Hydro Racing

Hopp shatters own record in UL-15

Even with a course record in hand, the U-15 Graham Racing GT Happy Go Lucky crew was tinkering.

"You're always trying for one more mph,” said Jerry Hopp, co-owner and co-driver of the boat along with his son, Greg.

It was Greg's turn to drive during Friday's first day of qualifying for the Graham Trucking Thunder Cup, the Unlimited Light Hydroplane Racing Association's portion of the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup on the Columbia River.

Under still skies and on calm water, the boats had no problem skimming through the course in eye-popping times.

Greg Hopp turned a lap of 124.118 mph, shattering the 119.8 mark he set two years ago.

"We're going out for more,” Jerry Hopp said at the end of qualifying, the crew busily working away.

Both J. Craig Fletcher of Celtic Racing (117.805) and Dustin Echols of Shockwave Racing (116.741) approached the old fast-lap record.

Meanwhile, last year's triple-crown winner Kayleigh Perkins (rookie of the year, driver of the year, team of the year) posted the fourth-best time of 113.73 despite taking it easy on her U-72 Miss Boat Electric.

The boat blew a motor last week in Montana, which dropped the team from the points lead to 81 points behind the Hopps. It also means the team has only one motor for this weekend.

"As a driver in a big race, you gotta win,” said Perkins, who once again is tops in the driver standings. "All the fans are here. The sponsor says it's a big-time race. You gotta win. But you only can use this much horsepower (to save the engine) and use this much aggression.”

Greg Hopp capped the day with a win in a four-boat dash for cash, edging his father, who is a substitute driver in his former boat, the UL-98 Atomic Screen Printing.

Jerry Hopp's fast lap was 105.089 in a boat he hadn't driven in nearly a decade.

"That's faster than I thought I was going,” he said laughing.