Drag racers head to town

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The trailers carrying missile-shaped race boats will descend on Demopolis over the next few days in preparation for the second annual River City Rumble, set for July 17-18.

The drag boat race, sponsored by the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, will feature racers from across the Southeast, including Demopolis businessman J.R. Suttles. Last year, Suttles helped bring the boat races – and a larger-than-expected – crowd to the banks of the Tombigbee River, and going into this weekend’s races, Suttles in second in the points standing in the Modified Production Class.

This year, chamber officials believe the races will grow in popularity, and they’ve given interested spectators a chance to purchase tickets before race day.

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Parr’s Chevron, Community Bank, Commercial Bank, Robertson Bank, the chamber office and The Demopolis Times are all pre-selling tickets for the Saturday and Sunday races. Tickets will cost $6 for adults and $3 for children. Ticket prices at the gates increase to $7 for adults and $4 for children each day.

One of the keys to enjoying the weekend boat races is understanding exactly what to expect. The scene around the city landing is much like a summer festival, with food vendors and radio hosts entertaining the crowd.

The drag races – much like those found on TV sports networks – are fast and loud.

Officials from the Outboard Drag Boat Association keep spectators informed of each racing class and where race teams stand over the two-day event.

David Berry, director of competition for ODBA, has distributed a list of each race class, explaining what spectators can expect at this weekend’s races. They are published below:

Lake Racer Class

ODBA’s Lake Racer Class is comprised of production style bass and ski boats, with open cockpits, similar to styles seen on the local lakes and rivers nationwide. Engines are from mild to wild with everything in between and weight requirements are based on the level of engine modification. Spec Sunoco racing gasoline and Klotz Synthetic oil, as sold at the race site is required. Speeds on these lake boats generally run in the 100 to 105 mph range.

Super Stock Class

One of our most popular classes is Super Stock. This class utilizes the Hi Performance outboard engine, as produced from the engine manufacturer, with no modifications. The favored hull is the venerable Allison 2001 river racer with enclosed deck design. The weight, including the driver, is 1400 pounds and the fuel is our spec Sunoco racing gasoline and Klotz Synthetic oil. This class is designed to showcase boat set-up, propeller selection and driver ability. Speeds in this class can reach 110 mph.

Sport Racer

(formerly Pro 120 Class)

Our Pro 120 class is for smaller boat and engine combinations. The V4 OMC and Yamaha engine on Methanol are the engines of choice for most competitors but a recent rule change now allows the 2.4 Liter Mercury and Cross-flow OMC V6s on spec Sunoco Racing Gasoline to compete also. Weights are based on the engine combination. Look for E.T.s in the 11second range with speeds close to 100 mph.

Pro Carb

ODBA’s Pro Carb class is very similar to our Modified Production Class. No fuel injection is allowed but highly modified V-6 Mercury Outboards still tend to dominate this class. Again, Sunoco Racing Gasoline with Klotz Synthetic oil is required and weights are based on engine configuration and displacement. The Mirage Quartermaster and 2001 Allison are popular in this class. E.T.s in the low 11second range with speeds in excess of 100 mph are common.

Modified Prod. Class

Another very popular class with outboard drag racers nationwide is ODBA’s Modified Production Class. As horsepower levels rise, we begin to see more of the Triad DR20 Intimidators join the hunt for the coveted First Place trophy. Engine modifications are restricted to OEM parts only and most racers opt for the Mercury Racing fuel injection system. Power output is in the 380 HP range from these 2.5 liter based engines. Sunoco Racing Fuel and Klotz Oil keeps the fires burning. E.T.s in the very low 11second range is what it takes to win. Demopolis racer J.R. Suttles competes in this category and is currently second in the points behind Bruce Tripp.

Pro Gas Class

Now things start to get interesting! Unlimited modification to the powerhead is allowed. Exotic, one off parts are the norm, 1350 pounds is the base weight for the small block Mercury V-6s that dominate this class. The engine must run on our spec Sunoco Racing Gasoline and Klotz Synthetic oil. Look for the Allison, STVs, and Triads to be the hull of choice for Pro Gas competitors. E.T.s in the high 10 second range and speeds in excess of 115 mph are usual.

Pro Fuel

The name of this class says it all. Any fuel with any additive is allowed. Methanol and Nitro is the favorite for these water borne dragsters. While there very few boats nationwide that can step into this class and be taken seriously, the ones that do really put on a show. Look for more Allisons and DR-20 Triads with a minimum weight requirement of only 1250 pounds including the driver. Big cubic inches with exotic fuel systems that produce E.Ts in the high 9 second range with speeds in excess of 120 mph are what it takes to get the big check in this tough class. It’s a crowd favorite and when they run, you’ll see why.

Unlimited Outboard Class

Light weight race boats with Pro Fuel style engines with a big dose of Nitrous Oxide pretty much tells the story for ODBA’s Unlimited Class. While the rules are intentionally few in this class, basically anything goes as long as it meets the 1250 pound weight minimum. Superchargers, Turbochargers, Transmissions, and Expansion Chambers are all legal for this fastest of the fast class. E.T.s in the high 8 and low 9 second range with speeds of 130 mph are what we’ll see when these bad boys hit the water.