Unlimited Hydroplane racing returns to the Inland Empire for the first time since 1968. For the competitors of the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Series the course will present plenty of challenges this weekend.
For the first time since the late 1960s the roar of unlimited hydroplane racing will be heard on Lake Coeur d’Alene in the reinvigorated Diamond Cup.
For race teams, it’s business as usual as the series wraps up its Northwest swing before heading to the season finale in San Diego on Sept. 15. Defending champion Steve David and his U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto team looked to extend the points lead on rising star Jimmy Shane, who drives the U-5 Graham Trucking boat.
David won in the Tri-Cities in late July and Shane earning the victory at Seafair in early August. David and Shane have also scored wins at Doha and Sacramento respectively. Toss in Kip Brown’s win at the Detroit Gold Cup in June and the trio of drivers have all the final heat wins.
The new Diamond Cup course may give another driver a chance to break through.
“The course is the same size as Seattle,” explained U-11 Peters and May owner Scott Raney. “It has 1000-foot radius corners but completely different water and environment (than Seattle) so it will make for an interesting weekend.”
Raney’s team has a season-best third place finish in the Detroit Gold Cup and ran fifth in Tri-Cities with Tommy Thompson driving. The team has had to adapt to a new hull this season after losing their primary boat at the season-opening Doha race.
“We figured some things out and should be a bit faster.”
H1 teams and drivers rely on the boat ride over the top of the lake water to make gains over the course of a heat race and final. With short laps in the heats (three) leading to a five-lap main event there is not much time during race day to adjust. Because of that, today’s practice session is crucial. Teams have a five-hour window to dial in their boats prior to afternoon qualifying at 3. With two hours to squeeze every bit of speed out of their boats, drivers have the potential to make multiple runs on the course to post their best time of the session.
Once teams have locked in a qualifying time, draws to determine Saturday’s heat lineups will set the field in motion toward Sunday’s final heat. Heats 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B will be run Saturday with Heats 3A and 3B set for Sunday.
Accumulated points through the heat races will set the first six boats to be locked into the final with the seventh position given to the winner of the last chance race at 2:45 p.m. The final heat is scheduled at 4 on Sunday.
In the Grand Prix West series, teams are at the midway point of the schedule. The Diamond Cup puts in motion a grueling month of September as they’ll race non-stop each weekend through the finale on Lake Chelan on Sept. 22.
Snohomish native Jerry Hopp leads Rick Bridgeman in the Grand Prix standings. .