Fast, free and fun are the words officials use to describe the 12th annual Marietta Riverfront Roar as dozens of the top Formula Two and Three tunnel boat drivers from across the United States and Canada converge on the Ohio River levee this weekend.
Terry Rinker, 50, of Tampa, Fla., is the reigning Formula Two champion, and his sons, Robert, 25, and Ashton, 27, are set to follow in dad's footsteps, if not outstep him.
"Rob placed fourth in Marietta last year and went on to be the series champion for Formula Three," Rinker said. "The team had a banner year last year."
ROBB DeCAMP Special to the Times
Spectators watch powerboats race during last year’s Marietta Riverfront Roar.
Blackhawk/Rinker Racing's Team AMSOIL took the top position in both classes at the first race on the circuit this year in Pittsburgh July 3 and 4. Next stop: Marietta, where drivers will vie for the Vadakin Cup and have once again chosen the Marietta Riverfront Roar as their favorite location.
"I've been there the past couple years and the pit is up on the street where the spectators are," Rinker said. "It's just a nice, localized town atmosphere where you can meet the spectators and answer questions."
The 2012 APR Powerboat Superleague season kicked off in Pittsburgh and will continue in Huntington, W.Va., Aurora, In., Kankakee, Ill., New Martinsville, W.Va., and will wrap up in Memphis, Tenn.
Formula Two racers:
- Mike Beegle - Merv Bjork
- Lee Daniel - Brent Dillard
- Rob DiNicolantonio - Michael Floyd
- Stacy Funk - Derek Hallman
- Mark Jakob - Todd Lamb
- Donny Lick - Bill May
- Donnie McDowell - Jim McGrath
- Paul Orchard - Mark Proffitt
- Terry Rinker - Jeff Reno
- Kris Shepard - Dana Tomes
- Barry Wolf
Formula Three racers:
- Dan Bunting - Curtis Campbell
- Chris Daniel - Steve DiNicolantonio
- Roddy Foreman - Peter "Toby" Hood
- Mike Hooper - Tammy Wolf-Jakob
- Sam La Banco - Bill Mastro
- Sammy Miller - Robert Rinker
- Carole Reno - Joe Schulte
- Jeff Talcott - Dana Tomes
- Robert "Chip" Wavro - Mike Webster
For more information and a complete schedule
- For information: www.mariettariverfrontroar.org.
While powerboat racing has not established the fan base of NASCAR, Rinker said that he thinks the racing sport is gaining in popularity.
"It goes with the economic times, you know," he said. "With the APR series having a TV show and a lot of good press, we're on an upswing again."
Sherron Winer of New Martinsville, who owns the circuit with husband Sam, said the economy has had an impact on many other racing circuits.
"We are one of the few circuits that have held it together," she said.
Jen Warrener, 36, of Marietta, is one who doesn't miss the Riverfront Roar if she can help it.
"My family and I love the Riverfront Roar because we love to watch the races from the river," said Warrener, who runs the Williamstown Boat Club, along with her husband Greg. "We tie up with all of our boating friends wherever the Coast Guard tells us we can and watch the races and swim ... and the fireworks. Every year they get more amazing."
With boats going as fast as 120 miles per hour, the action is fast-paced and can be dangerous. The boats glide along on the surface of the water and in an instant can become airborne or capsize.
"If you don't wreck now and then, you're not driving very well," Rinker said. "But because of the things that have happened in NASCAR, we've had to add safety precautions."
Rinker said the boats are equipped with safety cells, a six-point harness restraint system and head and neck restraints. He also wears a special helmet that will help him in case he is submerged and unconscious.
The races will be held 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Food and entertainment will be available and fireworks will be Saturday night at 9:30 p.m.
Officials hoping to build upon the popularity of films like "The Hunger Games" and "Brave" are also offering something new this year, according to chairperson Gary Williams.
Word came Thursday afternoon that the Riverfront Roar committee has agreed to include Archery Tag each day on Greene Street. A new company is setting up shop in Boaz, W.Va., that offers the tag.