The need for speed

ChampBoat racers
to compete in Warsaw, Ky.

The series features
some of the world’s fastest boats

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(August 2007) – Bob Thompson knows what it takes to be a winner. For decades, Thompson was a world-class powerboat racer and team owner. Now Thompson, co-owner of Warsaw, Ky.’s Smuggler’s Cove Marina and the Just Add Water Boats in Indianapolis, has helped put together another winning team – Warsaw and the ChampBoat Grand Prix Series.

August 2007 Champboat Cover

August 2007 Carrollton Edition Cover

“You’ve got the ideal location with the fastest boats in the world, so it’s a great combination” said Thompson, 71.
Gallatin County’s “Thunder on the River,” set for Aug. 17-19 on the Ohio River, will feature world class Grand Prix ChampBoat Racing on the weekend and festival kickoff activities on Aug. 17.
Pre-race activities start at 3 p.m. Friday and include a Miss Teen Thunder contest and live music by “Thunder Bay.” Saturday’s race action begins at 9 a.m. and includes ChampBoat practice sessions, a water stunt show, time trials, a “Mr. Thunder Contest,” and live music in the evening. Sunday’s activities include a boat parade, drivers’ autographs, opening ceremonies and the Grand Prix. Advance tickets cost $15 for a three-day pass, at-gate tickets will be $25 for a three-day pass, or $10 a day. Gallatin County Tourism’s Jane Searcy said officials worked hard to keep the event affordable and inexpensive for all families who wanted to watch the excitement.
“We are thrilled to have the ChampBoat Grand Prix come to Gallatin County,” said Searcy. “Many people have been working very hard to pull the event together, and we think it will be an exciting and wonderful opportunity for our community.”
Thompson, whose Just Add Water retail boat store was named after his first championship boat, won a powerboat national championship in 1968.
“At that point we used twin engine unlimited outboards,” he said. “Now, single engines can do the same work.”

Champboat logo

When: Aug. 17-19 at Warsaw, Ky.
• Tickets: $15 advance three-day pass;
$25 three-day pass purchased at the gate;
or $10 per day.
• Information:
1-888-292-4341 or (859) 567-5900; email Info@WarsawThunder.com
• Websites: www.champboat.com and www.warsawthunder.com

Throughout the next few decades Thompson won many other championships and competed in world class powerboat races across the globe. As the owner of the Bob Thompson All American Racers, he enjoyed a reign for more than 13 years as a dominant force in the sport. His teams set world speed marks and set several records, and even won the world championships in Europe.
At the time he was involved in racing, the powerboats he used were known as Formula One boats. By the late 1980s, however, Formula One powerboats had left the United States racing scene and were being used primarily in Europe. It was at that time, he said, that the ChampBoats were developed.
ChampBoats, also known as F1 Powerboats, are the fastest and most nimble boats in the world. These tunnel boats can accelerate from 0 to 100 mph and reach top speeds near 140 mph. They pull up to four “Gs” in the turns, making them the hardest-cornering racing machines in the world.

Champboat Race

Photo provided

Champboats, also known as
F1 Powerboats, can reach
speeds near 140 mph.

“Many people say it’s like watching fighter jets on water,” said Champboat Series President Michael Schriefer. “Others describe the boats as Indy cars on water.”
The ChampBoat Grand Prix Series, one of the fastest-growing motorsports in the world, has a long and rich history throughout the United States. Now in its fourth decade of racing, the Champboat Series is the premiere national spectator series, with many of its race locations celebrating decades of continuous boat racing, including St. Louis, Mo. The series is based in Cornelius, N.C.
“There is nothing more competitive,” said Schriefer. “Fans really see a show when they watch ChampBoat racing.”
In fact, since 1972, celebrated boat racers from around the world, including Italy, Germany, Norway, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Canada, Mexico and even Brazil have come to St. Louis for the annual ChampBoat Bud Light St. Louis Grand Prix.
Other ChampBoat races are held annually in Savannah, Ga., Windsor, Colo., Bay City, Mich., Augusta, Ga., San Diego and Phoenix.
The new event at Warsaw will also feature the Champ2, or F2, powerboats. The F2 is considered the premier minor league for world class powerboat racing and has some of the best powerboat racers in the country. The boats are somewhat smaller and lighter with slightly less horsepower than the F1 boats, said Schriefer.
Warsaw, a small and picturesque town on the Ohio River, was able to secure the ChampBoat series event because of shrewd planning and excellent sponsorship, including Belterra Casino Resort & Spa, situated across the river in Switzerland County, Ind.
“Getting Belterra to come on board with its sponsorship certainly was an asset we looked at in awarding the race to Warsaw,” said Schriefer.

Champboat Race Start

Photo provided

At rest, for now. ChampBoats can
pull up to 4 “Gs” in turns, causing some
people to liken them to “fighter jets
on the water,” ChampBoat Series
President Michael Schriefer said.

Other major sponsors include the City of Warsaw, Gallatin County Tourism, Smuggler’s Cove Marina and Sunset Grill and Ramada at the Kentucky Speedway.
The series’ decision to move a race to Warsaw was generated by local residents. A discussion was held during a tourism meeting last year about how to increase Gallatin County’s attractions. Ideas were put forth, and Thompson, who was asked to attend the meeting, mentioned powerboat racing. Officials like the idea, and he was asked to use his contacts and influence in the powerboat racing industry to help secure a race in Warsaw.
Wayne Rassman, a member of the tourism committee, said that back in the late 1960s there was powerboat racing along the Ohio River in Warsaw but interest declined. He and others thought now was a prime opportunity to revitalize interest and bring it back.
“We are all excited about this new opportunity for the community,” he said. “While it has been a real push to get everything ready, everybody is charged up and excited.”
He said officials have had to bring in more docks, do some dredging along the riverfront, clean up debris and update restroom facilities in order to accommodate the large crowds that are expected. “Even homeowners along the riverfront are making improvements and working to help get the city ready.”
Searcy said officials hope to bring in up to 25,000 spectators for the event. “Because it is our first year and our first ever major event, however, we just don’t know what to expect,” she said. “We will be ready for anything.”
If the crowds are there and the event is handled appropriately, Warsaw’s Thunder on the River may become an annual event to help put the city on the race map.
“We are trying to create something Warsaw can use for future economic development,” said Tim Meyer, Thompson’s business partner. “We want to give Warsaw a name like Vevay, Ind., has done with its Swiss Wine Festival or like Madison, Ind., has done with its festival events.”
Thompson believes bringing the ChampBoat Grand Prix to Warsaw will be a good thing for the community. “It is exciting getting racing back there,” he said.

Back to August 2007 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta