Detroit — Cal Phipps wants to put on a show for the home fans in what he hopes ends with a Gold Cup championship on the Detroit River Sunday.
Phipps, who lives in Sterling Heights, will have his best chance of hoisting motor sports’ oldest trophy while competing in the U7 Graham Trucking boat.
Phipps, 44, is teammates with J. Michael Kelly, who won the season opener at Madison, Wisconsin, last weekend. Phipps also earned a spot on the podium, finishing third.
He was thrilled to learn Ted Porter was running a second Graham Trucking boat this year, getting a call from the owner just prior to the season to ask if he wanted the ride.
And, now that Phipps has great equipment, he is now focused on getting the U7 boat up to speed.
“The boat’s doing really well,” he said after a test session early Friday afternoon where he ran a lap of 153.583 miles per hour around the 2.72-mile course. “With the stiff wind it was a really good test for me. I started conservative, gave it a little bit of wing and the more wing I decreased, it just started to fly nice and even and I had a really good boat ride.
“You can just tell that it’s been built to fly. They like to be light, they like to be hovering over the water. You have to drive them light. Hey, they were probably built for guys like Chip (11-time Gold Cup winner Hanauer) and Dave Villwock (10-time Gold Cup champ) and that’s the way you see them run the boats.
“I don’t mind running them that way and I’ve got some great pictures showing that I do run them that way, but not right out of the box. Today with the stiff wind going right into the Yacht Club, it was a great test session for me. I got about fifty percent more confidence in the boat. It’s going to take a couple of days here, a few test sessions and once I trust the boat and the boat trusts me … it’s going to be fun.”
Phipps still has work to do after qualifying fifth fastest (150.707).
Phipps, a seven-time Grand National series champion, knows with a smaller field — just eight boats — he will have time to settle in and get the feel for the boat.
“When you’re learning, you’re going to cross some rollers, but you’re not going to cross five sets of rollers, maybe three sets of rollers,” Phipps said. “We run three laps in the prelims (heats) so hopefully we’ll have a decent draw and we can race well this weekend.”
Phipps didn’t compete in the Gold Cup last year. His best showing on the Detroit River came in 2011, when he won multiple heats in the Miss Red Dot boat for owner Nate Brown before finishing fourth in the final. He finished second in a pair of heats his rookie year in 2010 but failed to make the six-boat final.
Shane leads qualifying
Jimmy Shane proved to be the fastest in qualifying, topping the field with a lap of 162.7 mph in the U6 Oberto boat to earn the 100 points and keep him atop the points standings.
“The boat’s running really good and I’m really happy with qualifying 162; it’s faster than the boat qualified last year which was what we were shooting for,” said the 28-year-old Shane, pointing out he topped Steve David’s qualifying effort of 161.730 last year.
David retired after last season. He was a 12-time Gold Cup runner-up. Shane is attempting to become the youngest Gold Cup champ since Hanauer won at age 28 in 1982.
Shane came out flying in testing with a lap of 164 mph earlier in the afternoon.
“We broke a prop on that 164 lap so it must have been a little too much stress on everything, but we were really happy with the boat and the way it handled,” Shane said. “It went over the water fan beautifully here on the Detroit River.”
Jon Zimmerman qualified second (160.432) in the U9 Qatar boat, followed by J. Michael Kelly (159.334) in the U1 Graham Trucking boat.
Brian Perkins, in the U21 GoFastTurnLeft boat, qualified with a speed of 158.068, but a lane violation wiped out his run.
Hopp-ing to it
The U12 Miss DiJulio boat didn’t reach the docks until noon because the crew was repairing damage to the left sponson from the rough water in the opener at Madison.
In the final minutes of qualifying Friday, Greg Hopp had his first chance to run the U12 and came up with a mark of 133.493.