After a spin out, some blow outs, a disqualification and a close finish, Saturday at the HAPO Columbia Cup went mostly according to plan with four-time defending H1 Unlimited national high points champion Jimmy Shane winning both heats he started.
Shane, driving the U-1 Miss HomeStreet, racked up 800 points on the day to lead the field with 880 (the rest coming from Friday’s qualifying). The 2016 H1 Unlimited Rookie of the Year Andrew Tate (U-9 Les Schwab Tires) finished second behind Shane in the final heat of the day to sit in second with 800 points, just in front of J. Michael Kelly, driving the U-12 Graham Trucking boat, who has 770.
The U-21 Darrell Strong presents Payne West Insurance boat, driven by Brian Perkins, looked like it could compete with the front runners after its first two laps of the day, but lost its steering and spun out in Heat 1A, and the team called it quits for the weekend.
Here are the recaps from Saturday’s unlimited races, in the order they occurred.
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After the U-440 MAC Truck Repair & Towing/Martin Nelson & Company of Dustin Echols lost power during the Heat 1A milling period, forcing the boats to be sent back to the dock, the boats in Heat 1B got unlimited racing for the weekend started
Tate — Friday’s fastest qualifier — got off to a fast start, fending off a strong challenge from Tom Thompson in the U-11 Miss DiJulio presents J&D’s to win going away and pick up an early 400 points.
“The first one’s out of the way, takes a little bit of pressure off, but it’s a long weekend still,” Tate said. “Our goal is to be somewhere up near the front tomorrow.”
Thompson won the milling period, hitting the start/finish line first and holding the inside lane, but lost some speed going into Turn 1 on the second lap, allowing Tate to pull away for a half-rooster tail lead that he would only increase as the four-lap race wore on.
Thompson was later disqualified for a technical violation.
Shane captured his first of two heat victories on the day, but the story of the race was more about the boat that didn’t finish.
Perkins’ U-21 was pushing Shane from the outside for 1 1/2 laps. But trouble arose when the hull lost steering power in Turn 3 of the second lap and skipped sideways, forcing Kelly in the U-12 Graham Trucking to turn right — which the boats aren’t built to do — in order to avoid a collision.
When Perkins and the U-21 got back to the dock, his team noted an extensive list of damage and called it quits for the weekend.
“It looks like the propeller threw a blade, it took out the entire drive line of the shaft in the bottom of the boat,” Perkins said. “In doing so, it also took out the rudder, which broke all of our steering and put a big hole in the side of the boat and pulled all the skid fin bracketing off the side.
“We had a great race, that was about the only positive. We were ahead of Graham for one of the first times, and we were looking forward to putting on a good show. Super disappointed we can’t run for Darrell and Vanessa (Strong) this weekend.”
Perkins’ left leg was thrown into the dash when the boat skidded, and he had his knee wrapped while walking around the pits for the rest of the day. He said the team would decide later Saturday whether or not they would be able to repair the boat in time to race at SeaFair in Seattle next weekend.
Race officials considered stopping the race, but because the U-21 remained upright and was far enough to the outside, Shane and Kelly cruised to a slow, 1-2 finish.
After finishing his first race of the day at parade pace, Kelly was able to open up the throttle and win going away from Thompson and Jimmy King in the piston-powered U-3 Griggs presents the Miss Ace Hardware.
King was setting the pace during the milling period, but Kelly flipped the script when he cut through the infield before Turn 1 — with Thompson trailing by six boat lengths — and took the lead and inside lane.
“We saw the 3 (King) up in front of us, and knew that in order to beat them we were going to have to get onto their inside,” Kelly said. “We dove up and then noticed the 11 (Thompson) was coming up our inside, so we had to race up there, and it got us up there a lot earlier than we wanted.
“It just worked out. We knew we needed Lane 1 to beat these guys. We’re still trying to find some speed out of the 12 boat, and we’ll get there.”
The day’s marquee matchup lived up to the hype as Shane and Tate got to go head-to-head in the finale, with the four-time defending national champ coming out on top.
Tate got a little ahead of the pace during the milling period, hitting the start/finish line with a little more than two minutes to go until the beginning of the race. He had to run the lap before the start just over the 80 mph minimum, which allowed Shane to take the lead, momentum and inside lane.
“We had really good timing marks today, and my radio guy Nick Bononcini, he was on it all day long,” Shane said. “We knew that Andrew was early when he was coming up the front stretch on the start, so we just said ‘let’s stick to our plan.’ ... He (Tate) had to move out to kill time, so we had Lane 1 wide open.”
But Tate’s U-9 proved its worth as one of the fastest on the water, never trailing Shane by more than a half-rooster tail in the most competitive heat of the day.
“That’s the best racing you can do, we were side-by-side the entire race,” Shane said. “They’re running extremely strong to keep up with us on the outside.
“That’s going to be the fight all season, but especially this weekend, is going to be who gets Lane 1.”
Round 1 goes to Shane.
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