The dramatic HotelPlanner.com Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix saw the Gallagher team do just enough to win the 2018 P1 SuperStock USA Championship.
Their tally of 223 championship points was enough to better the GEICO Racing team by just nine points. The team’s performances at the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix saw them finish third in the opening race which allowed them to finish the second race down in fifth place and clinch the 2018 crown. It was a thoroughly deserved title win for Gallagher having recorded six wins in thirteen heats across the season.
A victory in Sarasota proved important for Visit Jacksonville, allowing them to take the third place spot, pushing rookie team GoToSteves.com into fourth place in the championship standings, the pair finishing on 189 and 185 points respectively.
Further back on 142 points, having not raced in the last two rounds of the championship, were Frank and Al’s Pizza in fifth place, while Sarasota race winners Visit St. Pete/Clearwater finished sixth, on 135 points.
International crews from the UK and USA were in action, having to contend with choppy conditions after the threat of thunderstorms had caused the start of racing to be delayed.
However, come the afternoon, conditions had settled enough to allow the P1 Panther fleet to begin racing.
Once the Neolith pace boat dropped the green flag, racing began and the five-strong field was released. Scottish father and daughter duo Davie and Ashleigh Finlayson took an early lead in the GoToSteves.com boat, closely followed by George Ivey and Brian Lynch of Visit Jacksonville.
At the halfway point, the Scottish crew remained in the lead of the race, with Visit Jacksonville still on their tail. And then, with just minutes to go, Ivey and Lynch overtook the leaders with a great passing move to slide into top spot.
Visit Jacksonville maintained its lead through to the finish, with the GoToSteves.com boat doing a sterling job in finishing second. Gallagher took third place, effectively sealing their overall championship win. GEICO Racing and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater rounded out the rest of the field.
The P1 SuperStock powerboats then came out for their second race of the day, with more vital championship points on offer.
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater took the lead from the beginning, with the GEICO Racing team of Brian Maine and Tony Knight competing for the lead. Later in the race GoToSteves.com and Visit Jacksonville were neck and neck, competing for third spot in some close racing out on the water, while the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater team were out in the open and leading the race.
Visit Jacksonville managed to hold off the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater boat, while the Gallagher team were out of the running in fifth place.
From there on, the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater crew of Neil Jackson and Jamie Canter had no further challengers and powered home to victory with a great drive. GEICO and Visit Jacksonville finished second and third, while GoToSteves.com and Gallagher rounded out the top five, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
Along with the P1 SuperStock action were powerboats and craft from offshore racing series, with the HotelPlanner.com Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix celebrating boats of all shapes and sizes. Among the various classes in action were: P1-3 and P1-6 races, a Super Vee Lite special event, SuperStock 300 class, Super CAT class and the Unlimited and Super Vee Class race.
The event drew a sizeable 4th of July crowd, with Lido Beach seeing its shores full of racing fans and the sound of roaring powerboats ringing out across the coastline for the 34th year in a row.