Photos:Paul Kemiel Photographics
I first learned Chris Fairchild won the 2011 SST 120 UIM/APBA World Championship Sunday, July 24, in a voice mail from my photographer buddy, Paul Kemiel. The championship consists of four heats of racing at the PNC Trenton Roar on the River outboard tunnel boat race, an annual event that takes place on the Detroit River in Trenton, Michigan. Chris won the event with an OptiMax 200XS SST race outboard, defeating a field of 15 boats, including defending SST 120 World Champion and fellow OptiMax competitor Jimmie Merleau.
Chris called me Monday. With a summer cold, he didn’t sound like a recently crowned champion. It was a while into our conversation before the topic of his accomplishment even came up – after a prompt from me.
“How was Trenton?”
“Ok. We had nine SST 120s and six Optis.”
Chris is so humble – It was like pulling teeth getting him to acknowledge the championship. He was more excited about the fact that five of the top six boats were powered by OptiMax. He was equally excited about driver Jim McGrath. It seems two powerhead failures and a weekend of frustration convinced the fierce competitor to switch from the antiquated SST 120 to the modern, low-emissions OptiMax (for those interested – at the date of this post – we have four complete OptiMax 200XS SST race outboards in stock).
Terry Rinker and Chris had mirror image performances in the four heats of racing. Terry runs a purpose-built Mercury SST 120 race outboard. Chris won the first and third heats. Terry won heats two and four. This proves the performance of the two engines is similar; it is a combination of driver skill, engine set-up and a little luck that adds up to true championship performance.
Chris came out on top with the greatest number of points to earn the championship. Terry placed second overall. OptiMax competitors Mark Jacob, Donny Lick, Jimmie Merleau, and Dan Orchard swept 2-6, respectively. Jeff Reno, with Mercury SST120 power, placed seventh. Rookie driver Merv Bjork rounded out the OptiMax contenders, finishing eighth overall.
Visit the 2011 Formula One P.R.O.P. Tour website for complete results.