Detroit — Jimmy Shane had reason to be proud of his Unlimited Hydroplane win on the Detroit River Sunday afternoon, leading from start to finish.
After all, it was Shane’s roughest ride on the Detroit River. He thrilled the crowd in the seven-boat, five-lap final which included a side-by-side battle with J. Michael Kelly by the Detroit Yacht Club all the way down the backstretch on the next-to-last lap.
While Shane was all smiles after the UAW-GM Spirit of Detroit Hydrofest race, the result left Kelly’s head pounding, from both the result and the rough waters.
Shane had been dominant on the Detroit River all weekend. He won all three heats prior to the final with the same game plan, gaining the inside lane, then leading from start to finish, including topping Kelly in head-to-head competition during two of the heats.
Shane, in the U-1 Oberto, won the Gold Cup on the Detroit River last year and repeated as Gold Cup champ last month in the Tri-Cities on a late pass against Kelly.
“I’ve been saying all weekend long I think we have some of the best racing going on in years in the H1 division right now and you guys saw the best of the best right here,” he said. “I’m just so honored and proud to be a part of it. I can’t thank the city of Detroit, all the sponsors and all the fans who came out today enough for being a part of this event. It was a last-minute deal and what a show. This was Detroit River today and the final heat was Detroit racing and it doesn’t get any better than that.
“That was probably the roughest water I’ve raced on here in Detroit. We’re just happy to be back in one piece, happy to put on a great show and happy the Gold Cup is coming back next year here to Detroit because this is a driver’s course and a very challenging course.”
Sunday’s race was added to the 2015 schedule in June with UAW-GM coming on board as sponsors, with the deal bringing the Gold Cup back to the Detroit River next summer (Aug. 20-21).
Shane beat Kelly by seven-boat lengths. Brian Perkins finished third, followed by Cal Phipps and Scott Liddycoat.
“I hit some really rough water down there on lap 2 and he (Kelly) was able to pull up next to me, and I’m sure the fans were going wild,” Shane said. “The fact that we were able to stay side-by-side in those conditions made it a great scene for the fans. I’m so proud of Oberto and Miss Madison Racing for the season we have going so far this year.”
Still, the key to the win was getting the inside lane.
“It’s all about timing and that’s exactly what we had going on,” Shane said. “We didn’t want to show our hand in the first three heats of how we were going to get Lane 1 and we knew we were going to push it a little bit farther in the final and that’s exactly what we did. The boats were right where we needed it to be for us to make the moves we needed and we secured Lane 1.”
Kelly felt confident about his chances when he pulled his U-5 Graham Trucking boat next to Shane, but couldn’t get through the Roostertail turn as cleanly as he needed to continue with the momentum.
“I figured I had made up enough ground, figured his boat ride kind of went away and thought I was going to get him, but it basically was going to come down to this turn (Roostertail turn) and if I could get through there clean enough, but I wasn’t able to do it,” Kelly said.
“I was really getting caught up in the rollers. It was pretty rough. You have to give Jimmy credit. He drove hard. It was an awesome race. I just have a pounding headache now. That’s how rough it was out there.”
Things also ended up rough for two local drivers in Jimmy King, a 1980 graduate of New Baltimore Anchor Bay, and Phipps, a native of Sterling Heights.
King suffered penalties in his two heats Sunday, jumping the gun in the first one, then getting a penalty for not leaving enough room for a competitor in the second to prevent him from making the big show.
“Between me jumping the gun, then getting called for the lane infraction took us out of it and you feel like crud when somebody works so hard and the whole crew gives you a good piece of equipment,” King said.
“Actually, I didn’t think the lane infraction happened. I know I dove underneath the 9 (Liddycoat) to try to catch up to him. I thought I left enough room for a lane for the trailing boat behind us through, but in the referee’s eyes I did not, and it’s all judgments. I’m not throwing stones at the referees whatsoever. They’re doing a great job and the sport has made a major leap this year with the new regime. It’s just one of those things.”
Phipps finished second in two heats and third in another, but finished five points behind Kevin Eacret, who won a heat Sunday.
Phipps ended up running as a trailer in the final, starting five seconds off the pace.