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Walled Lake’s Tate makes big splash as Unlimited driver

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Andrew Tate won the first President's Cup on the Detroit River Saturday.

Detroit – He first started making waves, so to speak, three weeks ago when he won the Seafair Cup in Seattle.

Andrew Tate certainly isn't sneaking up on his fellow Unlimited hydroplane racers anymore – and certainly not after Saturday's performance on the Detroit River, where he dominated his three heats, one in Unlimited and two in Grand Prix.

And all if it came before scores of family and friends of Tate, a 26-year-old from Walled Lake.

"There's a lot of people here I know, which is great," said Tate, after hopping out of his Grand Prix boat following his first of two heat victories in that circuit. "It's awesome to have friends and family here, but at the same time it's a lot of pressure, and a lot of shaking hands and saying, 'Hi.'

"It wears on you a little bit, but you want to do well for them and hope for the best."

A fourth-generation boat racer whose father, Mark, won two Gold Cups, Tate went to Plymouth-Canton High School.

He's raced on the Detroit River before this weekend, in the Grand Prix circuit.

This is his debut in Detroit in the Unlimited, the top-tier.

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Unlimited was his first heat Saturday, and he coasted, with an average speed of 150.299 mph – nearly 8 mph better than second-place Brian Perkins, who is in third place in the season standings, just ahead of Tate. Tate got 400 points for his heat win, Perkins 300 for finishing second.

Tate then did a quick interview before briskly walking 2,000 feet to the north, along the shore line, to hop into his Grand Prix boat. Racing in multiple circuits makes for a hectic time, but that's just how Tate prefers things.

"I grew up racing outboards, and you could be racing five different classes a weekend there. That's 10 heats a day, at least," Tate said. "Jumping from boat to boat, you just gotta realize which boat you're in every time, and when you get in it, what's it gonna do, what to expect.

"I think it helps, honestly. It's quite a nice distraction. I don't get too nervous or extremely focused or overthink each race. I enjoy it."

After Tate won his second Grand Prix heat of the day, his final Unlimited heat was postponed until Sunday morning because of an early afternoon storm.

That race could be a big one for Tate, with Perkins and J. Michael Kelly, two racers ahead of him in the points standings, also in that heat.

Of course, the real prize is the Gold Cup, which his father, Mark, won in 1991 and 1994. Tate is trying to become the first rookie to take home the Gold Cup since Ted Jones, way back in 1950.

The Gold Cup race will the finale Sunday, around 4:30 p.m. The man to beat, of course, is two-time defending champion Jimmy Shane, the winner of his two heats Saturday, and the season points leader.

"Yeah, I think we could still do a little better," Tate said after his Unlimited heat victory, when he was a little more than 2 mph slower than Shane in his first heat. "Kind of feeling it out, getting my toes wet."

Tate qualified second Friday, at 157.912 mph, behind Shane's 159.906.

Then, before Saturday's competition, his crew made some changes to the Unlimited boat, designed to help it perform better in rougher waters.

So far, so good, for the local boy who's not much of a secret on the hydroplane circuit anymore.

"So far, (the changes) seem to be great," Tate said. "The boat felt awesome.

"I couldn't be happier right now."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tonypaul1984