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By DAVE TAYLOR
The Trimble Banner
The 2014 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane racing season gets underway in two weeks. Hydro enthusiasts from all over the country will descend on the local area for the Madison Regatta, featuring the Indiana Governor’s Cup Race, over the July 4 weekend.
Volunteers with Madison Regatta, Inc., hope for outstanding weather and river levels for this year’s event after high water cancelled the racing activities a year ago.
Two Unlimiteds, U-3 Go3Racing and U-11 Peters & May, staged a pre-season exhibition in Evansville over the past weekend to the delight of those in attendance. The hydroplanes raced in Evansville from 1979 until the event was canceled five years ago. Local officials hope Evansville returns to the H1 schedule in 2015 as a full-fledged race.
Recent developments have been announced by some of the racing teams who will compete for the 2014 national championship.
Ellstrom Racing is in the process of completing construction on a new hull to replace one damaged in Doha, Qatar in 2012. Team owner Erick Ellstrom and sponsor Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, President of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation, have announced that former Our Gang driver Kip Brown will drive the 96 Spirit of Qatar in 2014. In 2013, Brown and the Our Gang team wore the colors of Qatar and raced as the Spirit of Qatar 95 while a new 96 was being constructed in a Seattle shop. The highlight of the season – and Brown’s career – was a victory in the 2013 Detroit APBA Gold Cup.
In making the announcement, Ellstrom said, “This was the most difficult decision we have had to make in all of our years of racing. We interviewed a number of drivers who were all very competitive, professional and impressive. There were a number of candidates we felt could do a great job for us.”
On the selection of Brown, Ellstrom added, “Sheikh Hassan and I have both had the opportunity to work with Kip and we have both been very impressed with his ability as a driver as well as the way he conducts himself on and off the race course. We think he is a great fit for our team.”
An enthusiastic Brown said, “This is an incredible opportunity and I am really grateful to be chosen to represent this great team and sponsor. Ellstrom Racing has been the top team in the sport for many seasons and I am very honored to be chosen to be their next driver.”
Brown was the primary driver for the U-17 Our Gang Racing team from 2008 through the 2013 season. “It’s really bittersweet to be leaving the 17 team,” he said. “I helped build the boat and have been with those guys since the start of my unlimited career. I have a lot of close friends at Our Gang Racing and really appreciate everything they have done for me.”
Meanwhile, Kip’s uncle, Our Gang Racing owner Nate Brown, has announced that Jeff Bernard will drive the U-17 in 2014.
In a statement posted on the Our Gang Facebook page, Brown said, “Sometimes life can spit curve balls at you and this sport of Unlimited Hydroplane racing is no different. Depending on how you see the ball when it leaves its origin and how you watch its path along the way will determine the success of how you make contact with it when it arrives. This can result in a home run if you plan and swing hard enough. Our Gang Racing is proud to announce that we hit that ‘home run’ in being able to acquire Jeff Bernard as the driver of the U-17 for the 2014 season.”
“Jeff has been our backup driver and spotter and drove for us when I stepped out of the cockpit in Seattle two years ago. He has run a dash for cash event for us and is very comfortable in the boat. Jeff is very cool and confident and because of the years of experience both from the years in the sport and his experience we are looking forward to swinging very hard in Seattle and Tri Cities.”
Bernard won the 2008 Indiana Governor’s Cup Race while driving the U-5 FormulaBoats.com hydroplane.
Race stops on the 2014 season schedule include the following:
July 4-6 Madison, Ind., Madison Regatta featuring the Indiana Governor’s Cup Race
July 11-13, Detroit, Mich., Detroit Yacht Club A.P.B.A. Gold Cup
July 25-27 Kennewick, Wash., HAPO Columbia Cup
Aug. 1-3 Seattle, Wash., Albert Lee Appliance Cup at Seafair
Aug. 29-31 Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Coeur d’Alene Diamond Cup
Sept. 12-14 San Diego, Calif., San Diego Bayfair
Nov. 20-22 Doha, Qatar, Oryx Cup UIM World Championship
The tentative lineup of hydroplanes for this year’s Madison Regatta:
1) U-1 Graham Trucking, driver J. Michael Kelly
2) U-6 Miss Madison/Oberto, driver Jimmy Shane
3) U-7 Team Porter Racing, driver Cal Phipps
4) No. 9 Bello’s Pizza/Jones Racing, driver Jon Zimmerman
5) U-11 Peters and May, driver Tom Thompson
6) U-12 Miss DiJulio, driver Greg Hopp
7) U-17 Our Gang Racing, driver Jeff Bernard
8) U-22 Webster Racing, driver Mike Webster
9) U-37 Schumacher Racing, driver Scott Liddycoat
10) U-96 Spirit of Qatar, driver Kip Brown
11) U-100 Leland Unlimited, driver David Warren.