2015 H1 Unlimited Season Preview
Shane, Kelly are the likely
top condenders this year
The two battled it out all of last season
(July 2015) – For hydroplane racing fans, all roads will lead to Madison, Ind., this Fourth of July weekend.
The Lycoming turbine-powered Unlimited hydroplanes will once again do competitive battle for the Indiana Governor’s Cup on July 3-5. And this year, the Unlimiteds will be joined in Madison by their piston-powered counterparts, the Grand Prix Class, on the always challenging Ohio River.
The Unlimiteds will race on a 2.5-mile oval course under the newly constructed Milton-Madison Bridge. The Grand Prix boats, in their first Madison appearance since 1977, will compete on a 12/3-mile track.
Defending Governor’s Cup champion J. Michael Kelly will be back behind the wheel of Graham Trucking (U-5). He will try to make it two wins in a row for the Ted Porter team in 2015.
In last year’s race, Kelly trailed the Jimmy Shane-chauffeured Oberto-Miss Madison (U-6) in the winner-take-all Final Heat.
The Oberto was called, however, for jumping the starter’s clock by half a boat length and had to run an extra lap to be scored.
The Ohio River was extremely rough that day. Kelly reported the first turn as being the roughest that he had ever driven through. “At one point, it knocked the boat out of shape and knocked the wind out of me. I had to get recovered physically as well as getting the boat straightened out.”
The rivalry between Kelly and Shane that characterized the 2014 campaign is sure to continue into 2015.
When the roostertails subsided after the last race of 2014 in Doha, Qatar, Oberto-Miss Madison had 9,157 National High Points, compared to 8,736 for Graham Trucking and 7,115 for Graham Trucking II (U-7) with driver Cal Phipps.
Shane and Oberto scored victories in the APBA Gold Cup at Detroit and the HAPO Columbia Cup at the Tri-Cities, Wash., and were the fastest qualifiers at all six H1 Unlimited events. The community-owned Oberto-Miss Madison placed second in the Oryx Cup-UIM World Championship at Doha and third in the Albert Lee Cup at Seattle.
As National High Point winner, Oberto-Miss Madison is entitled to bear the coveted U-1 emblem throughout the 2015 H1 Unlimited tour.
This marked the second consecutive year that Shane has won the High Point Driver title. He did so in 2013 with the Graham Trucking team.
Miss Madison, under the sponsorship of Oberto Meat Products, has now won five National High Point titles since 2008 – the first four with driver Steve David, who retired at the end of the 2013 season.
In the words of Oberto Team Manager Charlie Grooms, “The series championship is always the highest priority for our sponsors and our 13,000 owners. It’s always our No. 1 goal.”
Porter’s Graham Trucking boats did themselves proud in 2014. The U-1 with Kelly took first-place at Madison, Seattle, San Diego, and Doha, while the U-7 with Phipps finished second at San Diego and third at Madison and Detroit.
Finishing behind the U-6, the U-1 and the U-7 at season’s end was fourth-place Team Red Dot-Jones Racing (U-9). Driver Jon Zimmerman scored 5,604 National Points with the U-9, placed second at Madison, the Tri-Cities and Seattle, and finished third at Doha.
Hard luck team of the year had to be Greg O’Farrell’s Go Fast Turn Left (U-21) entry. After taking a solid second-place at Detroit as Miss Al Deeby Dodge with Brian Perkins in the cockpit, the boat crashed at the Tri-Cities as Lakeridge Paving with Jamie Nilsen driving. O’Farrell nevertheless continued on the H1 tour and leased a series of back-up hulls to stand in for the damaged primary hull. The U-21 team finished fifth in the final standings with 4,652 National Points.
Other top 3 finishers in 2014 included Mike Webster, who took third at San Diego with Big 5 Sporting Goods (U-22), and Kip Brown, who guided the brand new Spirit of Qatar (U-96) to third place in its debut race at the Tri-Cities.
The 2014-2015 off-season has witnessed a number of personnel changes in the Unlimited ranks.
On a local level, Bob Hughes has “stepped aside” as president of Miss Madison Inc. after more than four decades in that capacity. The new president is Charlie Grooms. Hughes is now Chief Executive Officer for the corporation. Tony Steinhardt is the newly elected vice president.
Madison Regatta fans should take careful note of a number of changes in driver assignments from last year. Jesse Robertson will pilot Graham Trucking II, Scott Liddycoat is the new Team Red Dot driver, Patrick Sankuer Jr., will steer Miss DiJulio (U-12), Cal Phipps will take over the controls of Wiggins Racing (U-27), and Jean Theoret will be at the wheel of Ellstrom Manufacturing (U-96).
Expected to retain their driving jobs from 2014 are Shane in Oberto-Miss Madison, Kelly in Graham Trucking, Tom Thompson in Peters & May (U-11), Kelly Stocklin in the Bucket List (U-18), and Mike Webster in Webster Racing (U-22).
• Fred Farly is a Milton, Ky., resident who serves as the APBA Unlimited Historian.
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