ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.-- St. Pete Beach will host the first Powerboat P1 race since a driver died following a collision with another boat in Jacksonville earlier this month.
- Powerboat race returns, honors driver
- Mike Salber, 57, died during race due to collision
- Second time having Powerboat P1 race in St. Pete Beach
- 2018 Power boat Superstock Championships
"He would've loved us to continue on racing here," said Azam Rangoonwala, Powerboat P1 CEO. "It's still under investigation but… it was a racing incident."
Three other racers were injured in the crash on June 2. Rangoonwala said they will honor the driver who died, Mike Salber, 56, before their first powerboat race on Saturday at 12:50 p.m.
"This weekend we are doing a tribute to him on the water," he said. "All of the boats are going to line up, we're going to shoot a flare, we're going to play some bag pipes and give a moment of silence for him."
Salber was driving the Rapid Building Solutions powerboat that turned over and collided with the Frank & Al's Pizza powerboat on the St. John's River. Salber was a world champion barefoot water skier and wanted to try his hand at powerboat racing this year, according to Rangoonwala.
"Mike was a great guy, lived on the edge, loved doing what he was doing," he said. "He used to be actually on our safety team as well… firefighter, very qualified."
The Powerboat P1 SuperStock USA Series will return to St. Pete Beach for only the second time, billed as the Grand Prix of the Gulf. Promoters want to make it an annual event. Mayor Al Johnson said the City can't buy the kind of publicity the race generates.
"It’s actually a delayed broadcast but we have a great partnership with Fox Sports Florida and Fox Sports Sun," said Rangoonwala. "It repeats throughout the summer on that channel. Globally, we have international distribution in over 150 countries. This is really a global circuit."
The event will also feature Aqua Cross, personal watercraft races where speeds can reach more than 80 mph, just like the powerboats.
“If you’re not hanging on… your neck’s back and you’re like dragging way back on the seat,” said Sea-Doo racer Christian Daly. “It’s an awesome experience and I’m really enjoying it this season.”
Powerboat P1 and Aqua Cross races will be held on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. near the beach by the Postcard Inn. The event is open to the public and is free to attend.
“They actually come in pretty close to the beach, so it’s exciting to check it out,” said Rangoonwala. “We’re hoping to see bigger crowds than last year.”