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Published: Friday, 8/13/2004

Top tunnel-boat drivers continue duel in Toledo's River Roar

BY SHIRLEY LEVY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

There's a shoot-out brewing on Toledo's downtown riverfront.

After battling for points in four races, the two hottest drivers in the Champ Boat Series are virtually tied for the series championship.

Tim Seebold is leading Jason Campbell in the points race, but only by two points. And that's a trifling difference when there's a three-point difference between first and second in time trials.

Campbell dominated the second race at Bay City, Mich., and that propelled him to the top of the Champ Boat class early on.

But Seebold took over the lead in the fourth race, at Saskatoon, with a finish that - after 53 miles of racing - was just two seconds faster than Campbell's.

Toledo's first River Roar could be the place that one of them gets closer to his dream and the other gets dusted. Or maybe not.

Tunnel-hull racing is a risky business and fans have learned to expect the uunexpected.

"There's a fine line between running enough lift to go fast and running too much lift," Seebold says. "We've got so much air packed beneath the boat, it doesn't take much to move them over. A slight gust of wind can blow you over a couple of lanes."

Testing sessions will begin at noon and continue throughout today for all three classes in the series - Champ Boats, SST-120s and SST-45s. All the top names in the sport are expected to be here, including Tim's father, a powerboat-racing legend.

Tim operates a personal watercraft dealership at the Lake of the Ozarks, as well as the Seebold Racing factory in Fenton, Mo.

One of the smoothest drivers in the sport, he won the Champ Series in 2002 and finished second in 2003. Near the end of the season, he decided he needed faster speed off the docks.

"This year we've been starting very well," he said."We made changes to the boat, did some prop work and incorporated a computer system that gives us data on the boat. That helps our acceleration because those factors are so hard to measure.

"This sport is always developing and pushing the limits.''

The changes and new equipment have paid off. In addition to his victory at Saskatoon, he also won at Saulte Ste Marie, Mich.

When it comes to new races, like the Toledo River Roar, Tim is a quick study. He won all three of the newest additions to the Champ Boat series the first time they were run.

"First races have been good to us," he said. "That's where experience comes in . You've got to know your propellers to set the boat up right. You also have to know where to go at the start.''



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