A healthy mix of aggressive racing and consistent performances—with a few mechanical issues thrown in—were the main plotlines in today’s Super Boat International eighth annual Great Lakes Super Boat Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind. The double points event, which attracted 18 teams to the venue on the shores of Lake Michigan about 60 miles south of Chicago—the skyline of which was visible from the race site—featured two multi-class races on the 4.2-mile oval course.
Starting promptly at 11 a.m. (CST), the first race included the Superboat Unlimited, Superboat Extreme and Superboat Vee classes. The 48-foot MTI Wake Effects and 40-foot Skater Powerboats American Ethanol/Cat Can Do catamarans ran neck and neck early on, but less than a third of the way through the 19-lap contest American Ethanol/Cat Can Do, which was manned by Keith Holmes and Ed Smith and is powered by twin supercharged 1,700-hp Sterling Performance engines, pulled ahead of the Wake Effects cockpit duo of Rusty Rahm and Jeff Harris in the Mercury Racing 1650-engine-powered 48-footer and established a solid lead.
Harris, who throttles Wake Effects, said that he and Rahm were able to catch Holmes and Smith in the turns but couldn’t keep up with them in the straights. “We were just a little long-propped,” Harris said. “We didn’t have enough acceleration and we weren’t getting all the rpm we needed. I had gone out earlier in the day, but it was calmer and (during the race) there was just enough slop and wave action that made our prop choice hurt us for the conditions.”
Roughly two-thirds of the way through the race, one of the engines in American Ethanol/Cat Can Do emitted a puff of blue smoke, and the 40-footer slowed immediately and dropped off plane. Wake Effects took the lead and finished first.
“We ran hard all day, and they had an engine problem,” Harris said. “I love running against the Cat Can Do guys. They’re really good guys. It was fun.”
Harris was equally complimentary of his cockpit partner Rahm, who was driving the 48-footer for the second time in his rookie season. “We ran some really hard turns today and he was really good,” Harris said. “It just takes some time to get comfortable. He’s doing really well.”
Steve Miklos and Steve Fehrmann lead wire to wire in Sunprint, their 29-foot Extreme V-bottom, in the four-boat Superboat Vee class, but not without a strong challenge from Brit Lilly and Ron Umlandt in LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness near the end of the race. Lilly and Umlandt cut down Sunprint’s lead to a couple of boat lengths but eventually ran out of laps, which turned out to be perfect timing for the Sunprint team.
“I think we blew up a coupler,” said Miklos via mobile phone from the cockpit of his raceboat as he and Fehrmann headed back to the docks under tow. “That was a scrap (with LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness) man. That was real. Something happened to them on the start, but we could see them coming the whole time so we kept pulling. We had a couple of bad corners that slowed us down.
Miklos, who has two first-place finishes and one second-place result so far this year in SBI competition, said that the Michigan City contest was the roughest race so far for his team season. “It was hard water,” he said then laughed. “We took a hell of a beating.”
In the four-boat Superboat-class contest that began at 1 p.m., the first lap saw Performance Boat Center, WHM Motorsports and STIHL—a pack of Skater catamarans—go into the first turn together. Performance Boat Center came out ahead with WHM Motorsports and STIHL hot on its tail. On the next lap, the battle for first place became between Performance Boat Center and WHM Motorsports as STIHL drifted into third place, a position the 38-foot cat manned by Jake Noble and Bruggemann held throughout the contest. (Cleveland Construction, another 38-foot Skater, dropped out of the race early with a mechanical issue.)
One spinout wasn’t enough to knock WHM Motorsports owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller out of the lead they eventually grabbed from throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Myrick Coil in Performance Boat Center. But a second spin for the WHM Motorsports 40-foot Skater enabled Performance Boat Center’s 38-foot Skater to take the lead, and it proved to be too much for Mauff and Muller—who appeared to be on a take-no-prisoners mission to hand Tomlinson and Coil their first defeat of the 2016 season—to overcome.
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