Photos: Paul Kemiel Photographics
Terry and Rob Rinker enjoyed a historic Labor Day weekend in Kankakee, Ill. The father/son outboard tunnel boat racers claimed four out of ten titles at the 26th annual Outboard Performance Craft (OPC) National Championships. The event, held on the Kankakee River, is sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association (APBA). Kankakee is prerequisite for any driver hoping for induction into the APBA’s Hall of Champions. Success here puts you in the record books forever.
Terry won SST 120, F1 and Mod U National Championships. I believe he is the first to capture three OPC National titles in one year. And to make the holiday weekend even sweeter, Terry’s son Robbie was crowned SST 60 National Champ. SST 120, Champ and Mod U classes feature Mercury V-6 race outboards. Outboard Marine Corporation Johnson and Evinrude race outboards are featured in SST 60 racing.
The Rinker’s record setting four class sweep is historic. The weather was as well. I’ve been to Kankakee a few times during my race support days. It was usually hot and muggy. Mother Nature brought a wild mix of weather this year. Extreme wind gusts were the greatest challenge for the lightweight tunnel race boats.
The SST 120 class brought the largest field with 15 boats lined up for the 30-lap final on Monday. The accident riddled race was restarted a total of five times. Race Director Adam Allen called the race with11 laps completed. Most accidents were nasty blow-overs. Thankfully, the most serious injuries were bruised egos; the boats didn’t fair so well. I feel bad for Mark Proffitt – he will be spending the Winter rebuilding his new OptiMax powered hull. Jim McGrath faired even worse, destroying two boats.
Terry’s SST 120 championship is impressive given the treacherous conditions and resulting field attrition. OptiMax 200 XS SST race outboard competitors Donny Lick and Jimmie Merleau prevailed with 2nd and 3rd place podium finishes. Kris Shepherd and John Fleming rounded out 4-5 in SST 120 competition.
Terry had a bit easier time earning his F1 class national title. He led the nine-boat field from the start – and held a 21-second lead over second place contender Shaun Torrente. Lynn Simburger, Brian Venton and Jeff Shepherd rounded out 3-5. All were powered by Mercury 2.5L EFI race outboards.
A fiercely competitive six boat field lined up for the start of Mod U, the unlimited outboard class which has featured Mercury V-6 vs OMC V-8 battles in the past.
Terry and Shaun again put on a show, this time with seven seconds separating the two as they crossed the finish line. Chris Fairchild gave it his all – dashing in and out of traffic to catch the leaders – making the podium with a respectable third place finish. Jose Mendana, Steve Lee and Brian Venton rounded out 4-6. All were powered by Mercury 2.5L EFI race outboards.