The SST-45 racing class made its Savannah River debut during 1993 River Race Augusta and didn't win any popularity contests.
David Dewald of Reading, Pa., then the class's reigning world champion, dominated the race to the extent that the rest of the field was competing for second place.
That made for a dull time from racing fans' perspective.
The class returns to River Race Augusta this year under the "Formula Lights" banner, and times aren't expected to be dull with 26 boats in the field. The '93 races drew fewer than a dozen boats.
"We run a course that's shorter than the Formula One's, so that at the end of five laps, boats are starting to lap each other," said Fred Miller, who with a friend originated the class in 1987. The boats were jokingly called "Miller Lights" in his honor.
"It's a 40-second course of between a half- and five-eighths of a mile," he said. "The boats are 13 feet long and powered by a 50-horsepower outboard that develops 65 horsepower. They'll hit 70 to 80 mph.
"We call ourselves the Pro Tunnel Tour and all our races are sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association.
"It's been a great training class for guys moving out of other classes into tunnel-hulled boats," Miller said. "Formula One racers Terry Rinker and Jason Campbell once raced 45s."
The Augusta venue is one of six major races and four smaller ones on this year's Pro Tunnel Tour. Of 35 registered tour members, 25 have signed up for Augusta, including 1997 high point champion Brad Schaub of West Bend, Wis.
"To show how competitive our class has become, Schaub never won a race, finishing with a bunch of seconds and thirds," Miller said.
He said the dominant driver is Shaun Torrente of Miami, Fla., "while the Berghauer brothers, Greg and Jeff, are among the favorites."
Greg Berghauer competed in the '93 River Race Augusta, placing a distant second behind DeWald.
Among early bird arrivals setting up at Augusta Riverfront Marina were Formula One racer Terry Rinker of Tampa, Fla., SST-120 racer George Allen Jr., of Miami Beach, Fla., and Mr. and Mrs. Harold Simburger of Elsah, Ill. The Simburgers worked as race officials when the circuit was known as International Outboard Grand Prix. Their son, Lynn, is a Formula One driver.
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