If you head into Lampson Pits this weekend, take a look at the U-100 Leland Unlimited team.
Its members should be the ones wearing button-up plaid shirts.
It’s all part of the Fred Leland American Dream tour, in memory of the team’s owner who died in May after losing his battle with cancer.
“We cleaned out Fred’s closet,” U-100 driver Greg Hopp said. “We’ve been wearing the snap-up plaid shirts he’d always wear. I’d like to win a race for him this year.”
Leland knew he was dying, but he made plans to have his U-100 boat race the entire circuit this season. And he wanted to add a second boat for both the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup this week and Seafair next week.
Hopp said Leland left the boats to his girlfriend, Stacy Briseno.
“His wish was that she not spend any money out of her pockets on the boats,” Hopp said. “As long as the boats continue to pay for themselves, we can keep racing.”
So between crew chief Tim Shadduck and Hopp, they’re trying to make the equipment stretch.
“Fred had a lot of ideas in his head that he didn’t share with everybody,” Hopp said. “He knew the gearboxes and the motors. Tim has a good grasp of things, but he didn’t know everything that Fred did. We’re at that point sometimes where we’d normally ask him ‘OK, Fred, what do we do next?’ But there’s no Fred. Tim and I are fumbling through it.”
As an owner with his father, Jerry Hopp, of a Grand Prix West boat, Greg Hopp knows a little about curtailing expenses.
But worrying about an unlimited hydroplane budget is new ground for Hopp.
“Everything on that boat has a cycle time,” he said. “The engine has only so many RPMs. The propellers only have so many RPMs. We only have five propellers left for the season.”
Those can run anywhere from $12,000 to $15,000 each.
Now, the team is adding a second boat for the two Northwest races, stretching the equipment even more.
“The second boat needs sponsorship,” Hopp said.
If Hopp doesn’t have enough worries making a go of it with Leland’s team, he’s also busy with his job at Boeing as a team lead for panels on the 767 wings, putting in 10 to 12-hour days.
He’s also racing a Grand Prix West boat this weekend, and his dad is racing another one that the father and son team own together.
“It’s a lot, but my priorities are the unlimited comes first,” Hopp said. “Then it’s the boat I race in, then the one my dad and I own.”
Still, nothing would make his season than to win an unlimited race for Fred.
“We’re running decent too,” Hopp said. “We qualified at 150 mph in Detroit.”
Now if he could only win that race while wearing one of Leland’s plaid shirts, his season would be complete.