With an incredible amount of spectators lining the south shore of Lake Michigan for the third race of the 2017 Super Boat International season, competitors in the ninth annual Great Lakes Grand Prix made sure to put on a good show for the crowd that turned out Sunday for the race in Michigan City, Ind.
The WHM Motorsports team of Billy Mauff and Jay Muller earned its first Superboat-class victory of the year at the Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind. Photos by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
“I couldn’t believe how many people came out for the race this year,” said Peter Meyer, the owner of the AMH Construction/Instigator Fountain Powerboats V-bottom that finished second to the Outerlimits team of Joe Sgro and Steve Curtis earlier today after pulling out of the Superboat Extreme-class race with a mechanical issue. “I bet you five years ago there wasn’t even 500 people on Main Street for the parade last night; this year there had to be 15,000 people. It was incredible.
“Today just wasn’t our day, but I’m happy it worked out for Joe—he’s a great competitor,” continued Meyer, who watched throttleman Johnny Stanch and driver Aaron Hope drop out of the race near the halfway point. “Since this was a double-points race we are now tied with the Outerlimits guys heading into the national championships in Clearwater, Fla. It should make for a great end to the season between Clearwater and Key West.”
The Outerlimits team won the Superboat Extreme class, while Team Yabba Dabba Doo finished second in the Manufacturer P4 class.
In the ever-competitive Superboat class, five teams entered the race and the WHM Motorsports team of driver/owner Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller took its first victory of the year. WHM, a 40-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran, ran a flawless race from start to finish and was able to hold off the team that won the season’s first two races—the Performance Boat Center/Jimmy John’s 38-foot Skater driven by Myrick Coil and throttled by John Tomlinson. The STIHL team of Jake Noble and Grant Bruggemann finished third ahead of Cleveland Construction and M CON took fifth after spinning out in one of the turns.
“All I know is that this 40-foot Skater packs a lot of air, it’s got a big tunnel,” Mauff said after the race. “The boat loves to pack as much air as it can and run on the drain plugs. And in a flat-water race like today, it’s hard to beat.
“Michigan City is a great venue,” he continued. “It’d be nicer to have more boats overall, but our class is doing well and everyone seems to be really pumped up about it. All of the teams seem to be on their game, too, which makes it interesting. We’re getting closer to the old open class days when we’d have six or more boats in the class going to every race.”
For more of Boden’s images from Michigan City, check out the slideshow above.
While the Superboat Unlimited class was missing two of its regular competitors following the accident in St. Clair last week between Cat Can Do and Miss GEICO, the Wake Effects team still came out and put on a show for the 19 laps that spanned 79 miles. Because the duo of owner/driver Rusty Rahm and throttleman Jeff Harris had the fastest boat in the form of the 48-foot MTI with twin Mercury Racing 1650 engines, the team raced as if there were several boats in its class.
The other five-boat class in the fleet, Superboat Vee, saw an exciting race that ended with owner/driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Ron Umlandt taking first place in the RevXoil.com-sponsored LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness 30-foot Extreme. Lilly and Umlandt left the other boats—Boatfloater.com, Mr Technology, STIHL and Team Octane—to battle for second, which ended up going to the father-and-son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl in the Boatfloater.com 29-foot Extreme.
“We were running good all race,” said Lilly. “The boat was dialed in today. It ran straight as an arrow and fast. Our team usually prefers the bigger water but the boat liked the calm, fast water today. Michigan City is absolutely one the best race sites—once you come here you’ll always come back.”
In the Manufacturer Production 3 class, the 2nd Amendment team pulled away from the SimmonsMarine.com team and never looked back, while the Manufacturer Production 4-class victory went to Team Allen Lawn Care & Landscaping over Yabba Dabba Doo.
Last but not least, some of the best racing of the day took place in the Superboat Stock class with FJ Propeller, C&R Racing and Advance Sleeve flying along the course.
The FJ Propeller team of Gary Ballough and Darren Kittredge won the Superboat Stock class at the Great Lakes Grand Prix.
“It was definitely an exciting race,” said Gary Ballough, owner and throttleman of the FJ Propeller Doug Wright catamaran that avenged its loss to C&R Racing two weeks ago in Mentor, Ohio. “I think all three boats ran within a mph of each other today. The C&R guys are doing well. They got us last race and we got them this race.”
When asked how a first-year team—C&R Racing’s Casey Boaz and Rob Unnerstall—could beat a veteran team like Ballough and driver Darren Kittredge in its first race, Ballough didn’t hesitate.
“They’re a talented team—Casey has raced tunnel boats and Rob owns a real fast MTI so he knows how to drive a boat,” Ballough said. “But it’s also a testament to a Doug Wright, the boats are winners right out of the box. Combine the boat, the power and two very professional and humble guys—the kind of guys we want in this sport—and a rookie team can compete immediately.”
Results above are unofficial, for official results, check out superboat.com.