There was a 4-foot hole in the front of the boat, on the left sponson.
And there was less than two hours before the HAPO Columbia Cup final.
But like Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, U-6 Oberto driver Jimmy Shane surveyed the damage and thought “I can fix it!”
Except it was really “We can fix it!”
And so what looked like a bad ending to a good day of racing turned out to be a great comeback for the Oberto team, as Shane eventually drove to victory in the final Sunday on the Columbia River.
The hole in the boat came about in the final preliminary heat of the day — a day that saw a lot of attrition to the Columbia Cup fleet:
J. Michael Kelly and the U-1 Graham Trucking were beached by mid-day when a crack in the back of the boat got worse.
Jeff Bernard and the U-17 Our Gang Racing boat were finished when the boat launched in heat 2B after hitting a roostertail from another boat.
The U-12 Miss DiJulio boat was done before any racing Sunday, as the team lost an engine in testing.
The U-21 Lakeridge Paving was lost in the final when Jamie Nilsen flipped the boat on the first lap after hitting a sideways roller. Nilsen was fine, the boat was destroyed.
And Dave Villwock and the U-37 Cost Less Carpet presents Beacon Plumbing were finished after that heat 3B, in which Villwock lost control of the boat while going deck-to-deck with Shane for the lead.
With Villwock on the inside lane, something in the back of the boat gave out and jerked the boat to right, hitting the Oberto hard and launching it and Shane about 15 feet into the air.
The incident automatically caused H1 Unlimited officials to disqualify Villwock from the heat and penalize the U-37 team 150 points. That loss of points knocked the U-37 out of the final heat lineup.
Shane, the defending national high points champion, made a heroic effort to save the boat from driving onto the Kennewick shoreline and into the crowd. But he shut the boat down.
Shane got out of the cockpit and was mad. He ripped off his radio unit and wouldn’t listen to Villwock trying to talk to him.
But Shane also looked at the damage to the Oberto.
“I made an assessment out on the race course,” said Shane. “From what I could see, it was a big chunk missing. I thought we could fix it. I said ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
Meanwhile, Charlie Grooms, the team manager of the Oberto, called his team together in the truck for a meeting.
“I talked about it being just a concerted, focused effort when the boat got back,” said Grooms. “We have a compartmentalized team. Everybody has a job to do. (Panicking) is not what we do.”
As each person on the team went about their jobs, Grooms went from station to station keeping everyone on task. The team even had an audience, as about 70 people stood outside of the team’s camp spot under Bernie Little’s big oak tree and watched.
“I was just beating on the crew,” said Grooms. “Keeping them on task.”
The Peters & May team even got in on the job, as crew chief Scott Raney could be seen running down Lampson Pits from his camp to the Oberto camp to help fix the hole. Some of Raney’s crew joined in too.
By the time the final arrived, Oberto was patched together with masking tape and various materials.
Shane got some extra time for finishing touches when Nilsen flipped the U-21 on the first lap of the final, delaying the restart 55 minutes.
And when the race was restarted, it wasn’t even close.
“We had good position,” said Shane, who has won two consecutive H1 races. “I knew that we had good position at the start of the race. We had the best position in lane 1 to get to clean water.”
Shane averaged 145.294 mph over the five-lap final, well ahead of the 139.177 mph average of runnerup Jon Zimmerman and the U-9 Les Schwab Tires-Team RedDOT.
“We knew Jimmy Shane had the faster boat,” said Zimmerman. “We were very worried about his sponson coming apart on the inside lane. In fact (U-9 crew chief) Jeff Campbell told me if we would have went inside he probably would have broke up and hit us. So we stayed outside.”
Kip Brown, driving the brand new U-96 Spirit of Qatar, finished third; Cal Phipps in the U-7 Graham Trucking II was fourth; and Tom Thompson in the gbr-11 Peters & May was fifth.
Mike Webster, driving the U-22 Ranch & Home presents Payne West Insurance, did not finish the final.