By ELEK HUTCHINSON
Constantine, Mich. – A packed Racer School, 90 degree heat, brand spankin’ new digital clock and 100 entries all made for a great time, had by all who attended the 2012 Great Lakes Challenge in Constantine, Mich., over Father’s Day weekend. A few North American Championships (250MH, 750MH), the Race 4 Kaos and seven classes with more than eight entries made for one of the best turnouts in the country thus far.
The weekend kicked off with MHRA hosting its first racer school of the season. In just a matter of days, the school ended up tripling in size. Including our five participants from APBA and ASIS, we had two J students, three AX/A students and two 20/C Hydro students. All-in-all we had 12 graduates. Although 12 was by certain our limit to do a school in a correct manner, we certainly do not want to turn people away – perhaps next year we’ll need to schedule three classes for the season.
Action kicked off Saturday in the Junior classes, Michelle Snyder made the trip from Wisconsin to challenge the MHRA group, and succeeded, winning both days of JH. Grant Hearn ended up with a good runabout day on Saturday, taking 1st in JR and AXR. Sunday however, was a different story. It seemed Colin Smith and Hearn both had some trouble getting used to the new clock as both jumped the gun in J Runabout leading to brothers J.R. (ironic eh?) and Leland Broge taking a 1st and 2nd overall. Nick Foster showed off some speed in AXR on Sunday, with Logan Sweeney showing a steady weekend with 2nds on both days in AXR. Unfortunates in the J classes: Josh Toccalino thought it was warm enough to not go for a dip just once (AXR), but twice (AXH)… I think he was trying out the durability of his new hydro from the Sweeney camp.
The North American Championships (NACs) were run on Saturday with five 250MH’s and five 750MH’s. Tom Sutherland took the 250 plaque and Eric Vanover survived the 750MH heats for the title. With Eric leaving after the NAC race, Shawn Brill was able to take the bonus race on Sunday in 750 with Sutherland sweeping the weekend in 250.
A full field of nine BSR’s took to the water on the first day of racing with a who’s-who of runabout drivers of the Midwest and one smokin’ fast Hot Rod from the east of Darren Gallagher (furthest traveler award from New Jersey). The crowd even got to witness the prowess of Team Red’s Jesse Swain, as he narrowly missed the checkered flag to “Fast” Eddie Hearn. But Jesse was able to overcome on Sunday, proving the trip from Omro, Wisc., was well worth it.
ASH proved to be a battle of the sexes once again, or more like a battle of timing. The two boys outsmarted the three girls in the first heat by not jumping the gun. Robert Lisius and Jack Deck, both MHRA Racer School grads, finished first and second. This race was Deck’s first closed course race sin the 1950’s.
One of the closest races of the weekend had to be between Dean Sutherland and Jon Evans in CSR. Evans, in a rollup boat beat out the Finn-sponsored Sutherland with a little last turn “nudge.” Joe Pater would go on to win the race on points. On another note, another MHRA Racer School graduate, Gary Fox, made his rookie debut in CSR and 25SSR, constantly improving heat after heat.
The 20SSH Race 4 Kaos (the total points winner from the weekend wins a beautiful Bulova watch) started off as a lengthy endeavor between Joe Pater, Elek Hutchinson and Brian Trolian. After two separate wrecks in the first turn, the field went from eight boats, down to five. The first heat winner was Hutchinson’s AMSOIL boat with Pater finishing second. Prster would go on to take the second heat.
Sunday’s racing continued with the hunt for the watch as anyone’s game. A very close finish to the first heat resulted in Pater, Hutch, and Trolian, all “Smokin’” Joe needed to do was finish in the top three to seal the deal. Pater did more than that, closing out the day with two 1st’s and the first two-time winner of the Race 4 Kaos.
The most striking report of the weekend is what follows: out of 100 entries, ten had attended the MHRA Racer School or racer school programs, all in the past five years. This is a testament that racer/driver Schools work. If your club isn’t doing it, you are behind the times, and certainly are not helping your membership. The most recent to the Racer School list? The Indiana Outboard Association, due to the generosity of recently retired Gerry Muncy, 400MH will be used as racer school boats and starter rigs for new racers. We have our latest MHRA “buy it” rig: a 20/C Stock Hydro McCourtie Kraft with brand new Yamato 302 (machine work by Johnston Yamatos) available for sale to any new racer.
If you missed the Great Lakes Challenge, you missed your head start at seeing the clock that will be run at the Stock/J Nationals – it is NICE. If you or someone you know is interested in racer school, check out www.michiganhydroplane.com and fill out an interest form. There will be another school Friday, September 7, 2012 in Grass Lake, Mich. We’ll see y’all at the Nationals from July 30 to August 4 in Grass Lake. Stay tuned to our website for more details.