Exciting finish caps Columbia Cup race

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Unlimited hydroplanes

After one of the most action packed days of racing in the history of the Air National Guard H1 Unlimited Series and a photo finish in the winner-take-all championship Final Heat, Jimmy Shane of Havre de Grace, Maryland found him self atop the podium flanked by J Michael Kelly in second place and Dave Villwock in third.

Steve David led the final two laps in the 6 Oh Boy! Oberto and would have been the winner except for a violation of the score-up buoy before the start of the race which sent him around for an extra lap.

“They called the penalty right away,” said David. “But it didn’t matter.  We were going to show them what we had anyway.”

Behind David, Kelly had secured the inside in the 37 Miss Beacon Plumbing and battled Shane in the 5 Graham trucking throughout the five lap final.

It was a classic matchup with Kelly gaining the advantage in the turns and Shane using superior boat speed to take the lead in the straightaways.

Off the final corner, Kelly had a slight advantage in a boat that ran well in spite of losing the engine cowling mid-way through the heat.

Kelly said, “It’s disappointing to lose by a foot. It’s not very often that we are the ones out front so you drive as hard as you can.  If the finish line had been five feet closer, it would have been different.”

Shane did not take the lead until the last few yards before the start/finish line, winning was less than a boat length.

Some long-time observers called it the closest finish in any final heat in the history of Unlimited Hydroplane Racing.

An emotional, nearly speechless Shane called the win, “The fulfillment of a childhood dream.” And added, “I’m just really happy for Ted Porter, Rob Graham and the whole team. That boat (Kelly’s) corners amazing.  We had some chute speed on him so I just wanted to make sure I stayed close enough to take a run at him at the end.”

The two favorites both had frustrating finishes to their Sunday racing.  Early in the day, Villwock’s boat lost a gearbox and suffered considerable damage.  Despite the DNF and failure to score points in that heat, Villwock and the Spirit of Qatar made the six boat final.  But things did not go well there for the defending champion.

Forced to the outside with a boat that may not have been 100%, Villwock was unable to catch any of the three boats running ahead of him in the final.

During the fierce battle for the inside at the start of the heat, Kelly secured lane one with David and Shane to his right.  As the drivers exited the first turn before the start, David entered the backstretch before the one minute mark and incurred the one lap penalty.

That left the two young drivers to battle deck to deck throughout the five laps in an epic struggle that had the huge sun-baked crowd on their feet.

Shane is in his first full time ride, driving for Ted Porter of Decatur, Indiana. He had seen previous action as a backup driver in the Porter team’s third boat during previous seasons.

--H1 Unlimited