Photos: Paul Kemiel Photographics
“It was great to win a race in my home state,” said Terry Rinker. “I had family, friends and even former classmates cheering me on,” Terry said. Contributing Mercury Racing photographer Paul Kemiel, who lives in Michigan City, Indiana, was instrumental in bringing the excitement of outboard tunnel boat racing to LaPorte. “I’ve been involved with promoting the SBI Great Lakes Grand Prix since its inception,” said Paul. “Jason Miller, Sports Development Manager for the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau, asked for my input regarding other types of powerboat racing they could bring to the area. I told them Stone Lake was a natural for F1 tunnel boats,” Paul said.
US Formula 1 Powerboat Tour President Jose Mendana worked with race organizer Jason Miller to put on the event. “The community was very excited. The amount of people who showed up for the boat parade and street party was incredible,” said Jose.
“LaPorte was phenomenal. Crowds of people were constantly by the boats asking for autographs,” said Tammy Wolf. “It was the most phenomenal North American race I’ve been to in some time,” Tammy said.
Tammy went to LaPorte to continue testing of her new Mercury OptiMax 200 XS SST race outboard powered F2 ride. She knew she wouldn’t be competitive with the higher horsepower F1 boats. “I thought I was fast until the first F1 boat blew past me! I still have my training wheels on, I’m giving the boys headaches,” said Tammy. “I don’t think they are used to girl drivers. I thought I would be one of the guys…they don’t seem to quite know what to do with me,” Tammy said. “Chris Fairchild took me under his wing and let me pit with him for the weekend,”said Tammy. “Tammy is doing great. She is still learning the differences between SST60 and F2. I thought she adapted well to the right-hand turn in LaPorte,” said Chris.
Terry Rinker won the first heat race Saturday in his Mercury powered AMSOIL hull. Chris, Tim Seebold, Jeff Shepherd and Lynn Simburger rounded out 2-5. Things would get interesting Sunday in the second and third qualifying heats. Heat two got off with a bang when Mark Welch and Jeff Shepherd got together. Welch went swimming but his boat was salvageable. Jeff wasn’t as fortunate. His steering was damaged beyond repair, forcing him to the trailer for the remainder of the weekend. A battle ensued on the restart between Tim Seebold, Chris, Jose and Carlos Mendana.
“On lap seven, we were bunched up. I had to make a split second decision; hit the boat next to me [Mike Beegle], or turn away and risk barrel rolling. I chose the latter.” said Chris.” Canadian Brian Venton went on to win the heat with brothers Carlos and Jose Mendana placing 2-3 and Tim Seebold in fourth.
SST 45s ran a heat race for a 20-minute period prior to the third F1 qualifying heat. “My crew scrambled to get the boat running again. We flushed out the electrical switches, replaced the engine starter, ECU and cowl. The engine fired and was ready to race,”Chris said. All of their hard work paid off. Chris started sixth on the dock and won the heat, with Terry in second and Tim in third.
The 30-lap final was reduced down to a 12-lap dash due to a 5:00 p.m. time constraint on the DNR permit. Terry was on the pole with Tim in second and Chris in third. Terry and Chris beat Tim to the first turn. It was Terry and Chris until lap seven when the electrical gremlins from his heat two crash came back to haunt Chris. Water reached the rollover switch, causing Chris’s engine to shut down. Terry went on to win the 12-lap final with Tim placing second. Carlos Mendana placed third; his first podium finish in F1 competition. Brian Venton and Jose Mendana Jr. rounded out 4-5.
Terry Rinker leads the Formula 1 points chase with two races completed. Brian Venton, Tim Seebold, Carlos and Jose Mendana Jr. round out the top five in the points chase. Round three of the US Formula 1 Powerboat Tour is the 26th Annual Bay City River Roar, June 21-23, in Bay City, Michigan.