It may not be pretty, but it’ll work.
Spokane’s first venture in unlimited hydroplane racing in 30 years is off to a good start as the U-19 Appian Renegade qualified for today’s Columbia Cup.
Rookie driver Todd Hindley had the boat out twice Saturday morning and put the yellow and black hydro in the show on the second try with a lap of 135.802. The U-19 will run in Heat 1-B at noon today, facing stiff competition that includes No. 3 qualifier PICO’s American Dream (168.58), No. 4 qualifier Pizza Time (162.734), No. 5 qualifier T-Plus (160.70) and No. 8 U-50.
Top qualifier U-10 Smokin’ Joe’s ran a lap of 169.055 on Saturday morning and will face off against the second-fastest boat, the Miss Budweiser, which turned in a top speed of 168.069.
“This is as good as its going to get for now,” Hindley said about his qualifying attempt. “To go faster, we need a different gearbox and propeller combination and we don’t have that yet.”
The speed may be just 5 mph over the qualifying minimum, but it’s a victory for Hindley and his all-volunteer crew, who have spent the last eight weeks preparing the boat for its first race.
The motor has been purposely tuned on the conservative side. “We want to keep it alive,” Hindley explained. “This is a reward for everyone. Friday’s lone test run resulted in a burned-out motor. Yesterday was tough to swallow.”
Although it seems the U-19 will be outclassed today, Hindley thinks he’ll be able to compete with boats that are 30 mph faster. “We’re not as far apart as it would appear,” Hindley said. “The guys who qualify at 170 will be racing at 140. We qualified at 135 and will race at 130 mph. The boat is riding great.”
Today’s finals begin with Heat 1-A at 11:30 a.m. Spectators are advised to arrive early. … The U-19 will try out a new motor this morning after running out of time Saturday. The motor was purchased from the Smokin’ Joe’s team. … Mitch Evans of Chelan is riding high on old technology as the only boat running on a piston engine. “We’re doing well with it,” said Evans, who on Friday ran the fastest lap ever for a piston-powered boat, a lap of 148.410. “This is the best way to impress a sponsor,” Evans said, “but some day we’ll have to make the change to turbine power.” … T-Plus driver Steve David likens driving an unlimited to, “hitting a 3-foot speed bump at 200 mph.” … Ken Dryden was back in an unlimited for the first time in nearly a year Saturday, taking the Miss Elam Plus for a test lap. Dryden, you may recall, flipped at last year’s Seafair, breaking the boat in half - fracturing both legs and injuring his back. He’ll attempt to qualify in a special session this morning, beginning at 9:30.