An estimated 5,000 people attended the first Formula 1 powerboat race held in Springfield, which local leaders are hopeful will return next year.
However some neighbors were upset by the loud noise created by the event.
The inaugural Springfield F1 Grand Prix was held at the 125-acre lake at Clark County Fairgrounds last weekend, the culmination of a long-effort to bring water sports to the site.
“You can’t ask for a better weekend or a better opening event,” said Springfield native Dana Potts, who owns B2B Motorsports. The Northeastern High School graduate worked to coordinate and promote the event.
The event is already in discussions about coming back next year, Potts said. Other classes have already inquired about bringing more races to the fairgrounds, he said.
“The community was really behind this to make it something special and I felt that across the board,” Potts said. “I’m proud of my hometown for pulling it off … I think we can take it to the next level.”
The three-day event featured two full days of racing in three classes — F-1, F-lights and J-Hydros — as part of the NGK F1 Powerboat Championship. Testing, practice and an education day were held Friday, followed by qualifying and heat races Saturday and the race day finals on Sunday.
The race was previously held in Detroit for decades and will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network later this year, Fairgrounds Executive Director Dean Blair said. Between 20 and 25 boats participated, one of six sanctioned races televised this year.
The racers and announcers went on and on about the attendance and the venue, Blair said.
“They loved the fairgrounds … They loved the water,” he said.
The lagoon at the fairgrounds allows racers to load the next heat into the water during an ongoing race, Blair said, making it more efficient to operate the event.
“The downtime between events is next to none,” he said. “They were actually ahead of schedule each day because of that … I could go on and on with positive feedback.”
Camping and tailgate sites were sold out, Blair said. Organizers already have received questions about when tailgate sites will go on sale next year, he said.
Next year the fairgrounds is also scheduled to host the Solar Splash collegiate solar boat championship in June.
Some residents who live nearby were upset about the noise from the powerboat races, Springfield Twp. resident Dawn Wells said. While one boat was tested last year, she said it sounded much different during the race. Wells has lived on the corner of Bird and Laybourne roads for 43 years.
“When you have two or three running and cranking, it’s bad,” Wells said.
The noise lasted from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Blair said, and he believed it wasn’t any louder than the tractor pull held annually at the fairgrounds.
Wells said the tractor pull doesn’t sound as loud to her.
The powerboat races also caused more traffic to drive down her road, she said, especially late at night.
“I’m all for helping the community and this was not helping the community,” Wells said.
Champions Center Executive Director David Halverson told the Springfield News-Sun he had no complaints from participants during its Best of the Best barrel races at horse arena on the fairgrounds last weekend.
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Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about boat racing events at the Clark County Fairgrounds lake since the story first broke last fall.