MICHIGAN CITY — Wayne Valder came from the other side of the globe to race a boat at 140 miles per hour along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
The thousands of spectators on the beach and lighthouse pier Saturday didn’t travel nearly as far but did come from throughout Northwest Indiana, the Chicago area and southwest Michigan.
Tony Sikora from the Valparaiso area is among the many people who keep coming to the Great Lakes Grand Prix, now in its 10th year in Michigan City.
"I like high performance engines and these boats certainly have them. It’s a beautiful day on the lakefront. It’ll be a nice weekend,’’ Sikora said.
Valder was in one of the 30 or so boats hitting the water Saturday afternoon for time trials and testing the course.
Conditions were practically ideal with the lake being nearly ﬂat, blue skies and 90-degree temperatures.
The actual racing is Sunday, with heats scheduled at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Valder has won championships in other circuits where he lives in New Zealand during his 30-years of powerboat racing.
He’s also a title holder in Australia.
Now, Valder is spending his ﬁrst full season with Super Boat International vying for a U.S circuit championship.
He’s presently 2nd in the standings with two races left in the season after Michigan City.
"The secret to any of these courses is get to the optimum speed as fast as you can. If you get to that optimum speed as fast as you can, you’re pretty hard to catch,’’ Valder said.
The race is one of four on the 2018 Super Boat International schedule.
The others are in Florida with the season-ending race at Key West in November.
Josh McIntyre, of Michigan City, sat on a ledge beside the lighthouse to gain a bird’s eye view of the roaring boats throwing ﬁshtails going in and out of the lake.
He hasn’t missed a race.
"It’s just a fun, exciting event,’’ McIntyre said.
Joe Jeffrey and his wife, Jenny, from Elkhart, have also come each year.
"This is our Disney World. This is our Grand Canyon. This is beautiful,’’ Jeffrey said.
In 2017, more than 150,000 people attended the race and all of the other events like Taste of Michigan City and boat parade downtown.
$10.7 million was the estimated impact on the local economy.
Jack Arnett, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the race is just as popular as ever because there’s nothing like it in the entire region.
He also believes it’s the biggest weekend event for all of Northwest Indiana.
"In Florida, they see so much lake and ocean action and it probably becomes a little bit mandate, but here it’s a big deal,’’ Arnett said.