St. Pete Grand Prix Day 1: Drivers Of Quality Make The Difference In Qualifying

On the eve of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix in Southwest Florida, P1 Offshore again held pole-position qualifying for Class 1 and Super Cat and the common denominator among the teams that grabbed the first and second lanes for tomorrow’s race was a quality, experienced driver.

The key to taking the prized inside lane at the St. Pete Grand Prix in pole-position qualifying? Having a good driver in the boat—just ask the Class 1 Huski Chocolate team. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

In Class 1, the 47-foot Victory catamaran, Huski Chocolate, with throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Travis Pastrana posted the fastest lap at about two minutes, 51 seconds and change. Second went to owner/driver Jeff Stevenson and throttleman Michael Stancombe in their 42-foot MTI, JBS Motorsports, who clocked 2:55 to beat the 222 Offshore Australia team of Giovanni Carpitella and driver Darren Nicholson for lane two.

“I was pretty excited about the lap times,” said Pastrana afterward. “I can’t drive a V-bottom to save my life. The cat drives more like a car or truck. The hardest part for me is that it’s rear steering and it’s understanding that you don’t have control until the back hits the turn.”

He continued, “The smoother the course is, the more it’s like a car, and the rougher it is, it feels like a trophy truck.”

Regarding the run made by JBS Motorsports, he said, “They were extremely impressive. When they came around us, (Team Huski crew chief) Gary Stray said they’re accelerating harder and they’re quicker.”

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Enjoy more images from today’s action at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix in the slideshow above.

While Pastrana calls on a different skillset than most drivers in offshore powerboat racing on the 6.25-mile course, experience still made the difference in who wound up in the inside lanes for tomorrow’s Class 1 and Super Cat races.

After taking lane No. 2, Stancombe gave all credit to his driver. The team had dealt with more than enough adversity in the first two races of the season, but it finally figured out the computer glitch before qualifying. Before leaving the docks, Stancombe moved around some weight.

“It was an educated guess and here we are,” said Stancombe. “Jeff did phenomenal. I’m happy and I’m excited that we worked out the bugs.”

The 222 Offshore Australia team will start tomorrow in lane 3 with the 50-foot Mystic, dF Young, throttled by Rich Wyatt and driven by Marc Granet in Lane 4 and the popular MTI cat, XINSURANCE Good Boy Vodka, with Myles Jennings and Alex Pratt outside in Lane No. 5.

When the Class 1 boats were done, the Super Cats took to the course to complete the required two consecutive laps to post a qualifying time. The third boat to take to the course, the 39-foot MTI, Pro Floors New Zealand, with owner/driver Wayne Valder and throttleman Grant Bruggemann, posted the fastest lap of the day on its second circuit of the course at 3:06, claiming the inside lane for tomorrow’s start.

Pro Floors Racing blasted through the six-mile course in three minutes and six seconds—the fastest run of the day in both classes—change to take the Super Cat pole position win.

After Valder showed his driving prowess at the Sarasota race over July 4weekend, literally shortening the course by taking a different line at the dogleg near the start/finish line, Bruggemann gave his driver credit for posting the fast lap today.

“It’s a driver’s course—you’ve got two laps to get your act together,” said Bruggemann. “Wayne having the wheel straight of having it slightly turned might mean the difference.”

The last boat to run this afternoon opened up some eyes when the Skater 388, Liquor Split, with throttleman Jimmy McIntyre was joined in the cockpit by driver Jason Ventura, who was subbing for team owner John Emmons who was under the weather. Ventura owns Brand X Marine and has been working on the boat for Emmons.

LiquorSplit ran 3:08:04 to take Lane No. 2. The team put Mercury Racing 860-hp engines in the boat earlier this year and has been working to get the setup right. The new engines required that the team add some weight and after the engines dyno’d closer to the 750 hp that the carbureted engines make, P1 officials let the team take out a little bit of weight.

McIntyre and Ventura have a long history and the two quickly got in tune during their two laps on the course. “It was kind of cool to get back in the boat with him,” said McIntyre. “I think we picked the right line around the turns better than most guys did. I was able to drive the boat from the throttleman’s seat with a guy who listens very well.”

The reigning national champions, owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil in the Skater 388, M CON, will start in lane three with WHM Motorsports in lane 4 and the Skater 388, Graydel, in Lane 5.

In relatively last-minute move, P1 Offshore opted to add a qualifying round for the Super Stock-class. But unstable weather in late afternoon canceled those plans.

“Sad about the weather,” said Azam Rangoonwala, the chief executive officer of Powerboat P1 and P1 Offshore. “But we tried.”

Rangoonwala paused to chuckle. “My team hates me for always pushing for more.”

In the start of the day’s offshore racing action, the Bracket Class 500, 600 and 700 entries took to the course.

In the Class 500 race, the 29-foot Warlock, Bulletproof/Goodcars.com, with driver Elijah Kingery and throttleman Craig Belfatto, took an early and commanding lead, but attrition reared its ugly head when the boat’s engine let go. This let throttleman Michael Stancombe and driver J.J. Turk in the 30-foot Phantom, Team Woody/Golf n Gator, move to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. After a good showing early, the Ultimate Boat Racing Experience/Reindl Powerboats entry succumbed to mechanical problem. This opened the door for another 29-foot Warlock, Hammerheads/Fly SRQ, to claim the runner-up spot.

It was a good day for Micheal Stancombe, who in addition to claiming third in Class 1 flying with Jeff Stevenson in the JBS Racing 42-foot MTI catamaran with a Class 500 win with J.J. Turk.

In Bracket Class 600, Gerard Marine Offshore ran unopposed among the Class 700 boats and, unofficially, the 21-foot Superboat, Offshore Ohmies, with driver Ben Osypian and throttleman Joel Murawski appeared to prevail followed by throttleman Nick Imprescia and owner/driver Brian Guy in the 21-foot Superboat, Jackhammer, and the 22-foot Velocity, St. Fire Department, Steele/Velocity in third. The bracket-class results are unofficial until confirmed by P1 Offshore officials.

Stay tuned for coverage from tomorrow’s action. Livestream coverage on the P1 Offshore Facebook page begins at 10 a.m.

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