Perhaps as soon as this year’s Bayfair Regatta at
Jim Kropfeld’s initiation into Boat racing
began with being a Crew member on a Friend’s limited Inboard “motorboat” in
1961, before making His driving Debut in 1964. Kropfeld liked to Joke about His
early career, noting how He’d Drive Anything that Floated! And that when you’re
at the rear of the pack on the Ohio River, it’s some of the roughest water you’ll
ever race on! Stating that He Didn’t do a whole lot of winning, but the
experience was priceless…
Kropfeld cut His teeth racing the Midwest limited
Hydroplane circuit, the same proving grounds for such Unlimited Hydroplane luminaries
as Bill Muncey, Dean Chenoweth, Ron Munssen, Bill Sterett and Bill Cantrell to
name a few. As All five of those Skippers’ would become National High Points
Driving Champions and APBA Gold Cup winners, which is pretty esteemed company
to be mentioned in!
While former Unlimited Hydroplane Historian
Fred Farleynotes that Jim had some spirited battles on Seattle’s Green Lake
during the late 1970’s aboard the Country boy vs. another future Unlimited
Driver named Steve Reynolds aboard His White Lightning/Pay ‘n Pak in the 225 cubic
inch class. Which is pretty Funny, since I think it’s been a long, long time ago
since any powerboats were allowed on Green Lake! Just Canoes and Kayaks now Me
Although it’s also
now a really long time ago since Led Zeppelin Rocked Seattle at Green Lake’s Outdoors
Aqua Theatre on Sunday, May 11, 1969!
Kropfeld caught soon-to-be Boss Bernie Little’s
eye upon winning the Grand Prix Class at
Detroit in 1982, as the Unlimiteds Undercard. Just weeks prior to Miss Budweiser’s
Dean Chenoweth’s Death at Tri-Cities. As Little offered Kropfeld the drive and
the rest as they say was History…
Kropfeld drove the Miss Budweiser between
1982-1989 and firmly cemented Himself as my second All-time favourite Unlimited
Hydroplane Driver when piloting what was the Anthesis of piston powered Hulls,
those All Conquering Miss Budweiser Rolls Royce Griffon Beerwagons.
Kropfeld won All 22 of His Unlimited victories driving
the Bud between 1983-1989, including three National High Points Championships
in 1984 and 1986-1987.
And although the Miss Budweiser Grifon Hulls of
1980-1984 are my favourits, I still recall Jim driving what was known as the “bubble
bud,” the very first Unlimited Hull to sport a canopy. Although my memory
thinks it was a tinted canopy that opened backwards, since I tend to recall
Jimmy’ motoring back to the Dock with it open and water gushing around the Picklefork
These now long de riggour F-16 Cockpit Safety Canopies
were pioneered by Ron Jones and the Budweiser Crew following Dean Chenoweth’s
Death and Kropfeld later clamed He felt it Had Saved His life after a collision
with Scotty Pierce’s Mr. Pringles in the final Heat of Miami’s 1988 season
opener that Broke His Neck! As Jim would return after a year out of the cockpit
before being summarily Fired by Bernie Little for complaining the latest ’89 Bud
turbine Boat was too difficult to turn.
As I believe that Jim Kropfeld has the fifth most
career APBA/H1 Unlimited Hydroplane wins behind his predecessor Dean Chenoweth’s
25? But I haven’t been able to find anything to corroborate this…
I first learned of Jimmy Shane, a Maryland
native who used to live in my former backyard of Covington, WA a Decade ago
when He came upon my proverbial “Radar” when winning His Debutante H1 Unlimited
victory in Tri-Cities at the tiller of the U-5 Graham Trucking Hydroplane in
His first full H1 Unlimited season.
Like many, Jimmy was born into a family of Boat
Racers, with both of His Parents and Sister All racing and winning Championships
in various APBA classes, with Jimmy beginning His Boat Racing career at the
tender age of eight. Shane then steadily progressed thru the ranks of Outboards
and limited Hydroplanes before getting His first taste of a big boat in a test
in 2006, aboard one of Ted Porter’s Formula Boats at the Age of 21.
Shane then spent the next two years as the
U-1/U-7 Formula Boats Backup Driver before sitting a year out. Jimmy then apparently
returned to Ted Porter’s team once again as a Backup Driver before finally
contesting His first Full season behind the tiller of the U-5 Graham Trucking
Unlimited Hydroplane in 2012.
As Shane won that aforementioned Tri-Cities
Columbia Cup race in only His third outing that year and then further cemented
His intentions by winning the season finale’s UIM Orix Cup in Doha, Qatar to
finish runner-up to Steve David in the U-6 Oh boy Oberto/Miss Madison.
In 2013, Jimmy’s final season driving for
Graham Trucking, He began the season with a Bang by winning His second consecutive
Orix Cup, this time being the season opening round. Then Jimmy won the final
three races of the year on Lake Washington in Seattle, Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
and San Diego’s Mission Bay to claim His first National High Points Championship.
Following Steve David’s retirement, Jimmy
slotted into the Miss Madison for the 2014 season and has been a winning
fixture there ever since! As Shane claimed the first of His five APBA Gold Cup
victories (to date) at Detroit that year, along with the Columbia Cup enroute to
His second National High Points Championship.
As Jimmy would go on a proverbial “Tear,”
winning the next three seasons in-a-row aboard what’s now the Miss Home Street
after Oh Boy Oberto sadly departed sponsoring the Miss Madison to win five consecutive
National High Points Championships, reportedly only the second driver in
Unlimited History to do so! Before Andrew Tate in the U-9 Les Schwab/Jones
Racing Hydroplane ended Jimmy’s streak in 2018.
Shane is also currently tied with the legendous’
Gar Wood with five gold Cup victories apiece, winning Back-to-Back in 2014-2015,
2017, 2019 and 2021, with No Gold Cup or H1 Unlimited season taking place in
2020 due to COVID-19. As Jimmy only trails Bill Muncey, Dave Villwock and Chip
Hanauer for most Gold Cup victories, Aye Karumba!
At Age 36 and currently the youngest Skipper in
the Fleet, with six after winning the 2021 title, and presumably shortly His
seventh National High Points Championship Crown being clinched at San Diego. Along
with His five gold Cup wins. One could certainly argue that Jimmy’s the Best
Driver at the moment. And definitely He’s in the Best equipment, which probably
Doesn’t bode well for His fellow Unlimited Hydroplane competitors!
As Shane’s worst enemy this season has been
Himself! Having lost two races by being Disqualified for going under the
minimum sspeed at Guntersville’s Gold Cup race which He led wire-to-wire. And then
Having Jumped the Starting Gun at Seafair where He also led from wire-to-wire.
Although Jimmy’s won twice this year at Madison Indiana and Tri-Cities, WA, having amassed 22 H1 Unlimited victories! Thus tying the late, Great Jim Kropfeld’s career tally, and ironically exactly 40 years after Dean Chenoweth’s Death on the Columbia River…