Photos: Paul Kemiel Photographics
Terry Rinker swept three of 10 classes at the 27th annual Outboard Performance Craft (OPC) National Championships. The event, held on the Kankakee River, is sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association (APBA).
Terry repeated his 2011 performance by claiming both SST 120 and F1 OPC National Championships. He also claimed the new SST 200 OPC National Championship. The defending Mod U champ surrendered that title to Chris Fairchild.
A total 10 boats lined up for start of the SST 120 30-lap final on Sunday. Terry Rinker dominated the event, finishing an impressive 36 seconds ahead of Brent Dillard for the championship. Lee Daniel, Mark Jakob and Terry’s son Ashton rounded out 3-5. All were powered by Mercury SST 120 race outboards.
Chris Fairchild earned the pole for the F1 20-lap final. Unfortunately, mechanical gremlins took him out of the race about mid way through. “A steering cable broke at the drum at 115 mph. The boat took a hard left to the infield. The G-forces were so great, the tail cone was sucked inside the combing board,” Chris said. Thankfully, Chris was unscathed. Terry Rinker went on to romp this class too, finishing 34 seconds ahead of Mark Welch for his second consecutive F1 National Championship. Jeff Shepherd finished third. OptiMax 200XS SST powered Merv Bjork and Donny Lick rounded out 4-5 in a class featuring purpose built Mercury race outboards of much greater power.
Terry switched back from his Mercury F1 powered Lee hull to the SST 120 powered Caniff to earn the SST 200 pole after competing in two 10-lap qualifying races Sunday. He was the only competitor to run a carburetted Mercury SST 120 race outboard in a class designed to feature the Mercury’s OptiMax direct fuel injected, low-emissions 2-stroke technology. According to APBA rules, the OptiMax 200XS SST is no longer a legal SST 120 motor as SST 120 competitors felt it was too powerful for the class. A SST 120, which is legal in SST 200 competition, took the SST 200 national championship. Terry started on the pole and lead the 30-lap race from start-to-finish. OptiMax powered Mark Profitt placed second, 11 seconds behind Terry. OptiMax competitors Merv Bjork, Donny Lick and Ruben Ascencio rounded out 3-5.
“It’s always good to win in Kankakee. Some people never get a chance to win a national championship.” said Terry. “Team AMSOIL worked hard all weekend. I personally logged 212 race laps. The team put in over 300. [Defending SST 60 Champ Rob Rinker, Terry's son, placed second in the class this year]. I could not have done any of this without the support of the people behind me,” Terry said.
Formula 150 is an all inclusive class with rules that allow modifications dependent upon engine displacement. This opens the class up to all shapes and sizes of engines. However, the power of choice is a carburetted 2.5 liter Mercury, based on the Pro Max 225 EFI. Veteran F1 competitor Lynn Simburger was crowned Formula 150 Champion after winning the 15-lap final. Terry Rinker, Merv Bjork, Jeff Shepherd and Donny Lick rounded out 2-5. “What makes me proud is that I really didn’t want to go. I destroyed my F1 boat in Seattle at the Formula 1 P.R.O.P. tour race. My dad Harold, who is 87, really wanted me to go,” said Lynn. “He helped me rig my 2006 Seebold. We converted the former F1 boat for 150 class competition. We built a carb 2.5 liter Merc for the class as well. I’m glad I listened to my dad,” Lynn concluded.
Chris Fairchild earned the Mod U pole position in qualifying heat racing on Sunday. Chris went on to dominate the 10-lap final on Monday with Terry Rinker, Buce Washburn, Mark Welch and Terry’s son Ashton rounding out 2-5. All were powered by highly modified Mercury outboards. Chris said, “I would like to thank each and every person at Mercury Racing for supplying us the parts and pieces, tools and knowledge needed to continue to win championships – race after race – year after year.”
The Great Lakes Boat Club and the Kankakee River Valley Regatta thanked Mercury for producing the widest range of engine sizes and power to compete at the OPC Nationals. In fact, Erin Pittman, daughter of former SST 120 driver Paul Pittman won both J hydro and AX hydro competitions with her 15 h.p. Mercury outboard.
Congratulations, Erin! Welcome to the wonderful sport of powerboat racing. Ashton, you too are breath of fresh air for a sport in dire need of a new generation of competitors. We encourage Erin and Ashton to continue to hone their skills. We hope others will notice and join them for some friendly competition on the water. Thank you to all competitors who placed Mercury on the podium in their respective classes.