St. Petersburg Grand Prix Defines The Heat of Competition

After qualifying in lane No. 1 for the Class 1 race at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix presented by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater and produced by P1 Offshore, the 47-foot Victory, Huski Chocolate, had the advantage that driver Travis Pastrana and throttleman Steve Curtis coveted heading into the fourth race yesterday.

A combination of advantageous lane choices and attrition courtesy of Florida heat and humidity helped decide the winners at the St. Pete Grand Prix offshore powerboat race. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Huski Chocolate started in the pole position with owner/driver Jeff Stevenson and throttleman Michael Stancombe in a well-earned lane No. 2 in the 42-foot MTI, JBS Racing, after a quick qualifying run the day before. The 47-foot Victory, 222 Offshore Australia, with driver Darren Nicholson and throttleman Giovanni Carpitella, was in lane No. 3. The veteran team of driver Marc Granet and throttleman Rich Wyatt and their 50-foot Mystic, dfYoung, qualified fourth and driver Miles Jennings and throttleman Alex Pratt were outside in lane five in the 43-foot MTI, XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka.

After earning lane No. 1 with Curtis on Saturday, Pastrana said, “The smoother the course is, the more it’s like a car,” which he makes a living driving on the world rally circuit. He called on his experience driving in myriad road-racing disciplines to pilot Huski Chocolate around the 6.25-mile course that consisted mostly of right-hand turns with one-left-handed dogleg.

With yesterday’s victory in St. Petersburg Grand Prix, the Class 1 Huski Chocolate cockpit duo of Steve Curtis and Travis Pastrana continued their winning ways.

After qualifying with the second-fastest speed on Saturday, Stancombe and Stevenson picked up where they left off on Sunday, moving to second place early in the 11-lap race and quickly pulling away from the boat that had been Huski’s nemesis at the start of the season, 222 Offshore Australia.

For the majority of the race, Huski Chocolate held a comfortable lead over JBS Racing. Behind the second-place boat, the fleet battled the other competitors and mechanical gremlins. 222 Offshore Australia dropped off the pace with issues, which let dfYoung and Xinsurance/Goodboy Vodka move into third and fourth.

With less than two laps to go a $1.50 fuse on JBS Racing succumbed to the pressure of running nearly wide open in 90-degree heat and humidity. The team had to shut down an engine and limp home on one of its V-16 engines and Mercury Racing M6 drives.

dfYoung and XINSURANCE/Goodboy Vodka moved past into second and third, but the JBS team knew it had taken a big step forward. “I know that I had the skill to run with these guys,” said throttleman Stancombe. “None of us is upset. We’re proud of qualifying second and running as well as we did. Nobody behind us was going to catch us.”

In the official results, Huski Chocolate took first, followed by dfYoung and Xinsurance/Goodboy Vodka.

“We have an amazing team with Huski Chocolate and there’s no better throttleman than Steve,” said Pastrana. “The boat drove really well and it was awesome to see some new faces up front.”

The driver of the Miss GEICO team catamaran for most of its 14-year history, Granet used to occupy the seat that Pastrana now competes from and he and Wyatt are working with Mercury Racing to put the 1,100-hp Class 1 engines in their 50-foot Mystic to campaign a full season in 2023.

“It was brutal in the boats, especially with the firesuit on,” Granet said of the heat and humidity. “The boats are so evenly matched, you’re on the pins the whole time.”

Most experienced racers will comment that they’d rather race in rougher conditions because smooth water means running at wide open for the entire outing. “You’re flat out and there’s no reprieve from it,” said Granet. “With this type of course with the rudder boats, you’ve got a quarter mile between turns, you stay in it the whole time.”

He credited the dfYoung crew for hustling to get the boat to St. Pete and said the boat will be at the final three races of the season at Clearwater, Fla., Fort Myers, Fla., and the world championships in Key West, Fla., in November.

With the St. Pete Grand Prix in the books, the eight-race Class 1 World Championship Series officially crossed its mid-point, while there are two races remaining in the concurrent American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series.

In the third race of the weekend, the seven boats in Super Cat and three in Factory Stock took to the course. The 42-foot MTI, Pro Floors Racing, with owner/driver Wayne Valder and throttleman Grant Bruggemann had lane one and put it to good use immediately, pulling away when the green flat flew.

After finding the right pair of Mercury Racing prop for qualifying, the team stuck with that setup for the race on Sunday. “We propped down a little bit so we could get a good run,” said Bruggemann. “It helps as long as you accelerate away from the competition at the start.”

Pro Floors Racing lead wire to wire in the Super Cat contest.

Which is exactly what happened. Pro Floors Racing jumped to the lead with owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil giving chase in the Skater 388, M-Con. After crossing the start line, the boats headed into turn one and M CON spun while trying to chase down the leaders. The boat was unharmed, but most of the driveline components were damaged including the skegs being torn off the Mercury Racing Number Six drives, according to Coyle.

Running on the outside, the 40-foot WHM Motorsports Skater catamaran, with owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Mueller, charged toward the front. Sneaking up on the inside were owner/driver Chris Grant and throttleman Billy Moore in the Skater 388, Graydel. Also in the hunt were owner/driver John Demmons and throttleman Jimmy McIntyre, who raised some eyebrows with a fast qualifying time in the Skater 388, LiquorSplit.

Bruggemann said that his boat was set up for acceleration rather than flat-out speed and that was evident as he and Valder opened up a huge lead. “Wayne drove a great race,” said Bruggemann. “The boat was set up to be quick and we ran the whole course at wide-open throttle until we gapped everyone and eased off.”

Within a few laps, Graydel settled into second place, but the team realized that after a less-than-stellar start by its standards that it couldn’t catch Pro Floors. “They were on fire,” said Grant. “They were just gone.”



















Enjoy more images from the St. Petersburg Grand Prix in the slideshow above

The Graydel team owner was happy with second place and being in position to be challenging for a national points championship. “We finished the race and we finished strong,” he said. “My team is so good to be with. For us now to be podium worthy, it gives me a chill.”

After running a solid third place for most of the race, LiquorSplit dropped out in the final laps. McIntyre said the boat got washed down a couple of times and that took its toll on the boat’s Mercury Racing 860 engines.

“Overall I’m happy,” said McIntyre. “It ran good when it was all 16 cylinders firing.”

The team plans to run in upcoming Clearwater, For Myers and Key West, Fla., races.

The 450R Factory Stock class made history in St. Pete, with teams earning national points for the first time in the category’s history because it had the three boats required by American Power Boat Association rules to earn those points.

The 39-foot MTI, TS Motorsports, with throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Taylor Scism took the win over its sistership, KLOVAR Motorsports, after a hard-fought nine-lap battle. Third went to driver Willie Cabeza and throttleman Gary Ballough, in a third MTI cat powered by twin Mercury Racing 450R outboards, GC Racing.

The lone left-hand turn at a dogleg on the course made the teams set up for position and helped set strategies for possibly overtaking a rival. After an excellent race that saw KLOVAR close in on TS Motorsports, KLOVAR owner/driver Randy Keys attempted to make an aggressive move in the charge to the finish. The boat hooked and rode up on one sponson before Keys counter-steered and brought it back down, preventing a barrel roll. It was an excellent save.

“We had a good run and previously, (Taylor) was leaving the door open a little bit for us and it was my last-ditch effort to try to do something,” said Keys. When the boat hooked, Keys said he and Allen were fortunate that they were in their competitor’s wash so they slid over the aerated water.

“I got a lot of counter-steer in when we were going up on our side and when we wound up straight,” said Keys.

The boat stayed right-side-up and the crew got back on the gas, pushing to a well-earned second place.

For Scism, the race was the culmination of two years of trying to build the class and she earned her first points in the national championship standings.

“I feel like every race I get more and more comfortable, especially with Johnny and I anticipating each other’s movements,” said Scism.

Yesterday’s well-earned first-place result was just what the CMR/Raymarine cockpit duo of Shaun Torrente and Sean Conner needed to get their Super Stock season back on track.

The final race of the day saw nine boats competing in the Super Stock class. While the previous races were impacted by attrition and lane choice, it was the team running the outer-most lane, the 32-foot Wright Performance cat, CMR/Raymarine with Shaun Conner and throttleman Shawn Torrente, jumping out to the lead and never looked back.

The boat that held lane one, Performance Boat Center/FASS Diesel Fuel Systems, with throttleman Rusty Williams and driver Myrick Coil held second place while owner/throttleman Loren Peters and Anthony Smith, ran third in the 32-foot Doug Wright, LPC Racing, that had been rebuilt and re-rigged after the port motor fell off the transom at the previous race in Michigan City, Ind.

LPC Racing eventually succumbed to gremlins, which opened the door for the 32-foot Victory, Jackhammer, with owner/driver Reese Langheim and throttleman Ricky Maldonado to settle into third. As had happened the day before, the course calmed as the afternoon went on and the water was too calm for Jackhammer, which runs better in rougher conditions. Fourth place went to the 32-foot Doug Wright, Playtradez, with throttleman Randy Sweers and driver Brian Marquardt, while the team of owner/driver Cole Leibel and throttleman Gary Ballough finished fifth in the 32-foot Victory, Big East Construction.

After a challenging start to the season, Torrente said he backed off once he had a comfortable lead.

“Number one I didn’t want to lose and number two, I didn’t want to fix it,” he said in reference to the team’s previous blowing apart at the start in the Sarasota, Fla., race on the July 4 weekend.

After finishing second, Performance Boat Center driver Myrick Coil gave credit to the winner and said he and throttleman Williams may have been off by one pitch on the propeller selection, which can make all the difference.

Veteran offshore racers Steve Miklos and Steve Fehrmann took the checkered flag in the Mod V class contest.

Sunday started with three boats in Mod Vee, four in Stock Vee and two in Bracket Class 400 taking the course about 90 minutes later than originally scheduled. In Mod Vee after a bunch of weird mechanical issues that knocked them out of races, owner/throttleman Steve Miklos and driver Steve Ferhman charged to the lead in the 30-foot Extreme, Team Sunprint, and maintained that position for the duration of the eight-lap contest, claiming the checkered flag. Second went to the father-son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl in the 30-foot Extreme,, while Smokin’ Tuna Saloon ran well off the pace in third.

“It really was a good run,” said Miklos. “We came here last week and ran some laps and we felt like we were in the right spot.”

In Stock Vee, owner/driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Jay Muller jumped to an early lead in the 30-foot Extreme, LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness/RevX Oil, while Chris Colson had to replace his throttleman Charlie McCarthy with a last-minute substitute because of food poisoning. Mark Fernandez who usually throttles the 32-foot Phantom, XINSURANCE, stepped in on short notice, and the team was in the process of starting to challenge Lilly and Muller when LSB’s Mercury 525EFI engine went into guardian mode, limiting the engine rpm and the boat’s speed.

Shocker pulled to the lead and claimed the checkered flag. Kirk Hanna and Mark Rinda were off the pace for the majority of the race in their 30-foot Phantom, North Myrtle Beach RV Resort and came home third. Pastrana and driver Jim York pulled off the course early with mechanical problems in the 30-foot Extreme, Twisted Tea.

The Shocker team’s Kirk Hanna and Mark Rinda exited St. Pete with a checkered flag and a Stock V-class points lead in the APBA series.

“We had never been in a boat together until the start,” Colson said of his teaming with Fernandez. “This should put us in the lead for points. We’re going to keep giving it hell one race at a time.”

Also running on the course were the Bracket Class 400 boats with the 38-foot Cigarette, Cigarette Justice League, claiming victory over Ultimate Boat Racing Experience/Reindl Powerboats.

Full results can be found at the Powerboat P1 USA website. The next race in the Class 1 World Championship Series and the APBA Offshore National Championship Series is in Clearwater, Fla., September 23-25.

Related stories
St. Pete Grand Prix Day 1: Drivers Of Quality Make The Difference In Qualifying
St. Pete Grand Prix Updates: Livestream On Today, Super Stock Qualifying Possible
St. Pete Grand Prix At 52 Teams Despite Class 1, Super Cat And Super Stock Scratches And Slim Bracket Turnout
JBS Racing Building New Skater 46 Catamaran
M CON To Field Class 1 And Super Cat Teams In 2023
St. Petersburg Grand Prix Essentials: What To Watch And How To Watch It
First Concierge-Supported MTI 390X To Join 450R Factory Stock Fleet In St. Petersburg Grand Prix
Wyatt And Granet In For Class 1 St. Pete Grand Prix Debut With Df Young Mystic
Heavy Hardware Turnout On Tap For St. Pete Grand Prix