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2015 H1 Unlimited season kicks off Saturday

It’s time for a new season for the unlimited hydroplanes.

The Madison Regatta, the season opener for H1 Unlimited, kicks off Saturday in Indiana with testing, qualifying and the first preliminary heats.

The final is set for Sunday.

The lead-up to the season has included some controversy and some restructuring.

The highlight of the 2015 schedule, of course, has to be the APBA HAPO Gold Cup, which will be July 24-26 in the Tri-Cities. It also will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first unlimited race in the Tri-Cities.

To get yourself primed for that event, here are some storylines to keep track of for the 2015 season.

1. Races.

Unfortunately, the number of races for 2015 is at a low of five. It could have been worse if the organizing group from Detroit, series chairman Steve David and H1 Unlimited hadn’t gotten an event scheduled in Detroit. The UAW/GM Spirit of Detroit Hydrofest is set for Aug. 22-23.

Besides Madison, Tri-Cities and Detroit, races also are set for Seattle and San Diego.

The new group set to run the Silver Cup in Coeur d’Alene wasn’t ready in time for this year. It says it will be for 2016.

And Doha is dead. The Qatar Marine Sports Federation is cutting ties with most racing events.

2. Boats.

The good news is 12 teams plan to race this season.

Eleven of them will be in Madison this weekend.

Only the U-21 Go Fast Turn Left Racing isn’t ready for Madison. The team is rebuilding the boat after Brian Perkins flipped it and destroyed it last year in the Tri-Cities.

The team plans to be ready for the Gold Cup.

3. New rides, drivers and teams.

Jesse Robertson has the ride in the U-7 Porter Racing II team for the season. That’s because last year’s driver, Cal Phipps, will drive the U-27 Wiggins Racing Team’s Dalton Industries boat.

Milt and Charley Wiggins purchased the boat and equipment from Nate Brown after last season and moved the operation down to Alabama.

Scott Liddycoat, who has had tough luck the past few years finding a permanent ride, finally found one with the U-9 Jones Racing team. He replaces Jon Zimmerman, who decided he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Rookie Patrick Sankuer was named the new driver for the U-12 Centurion Racing team.

Veteran Jean Theoret finished the 2014 season as a replacement driver for the U-96 Spirit of Qatar, taking Kip Brown’s spot. He’s now the permanent driver. The team is back to being called the Miss E-Lam Plus.

Rookie Kevin Eacret gets a shot at driving the U-100 Leland Unlimited for team owner Stacy Briseno.

Among those missing from the circuit are the U-37 Schumacher Racing and the U-3 Go3 Racing.

Billy and Jane Schumacher hoped to sell the boat and equipment after a dismal 2014 season, but the boat sits at a warehouse in upstate New York.

As for the U-3, the sport’s only piston-powered boat, there are no plans to race as of now. Owner Ed Cooper Jr. had a falling-out with former H1 chairman Sam Cole and said he wouldn’t race as long as Cole was the chairman.

But Cole is gone, David is instead running the show, and Cooper still hasn’t made a move.

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