“That boat was a rocket sled!” said Reggie Fountain about his first boat with Team Mercury.
Reggie began racing in 1954. He was 14. He started in B class hydros and runabouts. When I asked about engines, “I’ve always used nothing but Mercury’s….My first race engine was a Super 10 Hurricane with Quincy straight pipes. They were very loud. The hydro ran 60-70 mph which was pretty fast back then,” said Reggie.
Reggie claims the first thing he wanted after law school was to race. He bought a tunnel boat in 1968. “It was a twin-engine, 21-foot Glastron…I did pretty well at local races. You could tell the difference between independent boats like mine and the ones from the factories,” said Reggie. “My boat weighed 775-780 lbs, less driver. Joe Felder [on Glastron’s factory team] had an identical rig – but much lighter at 515 lbs.” Reggie saw the advantage of factory support and the need to build a factory network.
Joe Felder destroyed his Glastron in a crash at Havasu. So Glastron declared Reggie as their new factory driver. Reggie continued to network, becoming friends with Team Mercury driver Jim Mertin Sr. “Jim would supply…worn-out Mercury factory engines. My boat ran better…than it did with the Mercury’s supplied by Glastron.”
Mercury and Outboard Marine (OMC) agreed in 1971 to switch from twin- to single-engine racing to reduce expenses. “Gary [Garbrecht] called me and said, ‘You’re going to be our secret factory team boat. We’ll get you better engines.'” Reggie explained this was Gary’s way of keeping a hot, twin-engine rig on the course. This time, Glastron supplied Reggie with a new, lightweight boat.
“That boat with the Mertin/Garbrecht [Mercury] engines went like hell! I raced it 23 times and won every race except one. I lost the Washington, [NC] race by a lap. I ran out of gas 400 yards from the finish. I paddled to 2nd place.” said Reggie. With this success, he was finally invited to meet Gary Garbrecht in person. He would continue as the “undercover, twin-engine, factory team boat.” Reggie summarized his twin-engine racing days by saying, “I could out run Billy [Seebold] with twins; he’s tough to beat with a single.”
“I had a great deal with the Team. I didn’t care about a salary or full time deal like Billy or Earl [Bentz]. I had my apartments and law degree, so I didn’t rely solely on the team for income or security. They provided boats and equipment….I would run the factory boats at small backyard races. I always won,” Reggie said.
The Spirit of ’76
“The 1976 World Championship in St. Louis was the most memorable race for me. Renato Molinari…ran brand new Molinari hulls. By now, Billy was building his own boat….We were running methanol in the engines back then. OMC ran aviation fuel with nitrous.
Reggie said, “Garbrecht would dictate who won each event. He directed traffic to ensure his pick won. If one crashed – the others would split it up. The boats were close in performance. If it wasn’t [sic] for Gary’s manipulation, Billy would have won all the time. ”
“For the ’76 World Championships….Grabrecht came to me and said, ‘You’re going to win this race. Don’t worry about your engine. It’s good. Don’t worry about the other team members. Just drive.’….I definitely had an advantage that day,” said Reggie.
Reggie recalled, “An OMC driver…tried a bit too much nitrous on the start of the first heat, blowing the powerhead sky high! My boat was a rocket sled! I had a good quarter-lap lead to win the heat. We put our boats on the trailers and headed back to the pits. Jack Leek, the director of OMC’s factory team….was trying to get into Mercury truck! He first began to argue about our running methanol. (There were no rules regarding fuels – so both methanol and [aviation] gas with nitrous were legal.) He then accused us of changing powerheads between heats. You could repair powerheads – but you could not change them. I was in the trailer…I stayed there until Gary asked me to step outside. He reassured me they would take care of me.”
The Team guys worked their magic and Reggie’s “rocket sled” easily won Heat 2. His luck turned when his engine finally ran out of steam. He ended up third for Heat 3. The Team, with Reggie’s two firsts and a third, dominated the event. With the powerhead controversy continuing throughout the afternoon, Garbrecht pulled the team, cancelling the final heat. Reggie won the World Championship on points.
Reggie concluded, “I learned a lot during my time with Team Mercury: I learned you can never test enough. We tested a lot. That was the reason we were tough to beat and why we went undefeated for five years! Seebold was the best. He was the most enduring – most steady….no one was like Billy.”