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USTS Profile on Derek Gesler and Gesler Metal Works PART 1

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  • USTS Profile on Derek Gesler and Gesler Metal Works PART 1

    The USTS has many drivers with interesting backgrounds and stories that I will continue to share and to spotlight some of our great drivers and add in some stories of my own along the way.
    Having said that, now turn to the state of Minnesota by way of California where I first met Derek Gesler and his Father, Brad. At that time, we had a lot of races for the Pro division mixed in with Mod’s, Stock, and OPC classes throughout Nor Cal. Places such as Lodi, my favorite, Sparks, Nv, a fishing pond that could scare the bejeebers out of you, Shadow Cliff, the turning basin at Stockton and others.

    Derek was born in one of those race towns where you could find a great crowd on the 4th of July weekend every year. “Stuck in Lodi”, was a line from CCR, as Derek was born there; but, soon moved to a little town north of Lodi to Galt Ca. That is town I was quite familiar with as our distributor for windows and doors, BMD was in Galt.

    Brad and Derek were very active in those races and it was fun to watch Derek’s growth as a driver; but, more importantly, to become the great young man you see today. Lodi by the way, like Depue, grew up some great racers as well. Casey Parsons , Todd Jacobsen, Leonard Mc Knight, and Mark Borges.
    California at the time had a good number of pro drivers as some I’ve mentioned. 1100R was always known as a West Coast hotbed of racing with the fans lining the shoreline. Derek’s dad, Brad raced the big 1100R class against the likes of Casey, Todd, Richard and Paul Fuchslin, Terry Klemm, Harry Bartolomei ,and Ron Hill. The Seattle group would come down to several of our races as well, with Howard Anderson, Bob Waite, the Diamonds, J Dub Meyer, sorry to hear of the passing of Howard Shaw who came, along with Jay Root from San Diego driving the John Toprahainian JohnRude side by side 1100 Runabout. Watching these guys racing against his father stoked Derek into wanting very much to drive the big 2 man runabout.

    Derek has always been very competitive and wanted to race on a regular basis against the best in the pro division and decided to move to the state of Minnesota near Minneapolis to be closer to the action . He was working for a civil engineering firm in California while going to school and when he moved to Minnesota he continued his education and worked for another Civil engineering firm there. He eventually left that firm and went out on his own with Gesler Metal Works(GMS). Even though Derek has become an entrepreneur, he said that his favorite job was with the first civil engineering firm in California. He said he learned a lot, had freedom and support to do the job with many benefits.
    He says the worst job for him is changing gear oil in lower units; which if you’ve done it, you know why as well, very messy. There is a half-decomposed catfish in another of his hated jobs of doing a compression test and I would agree with that.

    Derek is one of the most personable people you will ever find on the beach at the races. He is always looking to help others. As a personal side note, my nephew Nick Witalka has been given great help by Derek on engine parts and pieces and a new Gesler Hydro may be in the near future.

    To that end of always looking for a way to help, Derek came up with a great idea and moved forward with help from some real stalwarts in Pro and Modified racing. Derek had taken part in getting more info and education on engines from two of the best. Steve Litzell and Mitch Meyer would make trips to California at different times and their wealth of knowledge was never theirs’s alone, but were known to teach at the drop of a hat. They would set up at the Lil Fox headquarters of Rich Fuchslin’s place in Dixon California and all kinds of information was shared. Derek said he attended every time he had the chance to learn from these two. Not that Rich is a slouch as he has been building record breaking motors himself. In fact, Pat Brians went through the trap in an outfit that Rich put together for the EMH record, a gas and oil rig at just over 100mph, unheard of before that run.
    So, with that background, and being in the racing business, Derek began to think about how to help other racers in engines, lower units, propping correctly, jetting an engine correctly, and other areas. I asked him how this idea came about, and he responded with, I spoke up at the USTS meeting and thought if we have good tips that we could share with our people it would only help our sport and we all have more fun with our stuff finishes. Derek said that he was involved in boat racing for actual work so he had info and access to some really good resources that racers would benefit from. A perfect answer to what drove him on this. He said it’s hard to tell but i have a passion for racing and want to see it thrive.

    Mind you, this was free to the participants as this was donated time and effort, and the building secured with the equipment needed to make this Mechanic School successful. All that done by Danny Kirts in Elkhart, Indiana.
    Classes covered how to rebuild your lower unit, Danny Kirts had the shop set up for us perfectly, a press mill lathe and anything you needed to fix a motor. Craig Dewald educated on props Mike Wienandt. gave a good lesson about engine tuning, Mike Thirlby on the Konig / Konny engines, Boxell Mychron, Dyno test run with a konig by Jimmy Kirts.

    When you look through the list of presenters and teacher’s here, it is a whose who of outboard racing, such as the Kirts Family, Dygert Racing, GMW, Thirlby Auto, WPT, David Jones, Mike Schmidt, Craig Dewald, all very capable in their fields and capable of teaching it to others.

    John “Guido” Peeters through his company, Penway, printed up and donated all the "quick reference guides" books together that was a great collection of information from all the educators that presented. The attendance was outstanding as 55 drivers and crew members from across spectrum of outboard racing came together to learn from some talented mechanics.

    Our thanks also to the Dygert family along with Andy and Bailey Williams, and Danny Kirts made sure that all 55 in attendance were fed well and set up the food and other arrangements

    This was a great event as like-minded drivers and crew came to be educated in several areas and build the relationships needed to be successful and provide support to that end.

    You could not call this effort by Derek and the crew that participated in the educational process anything but successful as there was great enthusiasm to do this kind of school once again. All positive comments and thanks for the effort made with forthcoming. The damper of course in putting the next one on is this dang Covid. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to learn from the best once again.

    As I have called the USTS a traveling circus of some of the finest people you will ever find on the planet, we go from town to town unload the equipment, try to put the best show on the water we can and build relationships with one another. I’ve always pointed out when announcing how everyone pitches in to help a driver struggling to get the boat on the water. In fact, race after race crews get their guy started and out on the water only to run to a driver who’s struggling to get fired up and they help him to get out there, knowing that he’s going out to beat their driver.
    And know this, 1100R drivers are a special breed and the person riding with them has to have the utmost confidence in their ability to be discerning in their aggression but wanting to win.

    The interesting thing to me is the changes that have come about in the 1100R class, Many of the drivers in the past were using the big 6 cylinder Mercs, either the Quincy full Looper as Howard Anderson, Wayne Walgraves Bill Fales, Bruce Summers used, or the Lon Stevens beasts that we’ve seen over the years with Casey Parsons, Billy Jack Rucker, and Rich and Paul Fuchslin have used and now Rich is carrying on the great sound with Joe Johnson at the wheel. These guys had a true deck rider. Many of the boats had handles up on the big flat Desilva’s for the deck rider to hang on going to and through the corners. Climbing over the shoulder of the driver to lie prone on the deck nose to hold the boat down in the corner and then oh so carefully climb back to the cockpit for the straight away. Now with the beautiful and well designed Krier Runabout’s and others, the rider is just that, riding along, leaning over to the left in the corner, but not having to crawl out on the deck and now the Konny’s, Koing’s, and Rossi’s and VRP four cylinder’s are the main combo’s

    In 2014 Derek found himself looking for a deck rider and a young woman, a terrific driver and champion in her own right, Amy Nydahl came aboard as the rider. A great start to a wonderful relationship as they won the 1100R at the Nationals that year.
    As most of you know Derek and Amy ended up getting married a few years ago, and you might think that that ride in the 1100R for the win was the start of something, but as Derek said, these are my words, was slow on the uptake, LOL, and it took until 2017 before the sparks started to fly. Amy of course the daughter of Kelly and Pete Nydahl. Pete of course, is our USTS president. Amy is the granddaughter of the great Ray Nydahl. Eventually, Derek popped the question and he and Amy celebrated their marriage and since then a 4th generation driver, Addi was born. Mom is quite a horse enthusiast and has helped a number of drivers/family members who love horses with lessons.
    Last edited by RLR; 01-10-2022, 08:56 AM.