Hydro Racing

Columbia Cup to feature large fleet of 13 unlimiteds

H1 Unlimited officials were expecting to have a season-high number of unlimited hydro-planes sitting in Lampson Pits this week when the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup is held.

That number was expected to be 15, but it's going to be 13 instead — still a season high.

Two teams on the Midwest swing in Madison, Ind., and Detroit aren't going to make it when qualifying begins on the Columbia River on Friday.

The U-13 Spirit of Detroit is shutting things down, as is the U-22 Matrix Systems boat, which flipped in Detroit last week and suffered severe damage.

"(U-13 owner) Dave Bartush said that they've got some issues," said H1 official Steve Montgomery. "They couldn't get the boat to run in Madison or Detroit. He says they could show up in San Diego or somewhere later."

The U-22's driver and part-owner, Mike Webster, said he'll be in the Tri-Cities and Seattle over these next few weeks.

"But I'm gonna be boatless," Webster said Sunday night.

The flip in Detroit was Webster’s first in his unlimited career.

“It was during a heat race on the first lap,” Webster said. “We hit a roller by the yacht club, and we got too much air. I think if you’re in the sport long enough, you’re bound to be a part of history (with a flip). That’s part of being a racer.”

Still, Webster took a look at the damage and thought it could be fixed with the two weeks between races.

The next day, he took a closer look and changed his mind.

“The right sponson is torn off, although the center section held up well,” Webster said. “We put a new capsule in during the offseason, totally redid the motors. We put a lot of money and work into it in the offseason. We were happy with the improvements.”

But the team, Webster Racing, doesn’t have enough money to keep going.

“If it’s from Webster Racing, I’m done driving this season,” he said. “We just don’t have the sponsor support. From where we’re at, we’re just gonna have to bide our time.”

Webster is starting a grass roots campaign to rebuild the 22, where fans can donate money to help get the boat ready for the 2013 season.

“Our goal is to get as many fans involved,” he said. “We’re getting some good response, through media outlets and advertising through Facebook. Part of the reason I’m coming out is to be a drivers’ rep and promoting this campaign.”

While Webster and his boat won’t be racing in the Tri-Cities, Lampson Pits will still be filled.

Mike Denslow of the Tri-Cities Water Follies said that he’s expecting 23 boats on race weekend.

“The pit guys, they always try to get the boat count from me early,” Denslow said. “The closer we get to fill the pits up, they get nervous. But we’ll be good.”

Here’s the count — 13 unlimiteds, seven Grand Prix West boats, and three vintage boats.

Here’s the unlimited lineup:

U-1 Spirit of Qatar with driver Dave Villwock

U-5 Graham Trucking with Jimmy Shane

U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto and Steve David

U-9 Jones Racing and Jon Zimmerman

U-11 Peters & May and driver JW Myers

U-17 Miss Red Dot and Kip Brown

U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing and J. Michael Kelly

U-57 Formulaboats.com and Mark Evans

The 88 Degree Men and Scott Liddycoat

U-100 Leland Unlimited I and driver Greg Hopp

Making their season debuts will be three boats — the U-18 Bucket List Racing and Kelly Stocklin; the U-21 Mis HAPO and Brian Perkins; and the U-99 Leland Unlimited II and Ryan Mallow.

* Jeff Morrow, 509-582-1507; jmorrow@tricityherald.com