H1 Unlimited Season Preview
Driver changes add much intrigue
to upcoming season
Shane, Kelly, Brown will be
looking over their shoulders
For motor sports fans in general and Unlimited hydroplane fans in particular, Madison, Ind., will be the place to be this Fourth of July weekend.
The H1 Unlimited hydroplanes will once again do competitive battle in the 63rd running of the Indiana Governor’s Cup on the always challenging Ohio River.
When the starting gun fires on the Bill Cantrell Memorial Race Course, the community owned Oberto-Miss Madison (U-6) will be the center of attention as usual. But for the first time in 13 years, Steve David will not be in the cockpit. The popular David announced his retirement from competition last year. His successor is the man who was the Miss Madison team’s keenest rival the past two seasons: Jimmy Shane, who edged out the Miss Madison in the 2013 National High Points contest by a mere 68 points while piloting Ted Porter’s Graham Trucking.
Shane has had only two seasons as a full-time Unlimited pilot. He nevertheless has six H1 race victories to his credit, which include back-to-back wins in 2012 and 2013 of the Oryx Cup-UIM World Championship event in Doha, Qatar.
Fans view Ted Porter’s U-5
Graham Trucking Unlimited
hydroplane at last year’s
rained out Madison Regatta.
Replacing Shane in the Graham Trucking (U-1) will be J. Michael Kelly, who returns to the Porter team after having been most recently associated with Billy Schumacher’s Miss Beacon Plumbing (U-37).
Owner Porter will be campaigning not one but two Graham Trucking boats this year – the U-1 with Kelly and the U-7 with Cal Phipps – after having concentrated on a single entry the last two years. The U-1 and the U-7 are both former Miss Budweiser hulls and remain as formidable as ever.
The Team Red Dot (U-9) organization of Mike and Lori Jones is likely to be a factor in 2014. Bello’s Pizza of Madison will be the presenting sponsor for this team at the Madison Regatta. Driver Jon Zimmerman took second-place at Doha, Qatar, and Detroit and third at the Tri-Cities last year, prior to suffering extensive damage to the transom and bottom at Coeur d’Alene and being forced to miss the season finale in San Diego. Recent pre-season tests on the Columbia River in Washington indicate an improved contender.
The same could be said of Scott Rainey’s Peters & May (U-11), which ran some impressive laps in June during an exhibition event at Evansville, Ind. This could be driver Tom Thompson’s year to achieve the winner’s circle.
Erick Ellstrom’s new Spirit of Qatar (U-96), piloted by Kip Brown, is not expected to race at the Madison Regatta. The crew, headed by former Miss Madison crew chief Mike Hanson, is engaged in a frantic race against time to be ready for the start of the season.
Jay Leckrone’s Centurion Racing Team (U-12) will start the 2014 season in a much more relaxed manner than they did last year. That’s when they leased a boat from Dave Bartush at the last minute and had to really struggle to be ready to race. This year, Leckrone and partner Denise Garl have purchased the former Leland 96-B hull from GoFastTurnLeft Racing. Veteran driver Greg Hopp will be at the wheel. As in 2013, the boat will be Miss DiJulio with sponsorship from the companies owned by cousins Chris and Brian DiJulio.
Greg and Brian O’Farrell’s GoFastTurnLeft Racing should be ready to do serious competitive business. This is the hull that sustained major damage in accidents at Madison in 2011 and at Doha in 2013. It needed a deeper fix than the repairs that were done previously. Crew Chief Jim Harvey and the crew have made those repairs and made sure that the U-21 is ready for the demanding H1 Unlimited tour, which starts with the Madison Regatta. Brian Perkins and Jamie Nilsen are listed as co-drivers for the O’Farrell team.
Believe it or not, but the Webster Racing entry from Reading, Pa., is an old friend in disguise. This is the former Oh Boy! Oberto-Miss Madison with which David won the Indiana Governor’s Cup at the 2001 Madison Regatta. Now owned by the Webster family, the U-22 is the pride and joy of driver Mike Webster.
According to Webster, “Lots of great things happened in the shop this past winter to prepare for this coming year. After rebuilding the boat last year, we were able to take the time to fine-tune and tweak the things we ran out of time to do before last season started.”
A more fan-friendly format will be in evidence at the 2014 Madison Regatta. Changes instituted by H1 Unlimited include doing away with the score-up buoy on the backstretch prior to the start of the race. And this year, the boats will be required to maintain a speed of at least 80 mph during the warm-up period, thus doing away with the controversial “park-and-start” procedure of recent years.
• Fred Farley is the H1 Unlimited Historian who resides in Milton, Ky. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
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