July 12, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Video: Jon Zimmerman goes airborne, Jimmy Shane dominates Gold Cup heats

Detroit — Ever since Jimmy Shane burst onto the Detroit APBA Gold Cup scene two years ago, he has been a force to be reckoned with on the Detroit River.

Shane, 28, entered the weekend as the favorite to win this year's Gold Cup after a dominant outing in last week's season opener in Madison, Indiana, in which he took the top spot in qualifying, won all three of his heats and would have won the final if not for jumping the gun and being assessed a penalty.

He proved to be the driver to beat once again on Saturday.

After topping the field in Friday's qualifying with an average speed of 162.613 mph in his U-6 Oberto boat, he was paired with J. Michael Kelly in the U-1 Graham Trucking boat and Jon Zimmerman in the U-9 Team Red Dot/Spirit of Qatar boat in the first heat.

Shane and Kelly were neck-and-neck through the first two laps with Kelly holding a slight lead. Shane pulled ahead in the third lap before putting some distance between the two to win the first heat. Zimmerman finished a distant third.

Then in the second heat with Zimmerman and Cal Phipps in the U-7 Graham Trucking II boat, Shane was put to the test by Zimmerman. Shane held the inside lane and maintained a narrow lead through a pair of thrilling laps. But while heading into the first turn of the third lap, Zimmerman caught a series of rollers that sent him airborne and spun him 360 degrees before he landed right-side up.

“I was going into the turn and everything was fine. Then all of a sudden it picked up and got on the canard,” Zimmerman said. “It hung there for a little bit and decided to go the other way. I thought I landed upside down until all the water cleared. I'm not sure how high I went or how many times (I spun around), but it just happened.

“I'm glad we could put on a show. It's too bad it ended that way.”

Zimmerman walked away from the blow-over accident with no bumps or bruises and has been cleared to drive in Sunday's races. Zimmerman's boat wasn't so lucky as it suffered some damage, including a broken canard.

“We had a great heat going there. It's really unfortunate Zimmerman took off, but he was fast,” Shane said.

“He was right there in the mirror the whole time. I couldn't shake him down. I think he likes that outside lane because he can carry the speed a little bit better out there. Hopefully the boat can come in here and it's not in too bad of shape.”

Shane added that his Oberto team will help out in any way possible to get Zimmerman back out on the water.

“We want the U-9 boat out there racing for the Gold Cup,” Shane said.

Shane was awarded the heat to give him a sweep for the day, pushing his accumulated point total to 900 and extending his lead atop the point standings heading into the final day.

Dwindling field

Last year's race boasted a field of 10 in the qualifying and heats, but that number shrunk to eight this year.

And of those eight boats, only six took to the water Saturday.

Four boats were scheduled to compete in each flight of the two heats, but the U-12 Miss DiJulio boat driven by Greg Hopp and the U-11 Peters & May boat driven by Tom Thompson never made it off their trailers.

Both boats were unable to race due to mechanical issues.

Gold Cup changes

The Detroit River Regatta Association announced on Saturday that it will be pushing next year's Gold Cup race back to Aug. 21-23 in an effort to avoid the Fourth of July holiday.

“We have been hoping for the opportunity to move the event because so many people travel around the July Fourth holiday,” Tom Bertolini, president of the DRRA, said in a released statement. “When the third weekend in August opened up, we jumped at the chance. Now even more people will have the opportunity to participate in this Detroit tradition.”

According to DRRA event director Mark Weber, the change of date is something that has been in the works for the past four months and was a decision that wasn't taken lightly.

“The challenge for us has always been the automotive industry and suppliers shut down for two weeks (in July) and many people have told us they are out of town on vacation with their families,” said Weber. “The holiday just draws people out of town.”

So Weber looked at the calendar, took every week in August and September and marked down every single event that could be a conflict. And when he finished, one weekend emerged.

“I feel these type of events are challenged as people's lives get busier and busier,” Weber said. “The next generations are not as passionate about this event as people 30 and over. We're getting away from the holiday and trying to eliminate reasons why they can't attend.”

Weber added that shortening the Gold Cup from a three-day event to two action-packed days is something that is also being seriously considered, and a decision will be made down the road.

In addition, the DRRA and American Canadian Hydroplane Association announced the Grand Prix class will return in 2015. The Grand Prix boats, which use blown engines and generate more noise than Unlimited boats, will compete for the Silver Cup and give fans more thrilling racing.

Jimmy Shane maneuvers on the Detroit River course during Saturday's heats. / Steve Perez / Detroit News
Crew members look over the damage on Jon Zimmerman's boat Saturday. (Midnight Oil Group / Special to Detroit News)