MICHIGAN CITY – The temperatures will be warm but the action on the water will he hot as the 11th annual Great Lakes Grand Prix comes to Michigan City for a weekend of powerboat and personal watercraft racing.
The annual event in Washington Park will be the fifth stop on the American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series, with two days of racing Saturday and Sunday. It will also be a leading event in the qualification route to the P1 AquaX World Championship at the Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
The Grand Prix features many of the world’s fastest and most powerful offshore power boats, which will be speeding past spectators on the beach at speeds nearing 200 mph, according to Jane Daley of Visit Michigan City La Porte.
The Miss GEICO Offshore Racing Team is excited to return to the shores of Lake Michigan, according to spokeswoman Brenda Little.
The Offshore Powerboat Association and Powerboat P1 have joined forces to create the new American Power Boat Association World Offshore Championship Series, six races at some of the most desired race locations across the U.S., she said
"There is renewed anticipation and excitement with the new race series," Little said. "New rules for competition and a concerted effort between race organizations has generated interest from race teams from across the world to participate in all six races. More than 50 teams from across the globe are expected to compete during the 2019 Great Lakes Grand Prix."
Powerboat P1 CEO Azam Rangoonwala said the aim of the partnership is to "strengthen the future of offshore racing by uniting the race teams in a way that has been missing for a long time and delivering an expanded, cohesive, world-class race series split equally between northern and southern states.
“We want to stage events that excite and entertain, ensuring enjoyment for spectators and TV audiences with sponsor value and a real economic impact for the host venues,” Rangoonwala said.
Miss GEICO will compete in the new Class One racing division, comprised of the biggest and fastest race boats in the world. Teams from Dubai and Australia have come to race against America’s champion, Miss GEICO, he said.
All the boats in this class weigh 11,750 pounds with identical race engines sealed and governed by Mercury Racing to ensure fairness. The 47-foot Miss GEICO Victory catamaran is made of carbon, Kevlar and S-glass for high performance. The boat sports a pair of brand new and recently released Mercury sealed 1,100 horsepower twin turbo engines and can reach top speeds of more than 160 mph.
On the water, Miss GEICO will be under the control of driver Miles Jennings and throttleman Steve Curtis, seeking to secure an 11th world championship racing title.
Interspersed among the boat races will the world’s leading P1 AquaX riders as they continue the race to qualify for the World Championship in November. Michigan City will be hosting a P1 AquaX event for the first time as the Grand Prix "serves up a double bill of world-class personal watercraft action and powerboat racing," Daley said.
The AquaX USA Pro Series attracts riders from across the United States and Canada, as well as South America and Europe, and this weekend more than 30 riders will be resuming their battle for the national title and to earn points in the Lucas Oil P1 AquaX World Rankings. The current leader is Brian Baldwin from North Carolina, who is also the reigning AquaX world champion and No. 1 ranked rider in the world.
But the action on the water is just part of a four-day festival that includes free concerts, a boat parade and block party, the Taste of Michigan City, and more.
Race teams will begin arriving on Thursday prior to the start of the evening VIP Party at 6 p.m. at Sunset Grill, featuring a ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m. and VIP event from 6-8 p.m. Free live entertainment by “Smarty Pants” will continue until 10 p.m. on the boardwalk.
Select classes of powerboat teams will participate in race boat testing on Friday afternoon from 2-4 p.m. with the Taste of Michigan City beginning at 4 p.m. along Franklin Street from 4th to 8th streets. There will be free parking and shuttle service from Ames Field at 2501 Franklin St. to the Taste and Washington Park, with a pickup point for the Taste at 7th and Pine.
On Saturday, a race team autograph session is hosted at 10 a.m. with race boat testing by the larger classes of powerboats beginning at the same time. The Taste of Michigan City re-opens at noon with raceboat classes P1-P6 and AquaX competing from noon to 4 p.m. There is a boat parade and block party kicking off at 6 p.m. on North Franklin Street; and the Four A’s Car Club will host their vintage car show from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The ProsStock V through Class One races will take place on Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. The race village is located in Washington Park and will be open to the public Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday will also feature a charity silent auction, open for bidding from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the information tent in Race Village, with all proceeds going to the Michigan City Emergency Management Volunteers.
For more information on the races, concerts, and other race weekend events, visit greatlakesgrandprix.com.