For the 31st running of the rally in 2004 on Aug. 28 - Sept. 4, CITGO joined the tradition by sponsoring the event in an effort to engage in good corporate citizenship and help further develop its South American markets.
CITGO entered three boats from the United States. APBA/UIM Offshore World Champion Nigel Hook of San Diego, Calif., spearheaded the CITGO Eliminator team and Formula One World Champion Mike Seebold of St. Louis, Mo., piloted the CITGO Tunnel boat. Rounding out the trio was Sam Youngwirth of Tulsa, Okla., driver of the CITGO Triton bass boat.
More than a dozen rivers would encompass the rally's liquid racetrack including the famous Orinoco River, which runs through the heart of Venezuela. Hook and Seebold knew they needed to be on top of their game by fine-tuning their powerboats, as they would come face-to-face with 120 challengers from around the world, including 30 high performance teams.
Besides the tough competition in the grueling eight-day rally, the CITGO race team endured many obstacles between the launch at San Fernando de Apure and the final destination, Puerto Ordaz, some 1,140 miles away. Keeping the boats in good working order and out of trouble was the key to a podium finish. It was not easy considering some of the navigational hazards included swirling rapids, sandy islands, shifting channels and the extreme tidal action of whirlpools.
Seebold and Hook carried the CITGO colors to a second and third-place finish in the overall competition while Youngwirth captured first place in his class.
An ESPN production crew accompanied the CITGO race team for the entire running of the rally.
[see Nigel's race log and a clip from the ESPN TV video]