Powerboat racing returns to Jacksonville this weekend

Engines revving up for P1 Jacksonville Grand Prix on Saturday

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Powerboats will take over the St. Johns River this weekend for the 2018 P1 Jacksonville Grand Prix.

This will be the fifth year the race comes to the River City. But with damaged docks and debris being a safety concern following two recent hurricanes and other storms, crews members have been working to make sure the course is safe ahead of Saturday's race. 

Seven powerboats will race along the river, with speeds averaging 70 mph. 

George Ivey, the driver of the Visit Jacksonville P1 Powerboat, and his crew of family members are all natives of Jacksonville. They will compete for the Grand Prix title. 

"It's such close racing that you're really not letting off the throttle. You're wide open from start to finish, whether you're turning or going straight.," Ivey said. "That's what makes it exciting."

Alongside Ivey will be his navigator, keeping him on course. News4Jax jumped on board Tuesday ahead of the powerboat race.

The ride was intense. 

Ivey said Jacksonville is the perfect venue for the race because of the river that cuts right through the city.

"Great for the spectators," he said. "We're close to the shore, so you can see the whole race and it's tight racing the whole way."

Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, as well as recent storms, brought some safety concerns. Damaged docks line the river and debris could pose a danger. Race organizers said they are vigilant. 

"We have our safety boats go out and pick it up on the race course," said Azam Rangoonwala, CEO of Powerboat P1. "We have a helicopter that flies throughout the race and it's not only for debris or safety, it's also for marine mammal observation."

The event is just one of a series of races, many of which will be televised for millions of viewers, that Ivey and his team will compete in. Although he enjoys being out on the water, Ivey said, the events also give Jacksonville exposure around the world.

The public can see the boats in action at 10 a.m. Saturday. The event at Memorial Park is free.

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