Back On Top: Class Favorites Prevail In First Day Of Midwest Challenge

Back On Top: Class Favorites Prevail In First Day Of Midwest Challenge

After coming in a surprising second place in Friday’s Class 1 pole-position qualifying at the Mercury Racing Midwest Challenge, on Saturday throttleman Giovanni Carpitella and driver Darren Nicholson left no doubt that they are still the team to beat in their 47-foot Victory, 222 Offshore Australia.

Carpitella and Nicholson flew out to an early lead they would never relinquish, but behind them, some newcomers passed the class’ established front-runners to claim the other two spots on the podium. In their 43-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran, Monster Energy/M CON, owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil worked their way through the Class 1 fleet from a tough lane draw to finish second. Throttleman Grant Bruggemann and driver Randy Kent did the same in their 48-foot MTI, XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka.

The 222 Offshore Australia team of Darren Nicholson and Giovanni and Carpitella checked out early and never looked back. Photos by Brad DiMaggio copyright Scrapyard Media.

“We got a good start,” Nicholson said. “We needed to get up there quickly.”

While the conditions for Saturday’s race were much calmer than Friday’s qualifying round, the gusting winds blowing down the course kept drivers alert and ready to correct against spinning out. “The course was quite twitchy,” Nicholson said. “It could have been quite easy to catch the bow and spin.”

The scene played out similarly in the day’s earlier races. Action in the offshore category kicked off with the 450R Factory Stock class with the youngbloods of the sport taking first and second place. In Super Stock, the Jackhammer team reclaimed its spot at the top of the podium followed by a surging father-son team and a new cockpit pairing that improves with each race.

The Class of Class 1
After racing for pole position in much rougher conditions on Friday, the seven-boat Class 1 fleet took to the course on Lake Michigan that had been shortened from its original six miles. It still had the dogleg with a tighter turn on the north end of the course and a more sweeping arc at the southern end.

For myriad reasons, the Class 1 start was delayed, and when the green flag flew, the pole position-holding team of throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Carlos de Quesada in the 50-foot Victory, Pothole Heroes, appeared to be off the pace from the start. This left lane two wide open for 222 Offshore Australia to charge to the lead. Driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Steve Curtis gave chase in their 47-foot Victory, Huski Ice Spritz.

The calmer conditions did not work in Pothole Heroes’ favor as XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka worked its way through the fleet followed by Monster Energy/M CON. Running almost in tandem, the two boats worked their way past Tomlinson and de Quesada. Within a lap or two, they reeled in Huski Ice Spritz. In a text to, Tomlinson said one of the boat’s engines was down on power and the team broke a driveshaft at the end. About midway through the race, Huski Ice Spritz was down in the infield of the course with an engine hatch up.

Just as they have had gentlemen’s battles in Super Cat for the last season, Coil and Miller and Bruggemann then had the course to themselves while 222 Offshore Australia checked out in yet another dominant exhibition.

The best race of the 2023 Class 1 season so far saw Monster Energy/M CON earn second place and XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka take third.

The Class 1 boats ran a total of 12 laps and about halfway through the race, Monster Energy/M CON got past XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka. Miller and Coil weren’t going to catch the leaders, but finishing the 12 laps in a solid second place felt like a win for the team based out of Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks.

“It means the world to this team,” Miller said. “Coming up the first straight, I knew we were competitive and there were so many good drivers around us.”

He explained that in the crowded conditions, he realized that he had to pull back on the throttles just to stay out of trouble.

“If I need to come out of it a little bit, I said, ‘We’re at a point where we can start taking people on,’” Miller said, adding that once he and Coil got around Bruggemann and Kent that it was, “our time to run the course how we wanted to run it.”

Tunnel Vision
Speaking of dominance, eight Formula 1 tunnel boats were racing in Sheboygan this weekend and they started the day racing in the marina harbor on a tight three-buoy course. R.J. West had the pole position in race one and made good use of it running wire to wire. He was followed by Dustin Terry, Dean Comer and Dylan Anderson.

The F1 boats run a format of six minutes on the course followed by a single white-flag lap. For the second race of the morning, the finishing order is reversed with the last-place finisher on the pole and the winner of the first race in the outermost lane.

Painted to celebrate the glory days of the Mercury Factory tunnel boat team of the 1970s, which included the likes for Reggie Fountain, Jr., the founder of Fountain Powerboat, the Ameristar Racing team tunnel was one of seven Formula One beauties that put on an exceptional show for the fans ahead of the afternoon’s offshore racing action.

It didn’t matter.

From lane 8, West blew to the lead and took the second race of the day in dominant fashion. He will start from the pole in Sunday’s Formula 1 finale.

Youth Movement
After the F1 boats whetted the appetites of the fans who made up the largest group of spectators for a race in 2023, the 450R Factory Stock boats took to the offshore racecourse. Driver Ian Morgan and throttleman Nick Imprescia were in lane one in their 39-foot MTI, 151 Express, but they pulled off early with mechanical issues.

The 38-foot Doug Wright, Hank’s Saloon, with throttleman Edwin Scheer and driver Lee Murray, tried to make the most of their starting position in lane two, but they were soon eclipsed by 18-year-old driver Logan Adan and throttleman Ricky Maldonado in the 38-foot Doug Wright, Waves and Wheels/Doug Wright Powerboats.

A seven-boat fleet of Doug Wright and MTI catamarans started in the 450R Factory Stock contest.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the weekend was that the 39-foot MTI, MF Racing, (which stands for Mead Family Racing and not what most of you were thinking), with 16-year-old driver Caleb Mead and throttleman Shaun Torrente, was in contention from the start. When the green flag waved, they were running deck-to-deck with defending class world champions John Tomlinson and Taylor Scism in their 39-foot MTI, TS Motorsports.

At the start, Mead said he did what he was told.

“Shaun said, ‘Look straight and gave me a point and said, aim there,’” Mead said. When his mother showed him the video of the boat vying for the lead, he said, “What the heck, how did we do that?”

With a second-place finish in the 450R Factory Stock contest in just his second race, 16-year-old Caleb Mead and his mentor, Shaun Torrente, became an instant fan-favorite.

He’s driven his father’s 48-foot MTI catamaran quite a bit, but Mead said the raceboat is “nowhere near the same.” He and Torrente talked their way around the course on Lake Michigan and he just got more comfortable as the race wore on.

“He would let me know whenever we were going to hit a turn and he’d tell me to give it a little bit of wheel and I would ask, ‘Give it more?’” Mead added.

Torrente was full of praise for the youngster.





















From the Formula One tunnel-boat exhibition races in Sheboygan Harbor to the final offshore contest of the day, powerboat racing action was nonstop on the first day of the Mercury Racing Midwest Challenge.

“The kid did awesome,” he said. “We were super conservative going into the corner and he did everything I told him to do. I’m thrilled for the family. I’m thrilled for the kid.”

Finishing third were owner/throttleman Michel Karsenti and driver Ervin Grant in the 38-foot Doug Wright, Gladiator Canados. Karsenti lives in France, so like many teams, the duo hasn’t had the test time it would like to get more comfortable in the cockpit.

“Slowly we’re getting the turns really good,” Karsenti said. Maybe a little too good. In three separate corners, the team lost water pressure on an engine, causing the 450-hp Mercury engine to lose water pressure and go into guardian mode.

The Doug Wright/Waves and Wheels team of Ricky Maldonado and Logan Adan were untouchable from the start.

In the end Maldonado and Adan took another victory, additional proof that practice makes almost perfect, but the race wasn’t without its attention-grabbing moments.

“We were taking the turns pretty wide and there were a couple moments when the boat was running 110-mph plus and the port sponson started lifting a little,” Adan said. “I like getting scared. It’s fun.”

Back Up Front
For the last two years, the 32-foot Victory catamaran, Jackhammer, has been running at the front of the Super Stock class with owner/driver Reese Langheim at the wheel and a member of the Maldonado family on throttles.

After an uncharacteristic run in Sarasota, Fla., over the July 4th holiday, when guardian issues kept the team from mounting a strong challenge, when the green flag flew in Sheboygan, Langheim and throttleman Julian Maldonado blew to the front and grabbed a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, although they came close.

Jackhammer’s Reese Langheim and Julian Maldonado returned to their winning ways.

“We did a good job, the boat ran well,” Langheim said. “We about blew it over. The wind got under the tunnel and it picked us up and all of sudden a 24-second lead became somebody chasing us.”

For the nine-lap race, the CoCo’s Monkey team of father Peter Bogino and son/driver AJ Bogino put their 32-foot Doug Wright in second place early and looked primed to move into the lead when Jackhammer had its issue. They maintained second place after nearly going over on their own, earning a podium finish.

“We definitely caught them and ran them down and were right on them a couple of times,” said AJ Bogino, who called on his dirt-track driving skills to keep the boat upright.

From the moment the green flag flew, the Super Stock class battle was ferocious.

“We were completely sideways on their wake and it was a little hairy,” AJ Bogino said. “My dad said when we were coming back in, ‘If you would have driven a sprint car like that back in the day, you’d still be driving it.’”

Third in Super Stock went to throttleman Bruggemann and owner/driver Daren Kittredge in the 32-foot Doug Wright, Northwing.

“Can’t complain on that one,” Kittredge said. “Usually it takes a couple of years to get a boat right and we’re happy with where we are. We’re getting closer.” He and Bruggemann first ran in the boat in Key West last November.

In an unusual format for offshore powerboat racing, the boats will be back out racing again today. Like many of the teams that had been at the front of the pack for the first half of the 2023 season, Langheim said, “I feel like we’re back to where we’re supposed to be.”

Fans packed Sheboygan’s pristine beaches on the shores of Lake Michigan to catch a full day of offshore racing action.

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