When the Offshore Powerboat Association rolled into town for the St. Clair River Classic, the Michigan race came upon a milestone—one admired by many but accomplished by few. The event celebrated its 21st anniversary and, as Bob Currier of Race Control said during the drivers’ meeting, “can now enjoy an adult beverage.” What makes the event special is that it’s so much more than a boat race. Don’t get me wrong, the boat races are the main event but there is a lot more to take in during the weekend.
The town shuts down Main Street, lines it with vendors at one end and race boats at the other. Then there are the concerts that take place on Friday and Saturday night with bands such as Starship and Candlebox. It really is a carnival with a boat race. Sunday is the big day with racing starting at noon and fans lining the beautiful shores of the St. Clair River. Given all of these elements, it’s easy to understand why the event has been able to run as long as it has.
The first race started with Class 7, 6 and Super Vee Light. In Class 6 Smith Brothers racing jumped out to the early lead with Whoa Mama in tow. Smith Brothers led for most of the race until the last lap when Whoa Mama made a move on treacherous turns three and four. Whoa Mama turned inside of Smith Brothers giving them the lead for the last half a lap and the checkered flag. In Super Vee Light Lilly Sport Boats (LSB) took its first win of the regular season after facing a tremendous amount of adversity. Hanging and Banging took the win in Class 7.
The second race had Super Stock, Class 4 and Class 5. Two Super Stock catamarans showed up pitting father and son against each other. Jerry (father) and Taylor (son) Chastelet battled it out with Jerry in FJ Propeller and Taylor in Smart Marine Service. Jerry took the win with owner/throttleman Gary Balllough and Taylor in second with owner/throttleman Chris Schoenbohm. Crockett Rocket took the checkered flag in Class 4 with its new driver, Chris Carbone.
For a broad look at the racing action from last weekend’s St. Clair River offshore race check out the slideshow above. All photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
Last but not least was the Class 5 action. Coming off a three-peat for the OPA races in New Jersey, RUFSTR, made it four in a row by taking the checkered flag in St. Clair. In its second year racing, the father-and-son team of Ken and EJ Salamone have set the bar pretty high for the rest of the Class 5 teams.
The third and final race saw some great deck-to deck racing. Class 3 featured the Fountain Powerboats trio of Wazzup, Miss PTM and Strictly Business. Wazzup checked out with the early lead leaving Miss PTM and Strictly Business battling for second. Miss PTM appeared to have better straightaway speed but Strictly Business was better through the corners. With just a few laps left Miss PTM lost a lower unit giving second to Strictly Business.
Class 2 had three boats including Bat Boat, Team 27 and Blown Rush. New teams to the series, Team 27 and Blown Rush put on a great show. The Bat Boat MTI jumped out to an early need but a mechanical issue forced it out and the Team 27 MTI owned by rookier racer John Jackman who teamed up Chip Miller finished in first.
The final start in race three had the two Super Cats battling for top honors. Local favorite Cleveland Construction jumped out to the early lead with Team AMSOIL in second. Cleveland Construction carried great speed around the whole course, but Team AMSOIL was able to get to the inside between turns one and two giving them the lead before a mechanical problem eventually forced Cleveland Construction out of the race.
Editor’s note: Speedonthewater.com contributor Mike Yowaiski is a well-known and respected competitor, announcer and promoter in the offshore powerboat-racing world. This is his eighth article for speedonthewater.com.