Formula One drivers took to the water in Clark County on Friday to prepare for a national powerboat competition Saturday and Sunday.
The Springfield F1 Grand Prix and Wake the Lake will be held at the 125-acre lake at Clark County Fairgrounds this weekend. Racers tested their boats on the fairground’s lake Friday, the culmination of a long-effort to bring water sports to the site.
“It has taken us years,” said Chris Fairchild, current SST 200 World Champion. “But now that the county fairgrounds has purchased it, we’ve decided that we are going to build us a purpose-filled race facility.”
The race was previously held in Detroit for decades. It will be broadcast to an international audience of millions on CBS Sports and PBS.
This boat race is a part of a full weekend of events at the Clark County Fairgrounds that also includes food vendors and entertainment.
Preliminary races will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. That night, the Kate Hasting Band and singer/songwriter Ty Cooper will perform. Then the racing finals will begin at noon Sunday.
The cost to attend the event is $15 for ages 13 and up. Children 12 and under are free.
About 500 students from Clark County schools got up close with the powerboats and their drivers Friday. They talked to the drivers and toured the 28 boats racing this weekend.
Casey Riley was one of those students. He even got a chance to sit in the driver’s seat of one powerboat. The demonstration interested him because he attends Global Impact STEM Academy.
“I’ve always been interested in cars and engineering as well,” Riley said.
He was able to use what he’s learned in school when talking with drivers at the course.
Fairchild was one of two drivers who demonstrated their boats. His boat can go about 120 miles per hour — he likened it to flying an airplane on water.
He’s been racing for the past 30 years and has done so around the world including in Dubai and France. He’s happy the race is in Clark County.
“The dimensions are right, the way that it is situated is right, the depth is right — everything works really good for us,” Fairchild said.
The lake’s race course is different, said Tammy Wolf, a driver who traveled from Canada to compete in the event.
“This will be a very hard course because most of these race boats are used to turning left … so not only will we be turning left, we are actually going to be turning right as well,” Wolf said.
She’s the only woman competing in this weekend’s event. She’s been racing for the past 22 years.
On the weekends, she races high-speed boats, but at home in Canada, she’s something different.
“I’m a dental hygienist. I make people smile. I make people smile when I am on the course and I make people smile off the course,” Wolf said.