Phipps is ready to contend in hydroplane race

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Cal Phipps spends his days working for PPG Industries in Cleveland.

But on weekends, you can find Phipps speeding his way down waterways, courtesy of the U-27 Dalton Industries unlimited hydroplane boat.

What’s more — he wins.

Phipps, 46, a native of Sterling Heights, brings his game to the Detroit River for this weekend’s UAW-GM Spirit of Detroit Hydrofest. And considering his recent success — he won a heat in the Gold Cup weekend at Tri-Cities last month and at Seattle this month — he’s got to be considered a contender.

“It’s a good boat, shows bursts of speed,” Phipps said of the U-27. “It’s the same boat that I had the points lead going into the Gold Cup final in ’11 before breaking the wing, and the same boat Kip Brown won the Gold Cup in ’13.

“We’re excited about our chances. I feel we have a good package. Hopefully we’ll find the right combination and, of course, you have to pay attention and respect the Detroit River, too.”

The other contenders include Jimmy Shane, who won the Gold Cup in Detroit last summer then repeated as Gold Cup champion in Tri-Cities last month; J. Michael Kelly, who lost the Gold Cup last month when Shane passed the last quarter of the final lap; and former Gold Cup winner Jean Theoret, who won in 2006 in the Miss Beacon Plumbing boat.

“Jimmy Shane’s a great driver, won last year’s Gold Cup in Detroit in the Oberto,” said, Phipps who’s appearing in the Unlimited boats on the Detroit River for the fifth time. “J. Michael’s always fast and has a good handling boat, the old Budweiser boat, and Theoret’s back and he’s extremely fast.”

Phipps and Kelly were teammates last year for owner Ted Porter.

So, what’s the advantage of a two-boat team?

“We don’t draw each other in the same heats, but of course we’ll race in finals,” Phipps said. “Since we’re racers (Kelly, Phipps) we go head-to-head, but if he’s faster than me than we plan strategy so we can help each of us have the best outcome.”


When: Saturday-Sunday, Detroit River

Tickets: Starting at $45

Details: (313) 329-8047


10:30-11 a.m.: GP testing

Noon-2 p.m.: Unlimited time trials

2:10-2:25 p.m.: Grand Prix 1-A heat

2:30-2:45 p.m.: Grand Prix 1-B heat

2:50-3:05 p.m.: Grand Prix 1-C heat

3:15-4:20 p.m.: Tunnel Boat time trials and heat races

4:40-4:55 p.m.: Grand Prix 2-A heat

5-5:15 p.m.: Grand Prix 2-B heat

5:20-5:35 p.m.: Grand Prix 2-C heat

5:45-6 p.m.: Unlimited 1-A heat

6:05-6:20 p.m.: Unlimited 1-B heat

6:25-6:40 p.m.: Unlimited 1-C heat

7 p.m.: Autograph session


9:40 a.m.: Tunnel boat heat

10:10-10:30 a.m.: Grand Prix 3-A heat

10:35-10:50 a.m.: Grand Prix 3-B heat

10:55-11:10 a.m.: Grand Prix 3-C heat

11:20-11:40 a.m.: Unlimited 2-A heat

11:40 a.m.-noon: Unlimited 2-B heat

1:30-1:50 p.m.: Unlimited 3-A heat

2-2:20 p.m.: Unlimited 3-B heat

2:30-2:50 p.m.: Tunnel boat final

3:15-3:40 p.m.: Grand Prix final

4:10-4:30 p.m.: Unlimited final