This summer’s 12th annual Quake on the Lake will host one of the nation’s premier boat races -- the 2011 National Inboard Hydroplane Championships.
Members of the American Power Boat Association (APBA) last year decided to return the hydroplane championships, known in the racing community as the summer nationals, 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.
That decision will add some extra spice to this year’s event, including more teams and possibly a larger crowd from areas beyond the state’s borders. Racers will come from as far away as the West and East coasts and Louisiana, said race director and Bloomfield Township Resident Mary Anne Wilson.
“We have continued to grow our fan base and I think that is a major reason why the summer nationals came here,” Wilson said. “Racers earn double points that weekend so it is a very prestigious title.”
The event is scheduled for July 16-17 at the Pontiac Lake Recreation Area at what is widely considered to be the fastest one-mile racecourse in North America.
Since Quake on the Lake was established in 1999, 17 world speed records have been broken in 10 classes of inboard hydroplanes.
This year’s hydroplane racing will feature classes that will run from 90 miles per hour to those that approach 175 miles per hour in the straight-aways. The Eastern Divisional Championships were held at Pontiac Lake in 2009.
Well over 100 racers are expected to compete in eight classes from small and economical, 1.5-litre Stock hydroplanes that can hit 95 mph to 24-foot “grand prix” class boats that can race up to 170 mph. These are the fastest automotive powered hydroplanes in the world, with powerful engines and low-profile, sleek hulls that speed around the race course for an unforgettable show.
Wilson is well acquainted with hydroplane racing. Her daughter Becky debuted at Quake on the Lake four years ago and was named rookie of the year in the Y-class, 1-litre modified group. The Wilson family travels across the country in the summer to some of the biggest and best known races on tour.
“There are some wonderful sites and settings but when I come back here I am proud to be a part of such a great event at Quake,” Wilson said.
One of the main reasons that the national championships will be held this year is the ability of teams to set those world records. The 17 world records marks the highest number of world records at any track in the country, said Quake on the Lake Chairman Dale Hampshire.
The reason is the setting. Many hydroplane races are held on rivers, which can experience slower times caused by strong currents. There is also a large terrain of hills and trees along the perimeter of the lake, particularly on the north and west sides, that can reduce friction because of there being less air between the boat and the water.
“It’s actually a safer situation for the racers, even though they are often driving at faster speeds here than most courses,” Hampshire said. “The boats really turn well here.”
It’s why some racers have referred to Pontiac Lake as the “fastest blast in North America.”
Racers from around the country also consider this a great event to bring their own families to with surrounding the race, including children’s games and musical acts. Quake hosts a party for racers in the pits during the weekend as well.
To succeed on Pontiac Lake or at any national race takes courage, competitiveness and a sense of calmness that Wilson acknowledges her daughter has. Racers do have to maintain their own lanes in the water or suffer a time penalty.
“Becky loves it but I could never do it,” Wilson said. “There is a very strategic way of winning our races. The racers need to predict what will happen with the other boats and anticipate what is happening on the water.”