OSAGE BEACH, MO: The NGK Spark Plugs Formula 1 Powerboat Championship Series brought a weekend of action-packed powerboat racing back to the Colorado Rockies after a long, 12-year hiatus. On August 31, 2019, more than 40 boat racing teams arrived on the banks of Pelican Lakes at Water Valley in Windsor, Colorado, ready to challenge their set-up skills at making the right choices in propellers and engine fuel mixtures, to adjust for the stark contrast in elevation.
The high altitude and thin air in Windsor were unlike anything the drivers had experienced for the past three seasons on the tour. These elevation factors change the fundamental design characteristics of the tunnel boat, since this style of craft utilizes a cushion of air to create lift. Drivers spent their test sessions scrambling to find the right high-altitude combination.
“Roar of the Rockies: Reloaded” was the western-most location of the 2019 5-event NGK Spark Plugs F1 Series, which enticed several new competitors from California to make the trek. As this was the final race of the season, racers were giving it their all to rack up points for the coveted 2019 Series Points Championship as well as vying for the esteemed title of American Powerboat Association (APBA) National Champion (F1, F-Lights, Tri-Hull).
#20 Ashton Rinker of Riverview, FL, the driver at the top of the F1 class all season long, who had claimed victory with his “Rinker’s Boat World” Caniff hull at all four of the preceding series races, came to Windsor hoping to make the season a clean sweep. Only one F1 driver has ever accomplished this feat; his father, retired F1 pilot Terry Rinker.
The only competitor who had the ability to earn enough points to win the Championship chase and knock Rinker off this golden pedestal was #62 Chris Fairchild of Paw Paw, IL. Fairchild was the pilot chosen by the McCollough Racing Team to drive a revered hull that was built by the late Lynn Simburger; a tenacious F1 driver who passed away in 2016 and was very much loved. But Fairchild discovered a broken midsection on his motor just before time trials started, which prompted one of his chief competitors, #53 Greg Foster of “JCK Foster Motorsports” of Orange, CA, to generously loan him a replacement just before the boats went to the water.
And he did just that in Heat 1, B group.Foster found himself second on the start dock between pole-sitter #93 RJ West and #94 Rusty Wyatt. Foster quickly shot ahead of the pack, and lead the race, wire to wire. #94 Rusty Wyatt had been in the 2nd position, but pulled off the course after a handful of laps with a fuel delivery issue. This allowed RJ West to move into the 2nd place slot in his blue Composite Craft. But West’s points for Heats 1 and 2 would later be erased after his team discovered they would have to change powerhead before the 3rd Heat, where he placed 3rd. Rules state that this type of change (without catastrophic failure) will eliminate any points earned up to that time.That heat was won by #53 Foster with #94 Wyatt taking second.
In Heat 1, Group A, #20 Ashton Rinker, the reigning 2018 NGK F1 Series Champion, started on pole, with his cousin, #52 Chris Rinker 3rd. Sandwiched in between the Rinkers was #62 Chris Fairchild in 2nd. After some sponson rubbing, Ashton Rinker took a commanding lead, with Fairchild and Chris Rinker in 2nd and 3rd, and remained that way to the finish.
Heat 2, Group A, with drivers lined up in reverse order, #2 Tracy Hawkins took the early lead with both Rinkers hot on his tail. But mechanical issues caused him to fade, allowing #52 Chris Rinker to take the win, and cousin Ashton filling the second place slot.
#94 Wyatt was the winner of Heat 2, Group B. #2 Hawkins, a driver who came close to nailing the Championship back in 2018, has endured a multitude of racing misfortunes in 2019, but finally caught a win in Heat 3, Group A.
With 17 very fast boats in the Final, fans were on the edge of their seats knowing that there would be plenty of excitement on the small course when the starter’s flag dropped. Foster was on the pole, followed by Ashton Rinker and Fairchild. Fast Rookie #17 Dylan Anderson had a stellar round of heats throughout the weekend, finishing in the top 4 of each outing, and earned the 6th starting spot on the dock.
When the flag dropped, and the first flight of boats began to enter the first turn, spectators could see a huge splash and knew immediately that one of the boats had gone over, which brought out the red flag. The blue Yamaha powered Seebold hull of Dylan Anderson had rolled completely, and was sitting right side up. Anderson relayed that when he removed his radio connection, he heard his mother on the other end say, “Was that Dylan?” The 22-year-old Anderson then came back on the radio to reassure his mother with, “It’s me,” giving his mother some relief that he was ok.
The remaining 16 boats lined back up on the dock for the restart. #20 Rinker took the lead with hard-charging #53 Foster and #62 Fairchild in hot pursuit. But around lap 10, #99 Travis Yates barrel rolled and the race was stopped once again. Yates, who had been injured in a terrible crash at the first race of the season, reported no injuries this time, and thankfully, was ok.
For the next restart, boats were lined up on the course in a rolling restart formation - 2 boats per row. The top three boats; #20 Rinker, #53 Foster and #62 Fairchild remained in those positions all the way to the checkered flag, resulting in Ashton Rinker becoming a two-time NGK Spark Plugs F1 Powerboat Champion.
The newly crowned Champion and 5-time race winner Ashton Rinker relished his fantastic year, “The weekend was great. We won the qualifying and time trials. Got a 1st and 2nd in the first 2 heats. In the 3rd heat, I had a little trouble out there when I got pushed a little wide, but we finished 4th. We knew we were 2nd on the dock, and we’ve been firing off the dock really well all year long, so we were pretty confident coming into the Final. And in the end, we made it on top of the podium. And It’s all because of Rinker’s Boat World.”
Foster was very satisfied with his 2nd place finish in his new Hoffman race boat in only its second race. “My boat is awesome. We just need to dial the motor and props in a little better. I had nothing for Ashton after the start. But it runs fast and our boat is catching up -- its doing good. You know, it’s new -- this is the second race. We will just keep plugging away. You know me, I don’t quit.”
When asked about the many mechanical and repair struggles he endured over the weekend, 3rd place finisher Chris Fairchild said, “We started out with a broken mid section. Then a bad ignition system. Then the boat came apart and we had to fix the glue line. We got all that stuff fixed and we finally ran good, and I connected with both Rinkers. So [crewman Mike Farmer] had to fix the boat again. And yet, in the final, we did ok! If you’re not forced to earn it, it’s not really worth earning, right?”
Then Fairchild added, “We had a good season. McCollough Race Team was phenomenal. It was a pleasure to drive for them. Sponsors were Michelob Ultra and Lottery.com came on board for a couple of races. We always fly the Mercury flag, because they are always there supporting everything we do with parts and pieces and gear cases - and now with that mid-section that we have to go buy, so we can give Foster’s back.”
The biggest highlight of the weekend was seeing the return of former F1 driver, John Jensen, of Windsor, CO taking the wheel of a race boat after a gap of 16 years. Jensen, who suffered serious, paralyzing injuries in a racing accident 2003, gave a very strong performance during the heat races to the throngs of loudly cheering fans along the shoreline.
The near-total domination of the F1 class by one boat all season prompted a more thorough and rigorous inspection of Ashton Rinker’s #20 by the NGK F1 Series technical staff, a process to ensure that a level playing field is maintained for all competitors involved. At the conclusion, Ashton Rinker was found to be legal and in compliance with all technical specifications and rules, and he was declared winner, as well as the APBA National Champion and as the newly crowned 2019 NGK Spark Plugs Formula 1 Series Champion.
Windsor Formula 1 Final Results
1st Ashton Rinker #20
18th John Jensen #29
The smaller version of the F1 tunnels -- the Formula Lights class -- had a field of 9 boats, but produced some of the closest racing action of the weekend when #35 Mark Schmerbauch of Wisconsin, #10 Jason Williams of California, and #42 Hans McCauley of Austria battled neck and neck all weekend long, with McCauley winning heat #2. Schmerbauch, who had won the first two events of the series, wasn’t as lucky at the third event in Springfield, OH, and came up short with a disappointing 4th.
But Schmerbauch’s driving skills were put to the test at Windsor, and the beautiful #35 -- which is said to be the last boat that will ever be built by legendary boat builder, Gary Pugh -- won 2 of the 3 heat races, and went on to win the exciting F-Lights Final.
Schmerbauch explained after the victory, which also gave him the APBA Formula Lights (SST45) National Championship title, “We did a lot of work, from Springfield to now. We set aside three whole days to work on boat, motor, set-up -- everything. Because this was a new animal -- it’s never been to Colorado. So we thought well, we’re going to have to do a lot of work. And we did.”
1st Mark Schmerbauch #35
Colorado fans were in for a treat as they had never before personally witnessed the wild and high flying Tri Hull racers. The fleet of 9 raucous boats didn’t disappoint fans, with #52 “Scary Jerry” Rinker always near the front and taking the win in Heat 3 and the Final. Heat winners for the weekend included the sole female driver, #9 Whittney Fletcher -- who gave Jerry Rinker a new nickname after her win, to “Jerry not so Scary” Rinker. #33 John Ottinger took the win in Heat 2, and late arriving, #1 Cory Walker, who missed Saturday’s heats, won Heat 4 on Sunday.
76-year-old Rinker, who works out in the gym every week day to be able to keep racing and winning, explained the action in the Final. “I thought [Walker] was making a run at me and I kept looking for him, and I kept looking for Whittney. I’m going, “Where is everybody? This is too easy!” Of course, it’s not easy because it’s so darned rough. And you gotta stay on it in case something happens! But it was an awesome race. An awesome place to race. I think all of us had a great time here. And I hope we get to come back.”
A local celebrity was also in the field; #29 Jared Jensen of Windsor (the son of F1 pilot John Jensen who, along with his wife Amie, were instrumental in bringing boat racing back to Water Valley). Jared Jensen surprised the fans as well as the entire circuit - as he battled his way all the way up to a prestigious 4th place in the Final in his first Tri Hull race ever.
Windsor Tri Hull Final Results
1st Jerry Rinker #52
5th Dustin Terry #6
11th Devyn Brown #99
Junior racers were also a big part of “Road of the Rockies: Reloaded”, and put on a real show. Driving the #17-K was Alden Merrill of Kentucky who grew up watching the Madison Regatta and says that’s how he became enamored with boat racing. Merrill, who also drives in the F-Lights class, was poised to win every J Hydro heat, but contact with a buoy in Heat 3 pitched his hydro over and upside down directly in front of the fans.
Merrill dried off and made a comeback, winning the Final ahead of 2nd place #24 Jack Schubert, 3rd place #28 Shane Butler and 4th place #C-24 Shelby Love.
Jun 28-29: Toledo, OH - F1
*APBA F1 North American Championships
*APBA F-Light (SST45) North American Championships
*APBA Tri Hull North American Championships
Aug 31-Sep 1: Windsor, CO - F1, F-Light, J-Hydro
*APBA F1 National Championships
*APBA F-Light (SST45) National Championships
Airs: Sunday, September 22, 2019 5:30 PM ET
FINAL POINT STANDINGS
2019 NGK F1 SPARK PLUG POWERBOAT CHAMPIONSFormula 1
1. Ashton Rinker
2. Chris Fairchild
3. Rusty WyattFormula Lights
1. Mark Schmerbauch
2. Grant Schubert
3. Jose Mendana, Jr.
1. Cory Walker
2. John Ottinger
3. Jerry Rinker
1. Shane Butler
2. Jack Schubert
3. Alden Merrill
(To view the complete 2019 points standings of all competitors in each class, see http://www.ngkf1.com/2019-f1-stats/ and click the tab for “Drivers”)
Greenlight TV has filmed the NGK Spark Plugs F1 Powerboat Championship racing action all season long, producing a 30-minute show of each event airing on CBS Sports Network. “Roar of the Rockies” from Windsor, CO will air Sunday, September 22, 2019 5:30 PM ET.
If you missed any of the airings, you can still catch the shows on Motor Trend On Demand for a minimal fee. In 2018, CBS Sports Network television coverage reached 2.7 billion households with 45 airings of the 6 episodes (a 225% increase over 2017, and a 420% increase worldwide to 9 billion households). To view the shows on-demand, visit: https://www.motortrendondemand.com/show/us-f1-powerboats-championship-/73231972/ .
Live-Streamed racing action was filmed by Greenlight TV and shown Live on NGK F1’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NGKF1PowerboatChampionship . Find additional information on the NGK Spark Plugs Powerboat Championship on our website, www.NGKF1PowerboatChampionship.com .
The NGK Spark Plugs Formula 1 Powerboat Championship is grateful to have the strong commitment of title sponsor, NGK Spark Plugs - The Ignition Specialist. Since 1936, NGK Spark Plugs has been the world leader in technology, innovation, and world-class quality in the design of spark plugs and oxygen sensors. Today, NGK manufactures NGK Spark Plugs and NTK Oxygen Sensors for virtually every automotive manufacturer in the world.
NGK has built a reputation for quality and reliability, and a commitment to excellence continues to be the driving force behind the company’s advanced research and development programs. In North America, NGK is headquartered in Wixom, MI and maintains manufacturing, inventory, and distribution facilities in Irvine, CA, Sissonville, WV, and Chicago, IL.
For more information about NGK Spark Plugs, (U.S.A), Inc., please visit our website www.ngksparkplugs.com .
Get more information on the exciting NGK Spark Plugs F1 Powerboat Championship by visiting and following NGK F1 Powerboat Championship on Facebook.
Source: NGK F1 Powerboat Championship