Lightning-fast thunderboats to return to bay
by Johnny McDonald
Sep 12, 2012 | 5179 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The ever-popular hydroplanes thunder around Mission Bay during the 2011 San Diego Bayfair Air National Guard Races. 
                                                                         Photo courtesy Christopher Denslow/H1 Unlimited
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There’s a new, exciting guy on the unlimited hydroplane waters, and he’ll make his 2012 San Diego Bayfair debut in Mission Bay in the Air National Guard Races from Sept. 14 to 16.

Jimmy Shane, 26, of Havre de Grace, Md. has made the regulars take notice.

In his rookie season, he’s pulled off a couple heat victories and claimed the Tri-City feature on the Columbia River by an eight-foot margin over J. Michael Kelly.   

“He’s [Shane] the real deal,” said publicist Gregg Mansfield. “He’s spent five years as a backup guy, getting a test ride once in a while. And now he’s out to prove it.”

About his rallying victory by the length of a sponson, Shane had this to say: “It’s crazy. This is something I’ve always dreamed about as a little kid. Just to be here and do this is pretty cool.”

Meanwhile, Kelly, who has stepped up his game, had hoped for better.

“I drove it as hard as I possibly could, wishing the start/finish line was five feet closer,” he said. “If it was five feet closer, I would have been the one holding that first-place trophy, but I got beat by a great guy.”

H1 Hydroplane Racing chief Sam Cole said it was one of the closest finishes he’s seen.

As it has been for several seasons, the finish line has belonged to a Dave Villwock/Steve David monopoly.  This year, Villwock — the sport’s all-time winner — took the Gold Cup at Detroit, and David won his third straight Seafair in Seattle.

Of course, Villwock knows Mission Bay’s Bill Muncey Course well, having won his heats and the final last year. He locked up another series title by winning again in Qatar.

Villwock will be aboard the Spirit of Qatar as the odds-on favorite.

The start is critical as the boats scramble for the inside lane and David, aboard the Oh Boy! Oberto boat, has a knack of gaining that spot. If he does, Villwock may have to do some maneuvering to catch up.

Penalties of one lap plagued the favorites when they broke too soon at the Tri City start.  When this happens the race is up for grabs.

Shane is clever and knows how to get out of trouble. Once at Qatar and again in a Seattle heat race, his bucking, 3,000-horsepower turbine craft went out of control in choppy

waters.  He put the hydro into a sharp turn as he tugged to release a stuck throttle.

Like all motorsports, it’s important to have veteran crews to find ways to increase performance. That’s the reason Villwock — whose camp is building an advanced boat for next year — has an advantage.

Organizers believe there will be 10 to 11 boats in the chase, one of the healthiest lineups in several years.

Scott Liddycoat of Suffolk, Va., was a contender last year with the Degree Men boat, but he had trouble coming out of the first turn in a Detroit heat race this year, going airborne and landing upside down. He hasn’t been a factor since.

The remaining five or six entries appear to be noisy back markers.

Qualifying is scheduled for Sept. 14 and 15 heats, and the five-lap final is set for Sept. 16.

The Lucas Oil-sponsored drag boats will see action off Crown Point. About 100 entries are expected. Off-shore boats are scheduled to perform off Ski Beach.

2012 HYDROPLANE ENTRIES Dave Villwock (Monroe, Wash.): Spirit of Qatar 96

Jimmy Shane (Havre de Grace, Md.): Graham Trucking  

Steve David (Madison, Ind.): Oh Boy! Oberto

Jon Zimmerman (Maple Valley, Wash.): U-7 Jones Racing

JW Myers (Burien, Wash.): Miss Peters & May

Nate Brown
(Preston, Wash.): Miss Red Dot

Kelly Stocklin (Edmonds, Wash.): Bucket List Racing

. Michael Kelly (Bonney Lake, Wash.): Miss Beacon Plumbing

N. Mark Evans (Chelan, Wash.): Miss DiJulio

Scott Liddycoat (Suffolk, Va.): Degree Men

Greg Hopp (Lake Stevens, Wash.):  Fox Plumbing 

Bayfair has boatload of music, too

San Diego Bayfair 2012 is more than boat racing. It’s music, too — and lots of it.

It’s part of an expanded festive event that will feature nearly three-dozen bands for three marathon days of entertainment to offer a change of pace for some of the 100,000 expected visitors.

Dave Rodger of Live Entertainment has scheduled performances in 45-minute sets from 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept 14 to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16 — placing The Farmers in the finale. 

“The wall-to-wall live entertainment proves that Bayfair is a family fun festival,” said Jeff Thomas, president of San Diego Bayfair’s board of governors. “The 24 bands playing over three days proves that Bayfair is more than boat racing. This is a great chance to see some new and well-established groups from the San Diego area.” 

Longtime Bayfair board member Jim Kidrick agreed.

“It’s important to broaden our appeal,” said Kidrick. “Some who arrive are looking for a wonderful beach festival with great live music.” 

***

San Diego Bayfair is run completely by volunteers, from the board of governors to the parking attendant.

More than 800 volunteers will be assigned various tasks throughout Mission Bay, including Ski Beach, Crown Point and Fiesta Island.      

***

Some of the top fuelers competing in the Lucas Oil drag boat races off Crown Point will be exceeding 200 mph. One hundred boats in several classes are expected.

***

The 6,800-pound hydroplane beasts can also reach 200 mph on the stretches.  The average qualifying lap speeds range from 130-165 mph. 

“It’s the next thing to a NASCAR race,” said Donald Fiedler of Bardstown, Ky. 

Said Nate Brown, a crewmember with the Miss Red Dot boat: “You got to have absolutely no brains [to race these boats]. Any moment you can crash, go under water and hope your air mask will work.”    

He retired as a driver after 22 years. 

“Our turbines are leftover Vietnam War engines T-55 L7C (originally used for Chinook helicopters),” said Brown. “3,000-horsepower and 1,500-foot-pounds of torque makes these rockets. We call them moisture missiles.”   

Hulls are made of composite materials like honeycomb aluminum, fiberglass, laminated resin and carbon fiber. 

Modern safety technology applications include composite fiber re-enforced Kevlar cockpits, capsule-enclosed driver modules with improved safety harness systems, flip-over incident escape hatches and engine shutoff features, oxygen system and advanced ballistic impact-resistant suits with improved helmet/neck brace wear.

***

Six additional boat classes will be joining the weekend’s race program. They include super and pro stocks, comp jets, K boats, stock outboards and SST 45s. The classes will run between hydroplane heats.

Ross Wallach of RPM Racing said fans love the action these classes provide. It’s the season finale for these boats.

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