Growing up on the east side of Detroit, during the summer months, “Racer” Bob Dabrowski could hear the sounds of the Rolls Royce and Allison aircraft engines that powered some of the hydroplane fleets driven along the Detroit River.
Tomorrow, Dabrowski will tell stories of his own hydroplane racing experience at the White Lake Library in a free seminar open to the public starting at 6:30 p.m. in the library's basement conference room. There Dabrowski will go into more detail about his experiences, the art of hydroplane racing, the importance of and strides made in safety techniques and what makes Quake on the Lake such a unique event.
For Dabrowski, a West Bloomfield resident, Quake on the Lake is largely about love, passion and competition.
“When you have two or three boats racing side-by-side in the water, there is no thrill like that,” he said. “You will do what you have to do to beat your opponent and you get caught up in that competitive atmosphere.”
From that first love of hydroplane racing growing up as a child, Dabrowski began driving his own hydroplane, a small 2.5-liter stock boat, in 1974. That kicked off four decades of racing that took him all over the country from Seattle to Decatur, IL, to St. Petersburg, FL. Dabrowski will not be racing at Quake on the Lake this weekend but will serve as the driver’s representation, working with racers who may have questions or complaints about results or rulings.
Dabrowski will also be bringing his 2.5-liter modified class boat Wednesday and park it in the library's parking lot during his presentation. He will be reviewing some of the safety procedures of the sport and showing some of the advanced safety gear, such as onboard air components, scuba tanks and high-tech helmets — all necessary in today’s racing. He also will be showing photos of his past hydroplane boats to show how the technology has advanced over the years.
There is no money in the sport for Dabrowski and other racers like him, and in fact hydoplane racing can be a very expensive sport in which to compete. Dabrowski is looking to put a $40,000 engine on his own boat before he starts racing again and even racers in the “major leagues” of the hydroplane circuit, like those who competed on the Detroit River July 9-10 for the Gold Cup, don’t make much if any profit of their winnings.
But the love of hydroplane racing did motivate Dabrowski to succeed professionally in his own career. He is now a very busy industrial real estate broker in the Detroit metro area.
“If you want it bad enough and work hard enough you can achieve anything and I always wanted to be able to afford racing boats for myself,” Dabrowski said. “I made it a goal of mine to be able to afford (the lifestyle).”
The 12th Annual Quake on the Lake will be held this Saturday and Sunday. In addition to the racing there will be musical acts and live concerts, games and activities for children and a wealth of food and drink options for race fans. This year Quake on the Lake will be the national championship race for the Nation Inboard Hydroplane championship.
Members of the American Power Boat Association (APBA) last year decided to return the hydroplane championships to Michigan after 42 years. The last time the National Inboard Hydroplane Championships were held in Michigan was at Ford Lake near Ypsilanti in 1969.