People saw the driver walking through Lampson Pits on Friday, doing double takes.
I know that guy. Who is he?
Then the light bulb comes on: It’s Jimmy King, driver of the last piston-powered unlimited hydroplane on the H1 Unlimited circuit, the U-3 Go3Racing boat.
King is in the Tri-Cities racing the GP-10 Meyers Auto Tech presents The Charger Texas Roadhouse, a Grand Prix West boat owned by Dean Rojas.
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“It’s been five years since the last time I raced here,” said King.
That was back in 2009, when King was driving for Ed Cooper in the unlimiteds.
But Cooper had a disagreement with H1 Unlimited chairman Sam Cole, and he hasn’t raced his boat competitively since.
Copper did bring it out for an exhibition last month in Evansville, Ind., in a match race with the gbr-11 Peters & May.
“It was awesome!” said King. “Absolutely spectacular. The last time we ever qualified we hit 149 mph. We got out there in Evansville and hit 154. I fell back into old home week.”
What would it take to get the Cooper team back into the circuit?
“It’s a political thing I’m not going to get into,” said King. “When they get it straightened out, he’ll be back. Ed has never been more loaded with equipment. He wants to run this thing worse than anyone wants him to.”
King hasn’t been completely idle.
“I raced for these guys (GP-10) two years ago in Valleyford, Quebec,” said King. “I’ve gotten into a couple of Grand Prix boats on the east coast. I’ve ended up in one or two things a year. But it looks like I might have a more permanant ride here (with the GP-10).”
But if Cooper ever decideds to race the U-3 on a consistent basis, King is ready for that.
“I keep telling Ed that it’s my ride,” King said.
Peters & May on the rebound
Scott Raney and his team worked tirelessly all week to get ready for this weekend’s race with the gbr-11 Peters & May.
Two weeks ago in Detroit, Raney’s team lost two motors. They tried to piece together one good motor from the two, but they couldn’t do it.
So they hurried back to their shop in Seattle and worked feverishly to get things done.
“It usually takes 400 man-hours to get one motor up and running,” said Raney, who along with his wife, Shannon, owns the boat. “We did one in a week.”
While he and his team were concentrating on the boat Friday in qualifying, his motor guys were by themselves getting the second motor going.
They should have that one ready today.
Driver Tom Thompson qualified the boat at 148.157 mph.
“We’re fine,” said Raney. “We went through the turns and things looked good.”
Kelly getting better in the Graham
J. Michael Kelly is getting more comfortable with the U-1 Graham Trucking each time he hits the water.
“In the Detroit Gold Cup final, we were doing 145 mph laps with whitecaps out there,” said Kelly. “I knew right away when I got in the boat for the first time in Madison that this thing is good.”
Change to starting procedure
The H1 Competition committee made changes to the starting procedure on Friday.
There is no more 1-minute score-up bouy.
The change states: Boats that are on the race course and running in established lanes shall have right of way over those not running in established lanes. This right of way shall exist until two straight away buoys have been passed. After that, the standard right of way rules shall apply. (a) A boat leaving the racing lanes shall relinquish all right of way.
The committee also made changes to the N2 speed violation, especially regarding flagrant violations of over 5 seconds. Teams can be fined $100 for the first two instances in a heat race. A third time in the heat could mean loss of points.