The Grand Prix West series is a new addition to the Water Follies lineup this year, and if Scotty Pierce and the rest of the drivers have their way, they'll be back next summer.
GPW, in its second year of existence, was born out of the frustration of drivers competing in so-called "blower boats" alongside more traditionally powered hydroplanes. When the Grand Prix boats, which use blown alcohol dragster engines, competed in Unlimited Lights, they were typically forced to run on the outside, which restricted the boats' potential.
Being in their own class allows the GPW boats to really fly along the water, and when they do, they are loud. The supercharged boats, averaging 26 feet long, 12 feet wide and 3,000 pounds, can produce up to 1,500 horsepower.
The sheer entertainment value of these boats was enough for the Water Follies entertainment committee to add the class to this year's lineup, said event director Kathy Powell.
"It'll be fun to walk through the pits and see what people think of them," Powell said.
Hardcore hydro fans certainly will recognize some of the names in this year's six-boat GPW field — Pierce (GP-99 Cowgirls Espresso) and the father-and-son duo of Jerry (GP-15 Peters and May) and Greg Hopp (GP-12 Miss Clean Cuts) are hydroplane veterans — but Pierce says the GPs enhance the unlimited show.
"They're the coolest things on water," Pierce said. "There's a place for fans that like the noise."