Between marine wildlife straying onto the course and creating delays during Saturday's practice sessions and Sunday's races and mechanical gremlins knocking teams out of contention, offshore powerboat racers faced their share of challenges during last weekend’s Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix organized by Powerboat P1 SuperStock USA last weekend. But in at least two key classes—Super Cat and Extreme—the venue attracted solid fleets that put on a show for thousands of fans lining the famed venue on Florida’s Gold Coast.

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WHM Motorsports prevailed over five Super Cat teams to claim the victory in yesterday’s Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix. Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Six boats started in Sunday’s 16-lap Super Cat-class contest on the four-mile course, which included its traditional layout quirk of a left-hand turn leading to a right-hand dogleg section. The WHM Motorsports team of owner/driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller grabbed the lead early in its 40-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran and never let it go.

Only three teams—WHM, the second-place-finishing and newly reliviried Saltwater Terminator duo of Randy Sweers and Glen Hibbard in its 40-foot MTI cat and the Pro Floors Racing team of Chris Hanley and Wayne Valder finished all 16 laps. Performance Boat Center finished 14 laps before dropping out with a mechanical issue, while both Cleveland Construction and STIHL exited after four laps.

Hanley and Valder were eventually disqualified for straying outside a spectator-fleet buoy.

“We didn’t finish a race in Key West last year and we didn’t get any practice time before yesterday’s race because of wildlife on the course, but we did what we set out to do—run conservatively and see what we had,” Sweers said. “We’re happy with the result, especially since we didn’t get any time, going from the back of the pack to a podium finish.”

Initially, the organizers had planned for the teams to run 20 laps. But thanks to marine life-forced delays on Sunday, the teams in both the Super Cat and Extreme classes agreed to run the reduced lap count.

“The guys at P1 did a great job putting on the race and dealing with adversity,” Sweers added.

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In its first race of the 2017 season, Miss GEICO delivered a commanding performance.

Marc Granet, the driver of the first-place-finishing 44-foot Extreme-class Miss GEICO catamaran agreed.

“They P1 guys were amazing considering all the hurdles—turtles and manatees parked on the course—they had to overcome,” said Granet, who was joined in the Miss GEICO cockpit by the team’s longtime throttleman Scott Begovich. “There are delays when wildlife is abundant. There’s no way around it. Racers want to race and fans want watch them race, but the P1 guys did the best job they could managing it.”

Three of the four Extreme-class teams completed all 16 laps, with the Alex And Ani/Jersey Mike’s Subs team of Jimmy Cazzani and Herb Stotler taking second and the Lucas Oil/Silverhook duo of Nigel Hook and Jay Johnson claiming third. (The Twisted Metal/Legacy Builders team of Billy Glueck and Brett Furshman finished 14 laps.)

For Granet and Begovich, the Sarasota event was their first race of the 2017 season.

“The boat ran flawlessly,” Granet said. “Going into our first race of the year and running all 16 laps in the humidity and not having any hiccups—it was a good weekend for the entire Miss GEICO team. It’s always fun running against Alex And Ani—those guys are great. And I think we all put on a good show.”

For complete results from the 2017 Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix as they become available, visit the event’s website.

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