A labor of love

Dan Field
Special to the Lake Sun, USA TODAY NETWORK
Seebold Sports is a machine shop of sorts where Tim imagines and then creates functional reality for the Formula One boats that are raced all over the world.

The non-descript white metal door echoed shut to find Tim Seebold behind a push broom, sweeping granular cleaning material neatly into a pile in the center of the floor. It was hot outside, and the only source of comfort was an oscillating fan.

Such is Seebold’s world as the head of Seebold Sports, housed in the end unit of a block-long metal warehouse that he shares with other labor-intensive businesses on Highway 42 in Kaiser. The building and his shop exude simplicity, but in reality, what is contained within reflects three generations of powerboat racing including multiple championships spread across those three generations.

Seebold Sports is a machine shop of sorts where Tim imagines and then creates functional reality for the Formula One boats that are raced all over the world – all reflecting his family’s racing legacy. And, he’s not afraid to push a broom. Or change a lightbulb. Or fix this or that.

To say Tim is a hands-on owner-operator is an understatement. Every part, every idea that comes out of Seebold Sports touches his hands. He may not have manufactured every part, but what he produces there has been born from the necessities pushed by F1 racing.

Tim is a world champion boat racer as were his father, Bill (Billy) Jr., his older brother, Mike, and his grandfather, Bill Sr. Their attention to every detail since Bill Sr. started the racing empire 82 years ago is a testament to the success of the family’s endeavors.

Bill Seebold Sr., the patriarch of the racing team, built the first boat he raced at the age of 25 and started racing in 1939, 10 years before the start of NASCAR. Bill Jr. (Billy) started racing when he was 11. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999 after winning more than 900 races and 69 world and national titles in his 46-year career. He retired after the 1997 season. He won many of those races over his sons Mike, who started racing at the age 1,3 and Tim, who started at 8 and won his first championship and world record at age 17.

Tim now has 37 victories in the Formula One and Champ classes. He has scored 25 of those wins in the ChampBoat series to account for nearly one-third of the trophies awarded since the series was formed in 2000. He has earned 19 North American and World Championships in the Formula 1 Powerboat categories. He won championships in the top series of outboard racing in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2015, and 2016. He has finished in the top three in series points 19 times in the past 21 seasons and is the only driver in US history to win seven ChampBoat/Formula One titles.

But those days of racing for the Seebolds is history. Tim, now 57 and the last in the trio of family racers, retired in 2016 after one of the most successful boat racing careers in history. He ran his last race – and won – in Orange, Texas, a small community in the southeast corner of the state.

His retirement came on the 50th anniversary of NGK Spark Plugs, the leading spark plug manufacturer for F1 boats and also the anchor sponsor for Seebold Racing. F1 racing had been declining in popularity and sponsorship support and Tim felt the timing was right. He had won four championships that year and the Golden Anniversary of his team’s sponsor was the perfect opportunity.

Since then, Tim has turned his attention to rebuilding the sport and the reputation of the series. NGK recognized the talents of Seebold and the legacy of his family and has stayed with the team.

“I felt F1 racing needed somebody to take the sport and move it forward, someone who had the best interest of the sport at heart,” Tim explained.

Sponsors can make or break a race team or the sport itself since those best interests can be more focused on money than the health of the sort itself, Tim explained, so he brought major sponsors to the table and partnered with John Schubert starting the NGK Spark Plugs Formula One Powerboat Championship Series.

The series is a six-race series featuring races across North American from May through October. Established in 2017 – a year after Seebold retired from racing – the series features weekend-long community events highlighted by 20-pus F1 boats at speeds up to 120 miles per hour.

The Lake of the Ozarks got a taste of the action when Seebold organized an F1 race during the annual Lake Race in early June in Lake Ozark. The turnaround between races for F1 boats is quicker than the offshore boats, so Seebold and his team were able to showcase their lightning-quick boats before and between the offshore races.

Tim said he had only four weeks to put the F1 race together for Lake Race, and it worked well thanks in large part to the cooperation of the Missouri State Water Patrol and a host of local supporting sponsors.

He verified rumors that F1 racing could become a permanent part of Lake Race every year.

“We want to do all we can to make it part of Lake Race and sustain the event so we can build the event,” he said. “Offshore and F1 complement each other both on the water and as part of the Lake Race Street Party on The Strip.”

He said the Championship Series is still in a transitional state on all levels, and the backing of sponsorships – locally at the various races and from nationwide corporations – is vital to its success.

“We have a lot of partners here at the lake, and most of those are also our friends,” Tim noted.

Next on the docket is the Lake Havasu Classic Outboard Championships Oct. 15-17.

According to the website: “The return of this epic powerboat racing event will be conducted by the prestigious NGK Spark Plugs Formula 1 Powerboat Series, renowned for its heart thumping high-horsepower racing excitement performed by world class international powerboat racing stars!

“Many Havasu Classic stars from the past will also be in attendance to revel in the excitement of this highly anticipated racing event, which includes the 50-year rededication of the city’s famous London Bridge. The winningest powerboat driver in history, the legendary Bill Seebold, will host the Racers Reunion driver’s party, pairing Havasu racing legends with vintage race boats of historical Havasu significance, which will also be on display for the fans.”

Tim now has 37 victories in the Formula One and Champ classes.

Back home

Tim is the heart and soul of the NGK Sparkplug Racing Champion Series. He’s the marketing director, the graphic coordinator, the spokesman, the brainchild and the information person. He’s also the hands-on creator of F1 boat parts with a wall of machines and titanium composite molds he uses to transform his visions into reality.

Necessity is the mother of invention for Tim. He’s been strapped in the 17-foot boats, powered by Mercury racing outboards. He’s had his share of accidents and failures. He custom makes the F1 boats to fit the stature of the drivers. He designs and manufactures pieces and parts – sometimes with parts bought online, sometimes with parts made in his shop.

It’s a labor of love.

“It’s a passion for me. I love it. It’s part of my heritage and something I’ve spent all my life doing,” Tim said.

When it is time to step aside for good, he wants to leave not only Seebold Sports but also the Formula Outboard racing in a position that will continue and reflect the legacy that he and his brother, dad and grandfather built.

To learn more about the Seebold Racing history, go to www.seeboldsports.com; to learn more about the NGK Formula One Powerboat Championship, go to www.ngkf1.com.