend’s St. Clair River Classic and this weekend’s Great Lakes Grand Prix are as good as it gets because the St. Clair, Mich., and Michigan City, Ind., race sites are just four hours apart by car.
For the Super Stock-class PlayTradez team duo of Randy Sweers and Bryan Marquardt, the Great Lakes Grand Prix is the most important race of the regular season. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
On the Super Stock-class side, this Sunday’s Offshore Powerboat Association-produced event at the southern end of Lake Michigan is a true turnaround as nine teams competed last weekend on the St. Clair River. Not among them was the PlayTradez team of Randy Sweers and Bryan Marquardt, who have been toiling to get their 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran back in shape after a rough outing at the season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
As PlayTradez is the presenting sponsor of the Great Lakes Grand Prix, the fifth of eight races in the American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series, the pressure to be there is significant for the team.
“It’s been a challenging situation since Cocoa Beach,” said Sweers, a veteran competitor who throttles the cat. “We had a post-race windshield failure and we’ve working with Doug Wright Designs to have new windshields made from polycarbonate rather than acrylic because it’s much stronger and meets the latest UIM and APBA requirements for our class.”
During the Cocoa Beach event, which lived up to its rough-water notoriety, the 32-footer sustained damage to its hull under the fuel tank, Sweers explained. The team at Doug Wright Designs in Melbourne, Fla., handled the time-consuming repair but that work, plus the windshield issue, kept the team out of the next three races.
And they still face one more hurdle before the green flag flies this Sunday.
“We are waiting for our new windshields to be completed Thursday morning and will have to next-day-air ship them up to the race site in Michigan City so we can do the install on Friday before we test on Saturday,” said Sweers. “Needless to say, this is not what we had planned, but given the challenges we have faced this is the best we can do right now. With a little bit of luck and some late-night work from my crew, I think we will be ready to test on Saturday and race on Sunday
“We’re doing our best to support Playtradez, which is not only our sponsor but the presenting sponsor for the Great Lakes Grand Prix,” he added.
A month between races has created pent-up demand in the Super Cat ranks.
The St. Clair River Classic, as previously reported on speedonthewater.com, was not part of the Super Cat-class team owners internal schedule, which has teams using their best six out of seven results (or a team can just run six races and not bother with a seventh) to determine an APBA national champion. Their most recent Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix in Southwest Florida, which means Super Cat teams haven’t competed since July 3.
“The month gap between races feels like an eternity,” said Tyler Miller, the owner and throttleman of the Super Cat-class M CON team. “With the class being stacked this year and three different teams winning in three different races it takes racing to a level that leaves you chomping at the bit to get to the next race.
“M CON is extremely excited to get back on the water especially in beautiful Michigan City,” he added.
So far, Miller said, seven Super cat teams—M CON, Pro Floors Racing, SV Offshore Racing, WHM Motorsports, LiquorSplit, Graydel and Wicked Racing—have committed to the Michigan City contest.
Like the Super Cat teams, Class 1 competitors have been off the racecourse for a month—the Great Lakes Grand Prix is the third of eight races in the Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 World Championship Series being produced by P1 Offshore/Powerboat P1. Class 1 representative Steve Curtis said fans can expect four teams—his own Huski Chocolate outfit, 222 Offshore Australia, GBX Racing and JBS Racing—to compete fiercely in Michigan City this weekend.
Four Class 1 teams—including the new GBX Racing MTI catamaran (not pictured) are slated to compete in Michigan City, Ind., this weekend.
“We know 222 Offshore Australia is quick,” he said. “And the new GBX Racing boat with Alex Pratt and Miles Jennings also should be very quick. JBS Racing is always consistent and with Jeff Stevenson back in the boat with Micheal Stancombe they should be right there. So even though we only have four boats, any one of them could win.”
Curtis said he’s hoping for “six or seven” teams to compete at the next event, September 2-4 in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the Class 1 series.
“We have two new teams confirmed for next season,” he said. “Of course, I’m always excited about racing but I am really looking forward to getting more competition later on. It’s been tough after COVID to build up the international teams but we are still hopeful that we will be at 10 teams next season.
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