In front of a crowded shoreline and hundreds of spectator boats anchored behind a log boom, Jimmy Shane showed his mastery of Lake Coeur d’Alene’s 2-mile H1 Unlimited Hydroplane race course en route to victory, marking the return of Diamond Cup racing just off Silver Beach.
With the boats lined up to take the green flag in the finale, J. Michael Kelly and the U-37 Beacon Plumbing jumped the start and were penalized a lap, which in turn gave Shane the lead heading into turn No. 1 with defending series champion Steve David running just behind in second.
Five boat lengths back was a battle for third and fourth places between Tommy Thompson and Kip Brown’s U-95 Spirit of Qatar with rookie Jesse Robertson’s U-57 FEDCO running fifth and the trailing boat of Greg Hopp allowed to advance for a potential battle for sixth place with Kelly.
Running seven boats in a heat for the first time all weekend, water conditions became dire.
“It was rough out there,” Shane said. “We knew it was going to be a race where the last man standing could win it.”
Shane’s boat handled the conditions well by riding on the inside lane to maintain his lead over David while Brown and Thompson gave the crowd the best race of the afternoon with side-by-side action over the opening three laps.
Brown managed to put some distance on Thompson exiting turn No. 4 as Thompson encountered rollers that nearly rocked the U-11 Peters and May out of the water. From there, the top three nestled into a string around the course with David making up ground on Shane in small portions as Brown kept the pair in sight trailing by less than half of a straightaway.
David moved to within 10 boat lengths on Shane as the white flag came out but was unable to close the gap down the backstretch and settled for the runner-up position.
With the win, Shane made up considerable ground on David’s championship points lead.
Shane trailed David by over 600 points in the chase for the 2013 title and as Sunday got underway it appeared that the 28-year old would need all the efforts of his U-5 Graham Trucking crew and a little racing luck to top David’s U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto and close the gap. The break Shane was looking for came in the afternoon’s Heat 3A as David lost a prop drying away from the pits and was unable to take part in the race which resulted in a zero for points gain in that portion of the day’s action.
“We gained a lot of points on (David) this weekend and it’s going to be an incredible race for the championship when we get to San Diego (on Sept. 15),” Shane said.
Despite coming up short in the finale David knew when he got back to the pits after the prop incident his final heat would require a tremendous effort to keep his championship lead, he said.
“We lost the prop and it didn’t hurt the boat but we knew we had to go in the final to try and maintain our points against them (Shane),” David said. “During the race I knew I had to catch him but we just came up a bit short. (Shane) drove a heck of a race and he beat us today. This will be the tightest championship battle the sport has seen in over 10 years when we get to San Diego.”
While the climb back to nearly even with David in the championship standings was impressive for the U-5 team, it was the performance of his boat all weekend that was more impressive, Shane said.
“It was a wonderful race. This is a beautiful place to race and we’re fortunate to be here. Sure we gained all those points but we needed a break today and we got it and we knew if that happened we’d have to capitalize on it and we did.”
Sunday’s racing got underway with Heat 2A featuring David, Brown, Kelly and Robertson, who took over the driving duties for Mark Evans in the U-57.
Brown and Kelly took the green flag side-by-side with Kelly advancing to the lead exiting turn No. 2. Midway through Lap 2 Brown’s boat lost power momentarily giving David second place. At the checkers Kelly picked up the win with David, Brown and Roberson in tow.
Heat 2B showcased Shane’s ability to squeeze his boat just enough to leave the competition behind as he pounced into the lead on the opening lap and drove away from Thompson and Mike Webster, who had been running as high as second before losing an engine.
Greg Hopp finished second in the heat which aided in his points total to make the final as the trailing boat. Dave Warren finished third.
In Heat 3A, Kelly drove away from Hopp and Warren for the victory.
Shane topped the field in Heat 3B with Brown and Thompson putting on a show for the fans as they went deck to deck for the runner-up position. Thompson stayed with Brown for the first half of the race then dialed the boat back in the corners to secure third place and a spot in the finale.
Hopp scored the win in the supporting Grand Prix West division to maintain his points lead for the 2013 championship.