Detroit — In three unusually close qualifying rounds Friday, Andrew Tate of Walled Lake qualified first, at 163.141 mph, for Sunday’s Gold Cup race on the Detroit River.
Tate, a 28-year-old, second year driver bred for unlimited hydroplane racing, also drove the U-9 Les Schwab Tires (known, too, as Realtac/Delta Gear) fastest in qualifying for Saturday’s President’s Cup.
However, a violation of the American Power Boat Association (APBA) fuel consumption rules knocked him to second for the President’s Cup.
“That was fun,” Tate said, of his nip-and-tuck battle with Jimmy Shane (161.527), the leader of the 2017 standings, in Miss Homestreet.
“It was kind of a buildup all the way to the end of the day. Hopefully some of the fans who stuck around got their time’s worth, I guess. Because it was Free Friday, right?”
About two hours earlier Shane had nipped Tate for the President’s Cup pole, after a violation of fuel rules adopted by the APBA to keep the competition even among teams with different resources.
“I heard them cheer when Jimmy got the trophy for first place qualifying for Saturday,” said Tate, whose mother, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all raced hydroplanes. “It kind of got under my skin a little bit.
“It made me want to go back in the boat, just as bad, and see what we had for them.”
There are two major unlimited hydroplane races on the river this year, because there can be, and because race officials in Detroit asked permission to run a President’s Cup.
The Gold Cup is the oldest trophy in motor sports, contested since 1904.
The unlimited hydroplanes contested the President’s Cup, mostly on the Potomac River, from 1926 to 1977, when it became a trophy in limited hydroplane racing for a while.
“What we decided to do when H1 Unlimiteds and our organization, Hydrofest, started to talk, we said, what about having two races?” said Doug Bernstein, who is both one of three officials running the organizing group for the races in Detroit, and chairman of the board of directors for H1 Unlimited, the racing league.
“And with the history and the heritage of Detroit with the Gold Cup, I knew the President’s Cup was available, so we went to the APBA, the same body that has the President’s Cup, and said, what if we run them together? It would put more action on the water
“Everybody thought it was a good idea,” Bernstein said. “And that’s how we ended up with two of the most coveted trophies sitting here in Detroit.”
Like most racing trophies, the President’s Cup comes with a “deed of gift,” which allows it to be used for race on the Potomac or, if there is no race on the river that year, somewhere else.
The Corinthian Yacht Club persuaded President Calvin Coolidge to sponsor the trophy.
In 1927, the Detroit automotive heir, Horace Dodge Jr., won the second President’s Cup.
Franklin D. Roosevelt liked viewing the racing from the Presidential yacht Potomac, and FDR invited the 1938 winner, Theo Rossi, and runner-up, George Seay, aboard.
Six-time winner Bill Muncey and President Dwight Eisenhower seemed to enjoy their trophy sessions. And in 1961, President John Kennedy presented the cup to driver Chuck Thompson, the electrician from Detroit.
At 162.068 mph, Shane qualified first for the President’s Cup in Miss Homestead. Tate (161.235) qualified second.
Rounding out the field were: Tom Thompson (157.988) in U-11 Miss DiJulio’s/J&D’s Hydraulic, defending Gold Cup champion J. Michael Kelly (156.414) in U-12 Graham Trucking, Jimmy King (155.594) in U-3 Miss Ace Hardware (also known as Gos 3 Racing) and Bert Henderson (148.460) in U-7 Spirit of Detroit.
Mechanical problems prevented Kevin Eacret, of U-99.9 Car Star/Miss Rock, and Dustin Echols, of U-440 Bucket List Racing from qualifying.
Qualifying for the Gold Cup, after Tate and Shane, were Kelly (158.2665), Thompson (157.8685), King (154.816) and Henderson (148.2845).
Eacret and Echols did not qualify.