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New Oberto/Miss Madison driver Jimmy Shane spent Saturday in the team’s boat shop in downtown Madison getting fitted for the cockpit and acclimating himself to his new surroundings. The 2013 H1 Unlimited Series High Point Driving Champion was hired during the off-season to succeed longtime fan favorite Steve David who retired at the end of last year’s campaign.
Shane’s rise to prominence in the sport has come quickly, having already won six races in just two seasons of full-time racing in the unlimited ranks aboard Ted Porter’s Graham Trucking hydroplane, based in Decatur, Ind. But the 28-year-old has been helming race boats for 20 years.
“I was born in Havre de Grace, Maryland,” Shane said during a few minutes of relaxation. “That’s a small town right where the Chesapeake Bay starts. I was born into the sport, basically. My dad started in 1969 racing B-Stock outboard hydroplanes and then he sort of fell in love with the 145 cubic inch inboard class.”
The elder Shane raced all over the country from coast to coast until his family came along.
“My sister was born in 1983. I was born in 1985,” Shane said. “Then, amazingly, when we were old enough to start racing boats ourselves we found ourselves right back in the sport.”
Shane started racing when at age eight in the J Stock hydro and J Stock runabout classes and slowly worked his way up through outboards to inboards. “For some reason I always wanted to go bigger and faster. So I found myself in the unlimited class,” he said.
Miss Madison Team Manager Charlie Grooms said once the team knew that the now 60-year-old David’s retirement was going to come after San Diego, “there was a lot of soul-searching as to the direction and I think what drove it the most was just our desire to get young.”
Grooms said he has attended every race since 1980, former crew chief Mike Hanson had been with the team as driver and later crew chief since 1988. Hanson recently resigned from the team and was succeeded by his younger brother Larry who has been the team’s engine specialist for several years. With both David and Mike Hanson gone it was time for some younger blood, Grooms thought.
“Jimmy’s style (of driving) is a lot like Mike (Hanson’s) style,” Grooms said. “Jimmy’s a worker guy. Jimmy’s not a weekend driver. Jimmy’s a guy who understands the analytical part, understands the technical part. He needs to learn a lot about what Steve did on the beach. That’s what drove it. He was the best we knew, the best we could get our hands on.”
When not racing, Shane is an integration engineer at a rocket factory in the Seattle area building reusable rockets for space travel.
“We had a lot of options (of drivers seeking the seat) but Jimmy fit the mold,” Grooms said. “He is a guy who fit young and he fits a guy who is technical, which is what Mike’s forte really was.”
Shane struggled over the decision to leave the defending National Champion Porter team. He had been the team’s backup driver for five seasons before going full time, but “at the same time I also knew what kind of opportunity existed with the Miss Madison Racing Team and Oberto,” he said. “The opportunity presented itself and I took it. I felt like if I didn’t take it when I had the chance it might not ever come around again. Mike Hanson drove for the team for 10 years. Steve drove for the team for 12 years. Usually when somebody’s here they’re here for a while and I landed a ride with probably the most top tier team in Unlimited hydroplanes right now. I’m very fortunate to be in the spot that I’m in."