The first day of racing at the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup went to the favorites.
The top two H1 Unlimited teams in the national high-points standings Steve David and the 1 Oh Boy! Oberto, and Jimmy Shane and the 5 Graham Trucking won their preliminary heat races Saturday on the Columbia River.
For Shane, it was redemption after a Friday qualifying session in which the Graham team had some bugs in the boat they couldnt seem to work out. They were only able to finish fifth in the qualifying session.
Were back to our normal setup, with a normal gearbox, stated Shane. Everything worked to our a game plan perfectly.
In the first heat race, Shane parked himself into lane 1 on the front stretch along Columbia Park.
The other drivers left him alone and settled for what was left.
When the race started, Shane made it in and out of the east end turn first.
He was never threatened en route to the victory and 400 points.
I like lane 1, Shane said. A lot of teams might be reluctant to take lane 1 because their boats might not be able to handle it. But ours can.
Jon Zimmerman in the 9 Fox Plumbing presents Team Red Dot powered by Les Schwab finished second for 300 points.
The boat ran well, Zimmerman said. The odds were not good of us beating Jimmy.
Mark Evans drove the 57 FEDCO to a third-place finish for 225 points, and Tom Thompson got 169 points for his fourth-place finish in the 11 Peters & May.
Rookie driver Jamie Nilsen, who earned his unlimited hydroplane driver certification earlier in the day, drove the 21 Go Fast Turn Left to a fifth-place finish for 127 points.
Meanwhile, David quickly took care of business himself in Heat 1B.
Kip Brown settled his 95 Spirit of Qatar into the inside lane a good 3 minutes before the start of the race.
J. Michael Kelly in the 37 Miss Beacon Plumbing followed into line right next to Brown in lane 2, and then David came into the trolling parade in lane 3.
David got the Oberto first into the east-end turn on the start. But Brown and Kelly, by virtue of having inside position, came out of the turn even with David at three abreast.
That lasted halfway up the Franklin County side of the river, as Obertos superior straightaway speed was evident.
David was never threatened after that, and all he had to do was hold his lane which he did for the victory and 400 points.
Its just business, David said. This morning when we ran (in testing) we really liked the gear-prop ratio we had.
Still steaming from the Gold Cup loss two weeks ago in which David was handed a penalty while in the lead the Oberto contingent of David, crew chief Mike Hanson, team manager Charlie Grooms and Miss Madison representative Bob Hughes attended the drivers meeting earlier in the day.
While everyone seemed to be in a relaxed and friendly mood, the Oberto team was quiet and serious.
(H1) has taken the fun out of this, David said.
After the draw for the first heat races, David, Hanson and the rest of the Oberto team got together to discuss a quick strategy.
We thought it would be best for a lane 3 start, David said. It was the right call. I still left a lot of room for the guys behind me. I had plenty of room to work with out there.
That was key, said Hanson.
No penalties, he said. We took lane 3 because we felt we had most of the guys in the heat covered. But no penalties is key.
Brown finished second for 300 points, while Kelly was third for 225 points.
Its what I could have hoped for in a heat race with the Oberto, Brown said. I wanted to be inside Mike (Kelly) and I got that. Its rougher on the inside. But thats where I wanted to be.
Greg Hopp in the 14 Miss DiJulio was fourth for 169 points, and Mike Webster took fifth in the 22 PayneWest Insurance.
Ryan Mallow, driving the 100 Central Coast Airbrush, had his boat running during pre-race. But it died on him just before the start.
There will be four more preliminary heats today, as well as a possible provisional.
The Columbia Cup final is set for 4 p.m., and all eyes will be on Oberto and Graham, as the two rivals are looking for a victory.
I think to a point it is (becoming a rivalry), Shane said. Theyre ahead of us, so were chasing them. We actually want to draw them in each heat. It makes for a great show too.