Originally I was gonna "Twin" the Tri Cities HAPO Gold Cup recap with last weekend's just concluded Seafair race. But that was before I spent the entire day listening to the 50th Anniversary Water Follies Unlimited' boat races via Zed Internetz, which I was actually able to accomplish logging onto after once again figuring out where in the BLEEP they'd hidden the "Play" button...
HAPO GOLD CUP - JULY 26
Alas, this year going into the new home of the Gold Cup race at Tri Cities, I expected another good 'Ol fashioned Gold Cup Scrum between the U-96 Ellstrom Elam Plus, having apparently lost its lucrative UAE Oil Money, in the hull previously known as the Spirit of Qatar, with Jean Theoret at the controls, winner of the '06 Gold Cup vs. reigning Gold Cup champion Jimmy Shane piloting the U-1 Oh Boy Oberto, although J. Michael Kelly shouldn't be overlooked either, having won the unusual non-points Shootout for the season opening Madison Governor's Cup this July, where the Elam Plus amongst several others decided to sit out the race..
After snooping 'round that world wide web thingy', I discovered a supposed live Webcast link - according to the series official H1 Unlimited website, thus perhaps I'll give I-T a try? Although typically I don't get to S-E-E; Err hear any of the yearly Water Follies action until reading 'bout I-T after the fact.
Yet, where else can you be greeted by a Hydroplane where a three-day pass including access to the Pits will run you a whopping $45; Aye Karumba!
And there were twelve Hulls originally slated to participate in this year's event, the 50th Anniversary of the Water Follies.
Then, as the headline said, U-21 to be lucky Number 13 at Gold Cup! As the U-21 Go Fast Turn Left racing team made a very late entry into this year's Gold Cup event with sponsorship from Got Bolts? Hoping to finish one step up from its runner-up finish at Tri Cities last year - where the boat was virtually destroyed when it flipped on lap-1 of the finals!
While the U-3, being the lone piston powered hull in the show will undoubtedly be the crowd darling with its deep, throaty rumblin' Allison powerplant churning up the waters! As this very same team won the sport's final piston powered victory on the Columbia River over a quarter century ago...
And then on Friday's Qualie' day whilst searching for the latest news, I sadly learned via the Tri Cities Herald that a Hydroplane legend is leaving the sport following this season. As I'd have to put Oh Boy Oberto right up there with Budweiser for iconic sponsors of the sport, not to mention Art Oberto truly seems to be one of the sport's & Seattle's Nice Guys!
Not surprisingly, the U-96 Elam Plus with Jean Theoret at the controls led the way in Friday's qualifying, being the only boat to clock a lap of 160mph+, en route to his first ever P1 Qualie effort at 160.509mph in his first full-time season since his massive blowover accident in 2009.
As typical, the U-1 Oh Boy Oberto with Jimmy Shane was right on his heals at 157.387mph, along with a gaggle 'O Unlimited Hulls blanketing the mid-150mph range, naturally being led by J. Michael Kelly's U-5 Graham Trucking at a scosh over 156mph - while Jimmy King pushed the U-3 piston boat to an impressive mark of 152.344mph, sixth fastest of the thirteen boat field. A scant two-plus miles per hour faster than Graham Trucking's second turbine boat, as Jesse Robertson in the U-7 had the final 150mph elapsed time recorded.
Saturday's Heats 1A & 1B saw Theoret and Shane win their heats in thoroughly dominating fashion respectively, before once again, Mother Nature showed who's Boss! As the afternoon's Heats 2A & 2B needed to be postponed due to high winds which were creating whitecaps on the "Mighty Columbia!"
Thus, Sunday's race schedule was compressed in order to fit in the additional heat rounds, as there would now be three double-heat rounds before the finale beginning at 8:30AM Pacific Sunday morning.
Alas, after watching; Err listening to a fantastic Hungarian Grand Prix earlier that morning, I had the pleasure of listening to the B-I-G' BOATZ, nee Unlimiteds' live via Zed Internetz for the first time ever - after I figured out the really ANNOYING trick of needing to click upon a minuscule, invisible to Mwah icon just a scosh to the right of the words LISTEN LIVE; Click, Click, Click Click Click Clickity BLEEPIN' Click - why isn't it working; Oh Never Mind!
Thus I have to congratulate H1 Unlimited, HAPO, an Eastern Washingtonian Community Credit Union and whomever else paid for making the race available via live webcast on KONA 610AM, as I've never, ever been able to do that before, and it was totally worth listening too; HURHAH!
And I listened to A-L-L three rounds 'O preliminary Heats, for which Jean Theoret at first seemed pretty invincible, after winning in convincing fashion in Heats 1 & 3, along with a close runner-up finish to J. Michael Kelly in Heat 2A. As it appeared his only copybook blotter would be going to slow before the start in Heat 4B where he'd wind up P4.
Yet it was his Cake-walking of the third round which garnered him the most Attenzione. Or was it Wing Walking instead? As the announcers got overly excited about how much air the 'Kuhnaidiun was getting underneath the U-96, claiming they saw daylight several times; YIKES!
Jimmy Shane methodically chipped away Sunday after his first round win Saturday morning, towards making the Gold Cup finals, with finishes of 3-2-1 in his respective three Sunday Heats while J. Michael Kelly seemed to be employing the Mikey' Andretti edict, sorta. Win or Break; Hooah!
Although Kelly kept his Graham Trucking hull in one piece all weekend long, he desperately needed the win in Heat 4B to ensure his making the finals with a tally of two firsts, a fifth & sixth place finish en route to the finale.
As the U-5 Graham Trucking Pilote' had been running Hot 'N cold, being penalized in Heat 1B for being under the minimum speed limit. Then won Heat 2A, before jumping the start in Heat 3B which placed him sixth before his all important second victory in Heat 4B.
The KONA 610AM radio announcers seemed quite surprised when tallying the points standings prior to the Gold Cup finale, as Shane's Oh Boy Oberto was P1 with the Dark Horse of the Day, and for Mwah the weekend, the U-27 Fasteners Inc in second, with Theoret third and Kelly squeaking into the Top-6 with his Heat 4B win.
Yet, perhaps I'm an "Easy-Squeezy?" Uhm, easily impressed, as I too, like one of the SCREAMING race reporters endlessly pontificated on how awesome of a job Cal Fipps in the essentially brand new U-27 was doing! I too found him to be the most underrated driver of the day. As he's another driver I'd never heard of before - and sounds like a real "Up 'N Comer," especially after his Heat 3A victory!
And J. Michael Kelly's first place finish in Heat 4B apparently was a forbearer of things to come, when the U-5 won the race after trailing the U-96 from flag-to-flag. Yet once again, as in years past of going off plane, Theoret had broken the rules by going too slow prior to the start. Since the Unlimited Hydroplanes must maintain a minimum speed of 80mph before the green flag flies, for which the U-96 Elam was penalized for failing to meet.
As the Gold Cup finale featured the U-1 Oberto, U-5 Graham Trucking, U-9 Les Schwab/Red Dot, U-21 Fasteners Inc/Lakeridge Paving, U-27 Dalton Industries, U-96 Elam Plus, and the GBR.11 Peters & May as the trailer boat...
GOLD CUP FINALE
Listening to the 5min countdown to the gun, in what would turn out to be a correct call by the radio announcers - who noticed a very strange maneuver by 'JT, (Jean Theoret) and originally was called as the U-96 Elam Plus being DQ'ed. (Disqualified) All I could say was HOLY SHIT! And just sat there with my heart out of my Chest in Disbelief! As how could the fastest boat in the race's driver just made such a humungous MISTAKE; HOLY SHIT INDEED!
Err, Holy De Militarized Zones Batman! Even as I sat here poondin' furiously on thy keyboard some 30mins-plus after the fact, I was still in Shock over the eventual outcome of the final heat, but I'm skimming over the choppy wake and getting ahead of Thyself, just as long as I don't Blow-over, Eh!
After I'd sat there in disbelief over Theoret's blunder, as fast as it was announced, the disqualification was rescinded; WTF! And thus the Elam was back in the game! While the Oberto and Graham Trucking tried mightily to outmaneuver each other in their duel for inside Lane-1 with Theoret lurking in the background.
Yet Jimmy Shane was going to be too early to the line and had to totally pedal his boat whilst keeping his speed above the 80mph minimum - and as he virtually coasted to the line, Theoret and Kelly thundered by!
Theoret then began stretching his lead with a pummeling lap of 154mph+ on the choppy waters of what was a five lap final Heat, building up a lead of two Roostertails length as Shane was trying to run down Kelly who previously held second place.
Think it was on Lap-4? Or was it Lap-5 when the Oh Boy Oberto finally managed to pass the Graham Trucking by virtue of running the inside lane while J. Michael Kelly hit some rollers, caught B-I-G' TIME AIR! And had to get off of the loud pedal momentarily to keep the boat on course.
Now several hours later, this race is still INSANE to Mwah! Not because of Theoret's total domination, but what transpired after the finish. As I cannot recall ever hearing a driver being interviewed as the winner, hearing the absolute jubilation in his voice and the gracious agony 'O defeat from the perceived runner-up...
All of which transpired before just going off the air, when the lead announcer interrupts one of their Pit-lane reporters giving his final thoughts to announce that Jean Theoret has been DISQUALIFIED! For running thru the "out-of-Bounds" DMZ area for which he'd correctly noted in the lead-up to the race's start!
Thus, in what proved to be the most impressive display of perseverance, with his Never Give Up attitude, suddenly Jimmy Shane was declared the winner of the Gold Cup after it had already been awarded to Theoret and the U-96 Ellstrom Elam Plus; HOLY SHIT!
Interestingly, Shane, who seemed very humble about his win explained how he'd immediately gotten on the radio when he'd seen Theoret cut the course thru the off limits DMZ course boundary and didn't know if anybody else had seen it? But just reported it and then got on with his race.
Simply claiming that the U-96 is the boat to beat right now and he'd gotten to the line too early and had to "Tap Dance" to stay right around 81mph while Theoret thundered by from Lane-3, commandingly took Lane-1 with his impressive speed and that was all She wrote for the boat race!
Yet with Theoret's disqualification, J. Michael Kelly became the runner-up and surely was in disbelief over having let this golden opportunity slip away. While Cal Phipps continued his impressive U-27 debut with a fine third place finish!
And I simply cannot recall an Unlimiteds' boat race where the winner's been given the most prestigious and oldest active trophy in motorsports, i.e.; the Gold Cup, only to have it taken away! Which just makes me wonder how the Officials could let such Hi-jinx' occur?
Even though I understand their wishing to get things right, along with being very pleased that the Officials stuck to their guns and didn't reverse what they said would be instant disqualification - as a rule's a rule! But it seems like they should have at least said the results were under review - instead of cruelly letting Jean Theoret celebrate victory momentarily!
As obviously Theoret and the Elam Plus squad will be outraged over this mockery and will be racing in Seattle's Seafair race with a mighty "Chip" on their shoulders.
Although Karmically, it only seems totally appropriate that the Oh Boy Oberto should win its potentially last Gold Cup as an Unlimited Hydroplane sponsor. Especially after Art Oberto wrote a personal cheque to keep Jimmy Shane and the Miss Madison team on the water this season!