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Posted: 07/02/14

HYDROPLANE HALL OF FAME. Seen here is Mark Weber of Washington Township during his days as a hydroplane racer. Weber will be inducted to the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame as a member of their class of 2014 this November.

(Photo courtesy of Mark Weber)

Hydroplane racer to become hall of famer

Observer Staff Writer
      A local hydroplane racer will receive one of the highest honors for his contributions to the sport.
       Mark Weber, 50, of Washington Township will be inducted into the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame as a class of 2014 member for his successful career as a hydroplane racer and race director.
       The induction ceremony and dinner will take place Sunday, Nov. 2, in Mount Pleasant.
       The announcement was made last month, with Weber leaving a varnish shop for restoring his late father's boat when he heard the news.
       "It's gratifying, it's surreal," he said. "It's not every day the state you live in your entire life and one of its organizations recognizes you."
       Weber said he was born into the sport, as both his grandfather and father, Ray Weber, were racers as well as his older brother, Mike. He said in 1979 he was driving a boat at 90 MPH at age 15, becoming the third of four generations in racing.
       "Ironically I couldn't drive 60 MPH down the highway," he said with a chuckle. "It's a hobby, so you're with your friends and family on the weekends, it's just something we always did."
       Weber competed in the unlimited races, driving hydroplanes that could go 200 MPH. His accomplishments on the water include 14 national hydroplane driving championships, four Canadian hydroplane driving championships and two world driving championships, all of which were earned from 1991 to 2012.
       He was also in the American Power Boat Association (APBA) Hall of Champions, APBA Honor Squadron, the organization's two highest honors. He was also the unlimited rookie of the year in 1996, J. Lee Schoenith Award winner in 1999 and Automotive Gold Cup winner in 1996.
       "I haven't raced in a few years," he said. "The plan is that next year I'll dust the helmet off and come back to race."
       Weber serves as president of the APBA, a volunteer position. As president, he institutes programs promoting the sport's growth through driving schools. In Michigan alone there are now six APBA inboard and outboard race boat drivers' schools slated for 2014.
       "There are monthly conference calls with commissioners all over the country," he said. "We change rules or monitor rules or deal with situations. I just steer the ship, if you will."
       Weber also serves as director for the 2014 APBA Inboard Nationals, which is expected to bring hundreds of competitors to Pontiac Lake this summer.
       He said he serves in the positions because his father always told him that he should get more from the sport than he takes away.
       "I told myself I would come back and volunteer with the organization so that other people can have the same opportunities I did," he said.
       Weber's other accomplishments as a director include the Detroit APBA Gold Cup event director for five years, APBA jet boat racing event director for three years and directing more than 50 APBA national and regional regattas.
       He said one of the biggest challenges the sport faces is the cost. He said with average costs around $10,000 to $15,000, hydroplane racing isn't a cheap hobby and sport.
       "It's an expensive motor sport and it gets more expensive," he said. "We're challenged to try and keep the costs down."
       Weber has his own labor of love that has challenged him, the "Mom's Worry." The boat belonged to his father, and Weber is in the process of restoring the 1965 hydroplane that uses a modified Ford Falcon engine. He believes it will be ready to be featured in the Concours d'Elegance of America in Plymouth later this month.
       Weber said he looks forward to having his relatives with him when he accepts the recognition later this year.
       "It's just part of the fabric of our family," he said. "It will be fun having my family and friends there to make it more special."

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