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Hydroplane racing speeds in Saturday at Sparks Marina
by Tribune Staff
Aug 16, 2012 | 2450 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

SPARKS — The American Power Boat Association is returning with its hydroplane racing in Sparks after some 25 years away from the venue following the closing and development of the Teglia Ponds-Pyramid Lake facility.

This year’s racing will occur on Saturday and Sunday with competition beginning at 10 a.m. Racing will last for about four hours and is free for spectators. The event will be held at the Sparks Marina Park, which is accessible by taking McCarran Boulevard north off of Interstate 80 and turning right into the park.

“Teglia Ponds-Pyramid Lake had been one of our favorite and best-attended races on the west coast during the 1960s and 1970s,” said 60s and 70s racer Kenn Christie. “At that time, racers raced only one particular category of hydroplanes and runabouts at the facility, known as full-race or ‘alcohol’ (‘alky’) outboards. Those boats were extremely sleek and powered by incredibly modified outboard engines, some of which looked like your own Mercury or Evinrude outboard at one point, but had since become space-age fast, sleek and certainly unrecognizable.”

As the event returns to the newer and larger facility of the Sparks Marina, the two hosting race clubs, the Northern California Outboard Association and the East Bay Boat Club, will open the racing to four distinctly different categories of boats:

• The popular Stock Outboard category

• The faster and flashier Modified Outboard category

• The Outboard Performance Class (OPC) and the medium-sized “tunnel” boats

• The even faster and flashier two-man Crackerbox Inboard class

In the first two categories, drivers actually drive while crouched on their knees inside the small cockpits, to eliminate the unnecessary weight of a seethe.

“This is also done with most all luxuries you associate with family boats. They all get jettisoned for weight savings to increase speed, and especially acceleration,” Christie said.

The third category features drivers who are actually seated low in a cockpit and ride on a complete cushion of air as their pickle-fork outboard boats life up and run on two sponsons, as if on a pair of water skis. The Crackerbox Inboard class features inboard runabouts with a two-man driving crew, and the thundering power of a small-block Chevy engines churning out 600 HP.

“Of particular interest will be the predominance of Yamato outboard engines among the various outboard classes. The Yamato Outboard Motor is manufactured in Japan, and raced there in the very popular and highly-wagered pari-mutuel outboard hydroplane races,” Christie said. ”These races create the largest sports wagering dollar volume in the country, and are similar to attending a horse race in American culture. The engines are raced there during the first year of life, and then sold as ‘used’ to the American market, where the predominant buyers are outboard racers in national competition such as this weekend’s racing. There is a lineage of this motor including the venerable Yamato-80, which eventually evolved to the Yamato-101, 102, 202 and more recently the 302 models. Fans at the race will want to spot the fierce competition between all of these.”

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