The past, present and future of tunnel boat racing was on display at the Lake Havasu Classic Outboard Championships, Oct. 15-17, in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. A historic venue at the peak of tunnel boat racing popularity in the 1970s, Lake Havasu hosted it first circuit racing event in 20 years as racers from across the country contested the final rounds of the 2021 NGK Spark Plugs Formula 1 Powerboat Series and crowned 2021 American Powerboat Association (APBA) North American champions. The event also included a reunion of racers from the classic era of tunnel boat racing, and a display of the new Mercury Racing new Mercury Racing 200 APX competition outboard, a 3.4-liter V6 four-stroke model designed for UIM F2 and APBA OPC tunnel boat racing.
“It was a great weekend that combined a celebration of the history of tunnel boat racing, the excitement of the current race series, and a look at the Mercury Racing 200 APX, a motor that represents the future of the sport,” said Mercury Racing General Manager Stuart Halley. “I really enjoyed walking the pits and talking to racers about their outlook for the sport and how it can be supported by Mercury Racing.”
Rated at more than 200 horsepower, the Mercury Racing 200 APX outboard offers Formula 1 tunnel boat racers a very durable powerhead and the latest in four-stroke engine technology, while reducing exhaust emissions by 90 percent compared to the Mercury Racing 200 SX two-stroke outboard currently in use in these classes, which is no longer in production.
The weekend of racing coincided with the month-long 50th anniversary celebration of the placement of London Bridge over the lake’s Bridgewater Channel. Lake Havasu City was founded in 1963 by entrepreneur Robert McCulloch, who was active in oil and gas exploration and founded McCulloch Motors Corporation to manufacture chain saws and outboard motors. He first came to Lake Havasu to test his outboards. To spur the growth of the city, in 1964 McCulloch opened a chainsaw manufacturing plant there, and also organized the first powerboat race on the lake to promote Lake Havasu City. By the 1970s tunnel boat endurance racing was an annual event attracting more then 100 entries. Always a promoter, McCulloch purchased London Bridge and had it dismantled and rebuilt in Lake Havasu City as another attraction, a project that was completed in 1971.
To help celebrate the return of powerboat racing to Lake Havasu, Mercury Racing sponsored a reunion of racers and those associated with the classic era of racing. The reunion was hosted by former Mercury Factory Team racer and champion Bill Seebold. The long list of attendees includes Benny Robertson Sr. and Benny Robertson Jr., Jim Booe, Jason and Rusty Campbell, Rich Stewart and Quentin Ciccone of Team Hawaii fame, Ken Davis, Steve DeSouza, former Mercury Hi-Performance manager Mike Butler, Ken Fountleroy of Lifeline Safety, Jimbo McConnell, Ted Jones, Bob Schubert, Bob Larson, Chad Lee, Jimmy Lloyd, Pat Murphy, Bob Holloway, Greg Foster, Mark Rotharmel, Lee Sutter, Duke Waldrop, Rick Welch, Craig and Scott Wendt and Kenny Youngblood.
Vintage racing memorabilia and equipment including a collection of classic Mercury Racing outboard motors was displayed at a Beach Party event sponsored by Kicker Audio.
The double-header weekend of racing included two programs for the premier Formula 1 class. Brent Dillard of Dillard Racing won the F1 race on Saturday, while Spencer Love of Clover Construction Racing was the Sunday winner, which also earned him the title of APBA North American Champion. Terry Rinker of Phase III Performance secured the 2021 NGK Spark Plugs Formula 1 Powerboat Series championship. Mercury Racing outboards powered each of the Formula 1 class winners.