Photos: Paul Kemiel Photographics
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).
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 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.
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.