OptiMax Roars in Bay City; Rinker Wins F1

Photos: Paul Kemiel Photographics

Opti Early Adopter David McCormick proudly waves the checkered flag to the spectators.
Donny Lick captures his first Bay City victory in this OptiMax powered Lee hull.

Mercury OptiMax powered boats swept the Formula 2 competition at the 25th annual Dow Bay City River Roar Sunday, June 24. A total of 13 boats lined up for the 30-lap final on the Saginaw River in Bay City, Michigan. The race was round two of the 2012 Formula One P.R.O.P. Tour.

David McCormick, crew chief for F2 winner Donny Lick gave me a play-by-play of their victorious weekend. “Chris Fairchild won the first of two qualifying heats, with Donny in second. We changed props and it was all Donny – flag-to-flag- in heat 2,” exclaimed David. Fellow OptiMax competitors Jimmie Merleau and Chris Fairchild rounded out 2-3. Donny got the pole position for Sunday’s 30-lap final – with Chris, Jimmie, Dan Orchard and Merv Bjork rounding out the top five- all with OptiMax 200s,” said David. Ruban Ascencio was the lone OptiMax driver in the remaining field along with four traditional Mercury SST 120 outboard powered boats and two F1 Sport entries (featuring carburetted 2.5 Liter Mercury outboards).

A total of six OptiMax powered boats competed in the 30-lap F2 final.
2012 Dow Bay City River Roar F2 Champion Donny Lick.

Donny lead the 30-lap final from the start with Chris Fairchild in hot pursuit. As the race wore on, traffic began to build. Donny got blocked by traffic on lap 28. Chris made a move and was successful in getting around Donny for the lead. His lead was brief, as by lap 29, he too was blocked and Donny regained the lead to capture the checkered flag. Chris, Jimmie, Merv and Dan rounded out 2-5. Chris summed up the event by saying,  “Donny ran a good race. It was great to see the Optis finish strong.”

“It was just a fantastic weekend. This was my first major series win since I got into tunnel boat racing in 2000. And I just realized it was Donny’s first major F2 victory since he started back in 2006,” said David.

I had asked Donny if he had ever run in Bay City before. He rattled off the different years and blown powerheads or broken equipment that went along with them. “Thank you Mercury Racing for developing such an awesome motor. This thing just keeps running and running – we don’t really have to do anything to it. It’s much easier to run and maintain than the 120s. It’s certainly more economical; in both fuel usage and cost of ownership,” Donny said.

David McCormick was one of the early adopters of the OptiMax race engine. “We first ran the Optis three years ago. It’s been a learning curve for us. It’s taken this long for the racing community to accept it. I think the results here prove it is a viable engine. We’re excited for our next major race, the Three Rivers Regatta, July 3-4, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” David concluded.

 F1 in Black& White

Terry Rinker airs it out over Saginaw to capture his fourth Bay City victory.
Terry Rinker clinches his fourth Bay City River Roar victory.

Terry Rinker of Tampa, Florida dusted off his 2005 Lee tunnel boat to win the F1 competition. The field of 12 had a surprise entry with the return of veteran tunnel boat ace Tim Seebold. This was Tim’s first powerboat race in almost two years. I believe this was the first time in history a Seebold qualified for a race in an engine other than black in color and a boat that was not of their own design. Tim qualified in a V-6 Johnson powered DAC hull. A blown powerhead forced him to start last on the dock in a backup Johnson powered Seebold for the 50-lap final. His father Bill Seebold was on the radios.

Lynn Simburger #72 running with Tim Seebold in the 50-lap F1 final.

I asked Terry what it was like to see Tim compete with Johnson power. “It was good to see Tim back. He’s a tough competitor, no matter what he’s driving. Chris [Fairchild] is always tough to beat as well.” Chris had similar words to say. “Terry ran a great race. I finished seven seconds behind him and 12 seconds ahead of Tim in his 3.0 Liter Johnson. I’m happy with that – given I run stock 2.5 Liter Mercury power,” Chris said. Seebold, Brian Venton and Steve Lee rounded out 3-5. All, with the exception of Seebold, were powered by Mercury 2.5 EFI race outboards.

This was Terry’s fourth Bay City victory – the last was back in 2006. “Bay City is always tough. Its just a rough race – you never know what the next lap will bring,” Terry said.

The next round for the Formula One P.R.O.P. Tour is the Roar on the River, July 20-22, Trenton Michigan.
















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Virtual Tour – Part 3: Outboard Production

Continuing from Virtual Tour – Part 2: Quality, Paint, and Quad Cam Production…we will follow the assembly of a Mercury Racing OptiMax 300XS outboard.

2-Cycle Outboards

Gary Aman lowers a 300XS powerhead into position for final engine assembly.
Mike Riedi has over 30 years experience handcrafting high performance gearcases.

Consumer, government and race outboards, featuring Mercury’s low-emissions, direct fuel injected 2-stroke OptiMax powerheads, are assembled at Mercury Racing’s factory in Taycheedah, Wisconsin. Consumer models include the 3.0 Liter OptiMax 250 SportXS and the 3.2 Liter OptiMax 300XS outboards. Watch for a future post on the OptiMax JP, an outboard we build for the government.

The competition outboards produced in Mercury Racing’s factory include our 2.5 Liter OptiMax 200XS SST (Super Stock Tunnel) and 2.5 Liter OptiMax 200XS ROS (Race Offshore). However, Racing’s four strokes — the 60 EFI FormulaRace and the Verado 350 SCi — while designed and validated here, are built off-site at other Mercury facilities in order to share common (and expensive to replicate) production processes.

OptiMax 300XS powerheads await their turn on the dyno.
Mike Hammer inspects each cylinder with a bore scope camera.

OptiMax powerheads are manufactured complete, to Racing’s specifications, at Mercury Marine’s headquarters campus — home to Mercury OptiMax outboard production in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Upon their arrival at Mercury Racing, a powerhead’s first stop is one of our 2-cycle dynamometers. Upon completing a power run, they move to Racing’s 2-cycle department. There, technicians inspect the cylinders, to ensure proper wear patterns, prior to final outboard assembly. Meanwhile, another technician is working his magic: handcrafting a gearcase that will efficiently transfer 300 h.p. to the water. Read more

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Virtual Tour – Part 2: QC, Paint & QC4v

Continuing from Virtual Tour – Part 1: Intro.… we will visit Mercury Racing’s Quality Control and Paint Line.  We’ll end up in the 4-Cycle Race Shop where technicians build our exclusive quad-cam, four valve sterndrive engine family. Lets go!

Quality Control

Quality Control plays a critical support role in Racing's manufacturing processes.
The automated Coordinate Measurement Machine is the newest addition to our Quality Control room.

Wherever we can, quality control (the discipline) is built into our production processes. Got to build it in; can’t inspect it in. Quality Control (the department) supports these quality processes (trust but verify) — and measures tolerance’s on everything from machined castings, gears, cylinder bores, pistons, crankshafts and anything else used in the production of Mercury Racing products. QC also plays a critical role in the in-house prototype development of new products. This place was buzzing with activity during the development of the QC4v sterndrive engine platform because so much was new — suppliers, parts and processes. Read more

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Three Months Out: a 565 Update!

It’s been a few months since the Miami introduction of Mercury Racing’s 565 horsepower, 8.7 liter engine. I thought I’d check in with the “early adopters” for their impressions. I suspected I would be pleased; I was right.

The universal highlights:

Hustler 344 Cheetah "burns nothin!" with 565's. Photo courtesy of Hustler Powerboats.
Mercury Racing ZeroEffort Digital controls perfectly compliment this very tasteful helm. Photo courtesy of Cigarette Racing.

1)   exceptional top end performance,

2)   unexpectedly good fuel economy!

3)   seductively smooth shift and throttle and

4)   amazing time-to-plane and mid-range acceleration!



Nordic's 24SX catamaran tops 100 mph with a single Mercury Racing 565. Photo by Robert Brown, courtesy of Sportboat Magazine.

Top End. Nordic’s new 24SX catamaran, with a single 565, is routinely “over the 100 mph mark,” according to Nordic GM, Kevin Doane. Cigarette’s 38 Top Gun 90+ MPH runs, well… 90+! “Really, it’s 90++!” says Skip Braver. “It shifts like it has 1350’s,” he continued. Nor-Tech’s 420 Monte Carlo “tops 86 mph” in the words of Scott Conrad. Formula’s Miami show boat, 400 FX Super Sport, is running 63 mph for its owner (2 people, full of fuel and water). Whatever your boating preference, that is excellent performance from these engines in a wide range of boat types.

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