By Eric Colby
Looking at the early entries for the 36th Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix (June 25-27), it might be a matter of quality over quantity. The top names in most of the classes in offshore powerboat racing are there, so the competition should be great for the competitors and fans on the shore. The event is being promoted by Powerboat P1 with Visit Sarasota County as the premier sponsor.
In the big-boat classes, offshore racing legend and extreme sports celebrity Travis Pastrana will participate in the 44’ Victory catamaran, Miss GEICO. As of mid-June, the only other boat in Class 1 is Lucas Oil Silverhook, the one-off V-bottom with driver Jay Johnson and owner-throttleman Nigel Hook. Most of the other teams in the class hail from overseas, so restrictions related to the pandemic are preventing their participation.
The Super Cat class had two entries, with owner/throttleman Tyler Miller and driver Myrick Coil in the 38’ Skater, M-Con and throttleman John Tomlinson and owner/driver Lorne Leibel in the 38’ Skater, Canada Homes, that was victorious in Cocoa Beach at the season opener. Leibel wants to win in Sarasota and then at the world championships in Key West, FL, and then he plans to hang up the orange helmet.
The Super Stock class race could be the best of the weekend, with seven entries and more likely to show up. The 32’ Doug Wright catamaran Team Allen Lawn Care took the victory in the rough waters of Cocoa Beach, FL, while another 32’ Doug Wright, CMR Roofing, grabbed the checkered flag at the 2021 Lake Race in Lake of the Ozarks, MO. If conditions are calm, the smallest boat in the class, Wicked Racing, could jump to the front. If any of the storms brewing in the tropics make their way northwest and kick up big water, look for Sarasota-based Ryan Beckley and Tom Kennedy and their trustworthy 30’ Skater Professional Plumbing, to compete for a podium finish.
Modified V has been a competitive class in 2021 and Sarasota looks to continue the trend. After a smart strategy propelled Steve and Stephen Kildahl to victory in the 30’ Extreme Boatfloater.com at Cocoa Beach, the team added a new driver Kaley Kildahl at the Lake Race with the same result. If this is the 36th running of the Sarasota event, Steve Kildahl has been there for every one. He knows the course like the proverbial back of his hand and should be considered a contender, although Punisher, Tug It and Sheriff Lobo are legitimate threats.
Speaking of the course, at about 6 ½ to 7 miles, it’s one of the longest on the schedule and could offer the most challenging setup choices because there will be calm and rough conditions that will change lap to lap.
For the fans who see three more 29’ to 30’ canopied single-engine V-bottoms but don’t realize they’re in two different classes, the Sarasota Stock V class has three entries including the 30’ Extreme LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness, NMB RV Resort and Shootout on the River/Fastboys Racing. Boats in the Modified V class have carbureted 8.2-liter engines while those in Stock V have sealed Mercury Racing HP525EFI engines. Pastrana is said to be joining throttleman Brit Lilly in LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness/Rev-X Oil in Sarasota.
The bracket classes that have GPS-based speed limits usually don’t have accurate boat counts until the end of registration that will remain open until the end of the day on Saturday. Among the events that might interest fans are the Waves & Wheels party on Thursday evening, June 24. On Friday, fans can check out all the boats at the block party in Downtown Sarasota.
Competition begins with P1 AquaX Practice and Moto 1 personal watercraft racing at 9:45 a.m. and 3 p.m. In between, the offshore boats will be testing. Additionally, the Fanzone will be open in the Van Wezel pits from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Fanzone will be open again Sunday, which is race day. The competition will begin with bracket-class racing starting at 10 a.m. followed by Race 2 at 11:30, Race 3 at 1 p.m. and Race 4 at 2:30. All of this is subject to weather and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is warning of potential storm activity in the area, so check conditions before heading out and enjoy the racing.