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Thread: OMC’s 4-Rotor Wankel Racing Engine - The Real Story

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    - Skoontz's Avatar
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    In the article, it claimed Mercury was not far behind OMC with a rotary. Was this true in any capacity?

    Also, there are definite parallels between the OPC and the rotary and the turbine cars of Indy ( 1967,68) as to how things were handled. Just as the racing commission ruled the 3 turbine cars that ran in 1968 had to run smaller air intakes to slow them down, the next play in the book if they had hit production would probably have been to restrict them in some way.

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    Team Member Master Oil Racing Team's Avatar
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    In my opinion Skoontz, Mel was just saying that with the impressive display of horsepower by the rotaries, Mercury would have to join the fray to stay in the game. But they did not have the licensing, and I don't see any way they could get in without patent infringements. I think it was just such a whole different ballgame that Mel was stating that Mercury would have to look at this seriously, but not that they already had a game plan. The only plan it appears is like you said happened at Indy.....kill or restrict them. As it turned out, the fuel shortages, EPA, and OMC's realization about causing the extinction of the industry bread and butter, the two cycles, they killed it themselves. That is my opinion. If any Mercury insiders have other info it would be great to hear it, but I'm guessing John Sheldon and the other OMC guys that may chime in would say OMC had an iron lock on anything to do with the rotary technology as pertains to outboards and their licensing agreement.

    Here's something else to keep in mind. Most everyone has lived under the ever tightening rule making by EPA for a generation and a half. When I first started working, Texas already had an environmental agency. The Texas Water Quality Board came into existence in 1971-- five years before the Environmental Protection Agency. My job was dealing with industrial and hazardous waste transportation. In those early days rules were evolving. The OMC rotarys hit the water early in 1973 and ran not that many events compared to other outboards, but they drew big attention everywhere they went. The EPA was just getting their feet on the ground when the Rotaries were mothballed. It's difficult to say what direction outboarding may have taken had the EPA been in existence for a decade, or if any such agency had never been created in the first place. Please.....let's don't get off subject with EPA regs. I only bring this up because of John Sheldon's stunning epilogue. There are many people out there that do not know of the history and beginnings of the EPA, and how it affected the future and short history of the OMC RC engines.



  3. #113
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    It's been awhile and I may have some years wrong...I'll check. EPA may have begun in 1972 and RCRA 1976 which put more teeth and expansion in EPA.

    Anyway....back to the story. At that first race in Galveston where the rotaries proved their potential, Joe Rome saw the race from a different perspective. Joe watched the race from a seagull's eye view. If any of you remember from previous posts on other threads, Joe was in a cherry picker in the pits high above Offats Bayou during the race. He wanted to be down where we were but he promised Woody Carson to go up with him. Woody was calling the race for a big name radio station covering Houston and a big part of the gulf coast and inland part of Texas. While Woody was extremely talented in what he did, Joe had a wider and deeper knowledge of a lot more of the outboard drivers than Woody did, so Joe provided the "color".

    I asked Joe what he remembered about the OMC RC tunnels. The main thing he thought was that they were not pushing in the turns. They were not agressive in the apex. They just made their way through then went very fast down the straights. He mentioned several Pro races in past history that reminded him of the rotary strategy, but to me the best match is that of the Marshall Grant/Dan Kirts Konig 8 cylinder OF motor. It never ran on a boat that was specifically designed for the motor. The Konig 8 cylinder was more powerful than any boat it ran on in competition. And it had a weak link in the lower unit. That boat was tremendously fast down the straights but you had to nurse it through the turns because the power could strip the gears. To Joe, that was what it reminded him of except the rotaries came before the Konig. The idea in both cases however,was that there was not enough boat under the motor, although there was enough speed. All you had to do to win was to keep it together and not make mistakes.



  4. #114
    Preserving OMC Heritage LIQUID NIRVANA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Master Oil Racing Team View Post
    It's been awhile and I may have some years wrong...I'll check. EPA may have begun in 1972 and RCRA 1976 which put more teeth and expansion in EPA.

    Anyway....back to the story. At that first race in Galveston where the rotaries proved their potential, Joe Rome saw the race from a different perspective. Joe watched the race from a seagull's eye view. If any of you remember from previous posts on other threads, Joe was in a cherry picker in the pits high above Offats Bayou during the race. He wanted to be down where we were but he promised Woody Carson to go up with him. Woody was calling the race for a big name radio station covering Houston and a big part of the gulf coast and inland part of Texas. While Woody was extremely talented in what he did, Joe had a wider and deeper knowledge of a lot more of the outboard drivers than Woody did, so Joe provided the "color".

    I asked Joe what he remembered about the OMC RC tunnels. The main thing he thought was that they were not pushing in the turns. They were not agressive in the apex. They just made their way through then went very fast down the straights. He mentioned several Pro races in past history that reminded him of the rotary strategy, but to me the best match is that of the Marshall Grant/Dan Kirts Konig 8 cylinder OF motor. It never ran on a boat that was specifically designed for the motor. The Konig 8 cylinder was more powerful than any boat it ran on in competition. And it had a weak link in the lower unit. That boat was tremendously fast down the straights but you had to nurse it through the turns because the power could strip the gears. To Joe, that was what it reminded him of except the rotaries came before the Konig. The idea in both cases however,was that there was not enough boat under the motor, although there was enough speed. All you had to do to win was to keep it together and not make mistakes.
    Probably because they were running the 15:17 gear ratio used in the previous Parker Race, plus the boats were designed for V4 & had a tendency to barrel roll on turns with the Rotary power.

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    Funny I should check the masthead in the previous post to see if I could get a clue of who covered the Galveston race for Powerboat. In this, the very next issue, Bob Nordskog is the publisher. Bill Ames is still editor. I included the Editor's Report even though there is only one line mentioning the rotary motors. It is important though because the magazine was reviewing it's five year history and entering into the 6th, which is where the OMC RC motor first appeared...in a major story only in the previous month. The other interesting thing is that this is the second time that Bob Wanamaker's Flying Quarter chronicles Jimbo McConnell's accomplishent in an outboard without mentioning he did it with a rotary. That was from Mel Zikes column. The one little blurb so small was from Dick DeBartolo's column.
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  6. #116
    Sam Cullis Mark75H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LIQUID NIRVANA View Post
    Probably because they were running the 15:17 gear ratio used in the previous Parker Race, plus the boats were designed for V4 & had a tendency to barrel roll on turns with the Rotary power.
    I would also imagine the lower unit intended for the 175 hp V-4 may not have been able to handle the full torque of the rotary if suddenly applied hard in a corner. No need to bust parts when you are already out front.

    The later larger units with more reduction would have been able to swing more diameter and take the torque without fear of breaking.
    Since 1925, about 150 different racing outboards have been made.

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    That's my thoughts too Sam. OMC knew what they were working with regarding lower units, and very early on they established a commanding presence so it makes sense to play it safe and last.



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    Default gear cases

    The problem with accel. was the 15/17 gearcase. I didn't modify a 14/23 until Provo. Both cases had the same parts as the V-4's, only the outside casting was different to fit the rotary. I don't recall any gearcase failures during the entire program. OMC gearcase man, Ward Cox, rebuilt the gear cases after every race. Also remember there were 20/30 MPH winds at Galvaston with some serious chop on the water. The bigger gearcase along with the bigger props they ran really helped the rotary. I never saw much difference in top end during testing, but actual racing the guys could hang out the 15/17 a little more. But there were very few race courses the rotaries ran that allowed the drivers to really hang it out. As someone mentioned, the boats were also a problem with all the power hung on the back.

  9. #119
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    That's very interesting. I figured a lower unit that was not built for a rotary would be, along with the crank, a weak link.

    In the September 1973 Powerboat Mel Zikes started his column off stating that Havasu was cancelled, but without stating a reason. The most obvious thought at that time was because of bad PR surrounding the fuel shortages, but this little clip came in the ACTION column near the back of the publication.
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  10. #120
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    The October issue gets into lengthy disussion regarding the rotary controversy as well as Provo results.
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