Detroit — Jimmy Shane, the four-time defending national champion in unlimited hydroplanes, won his third Gold Cup in four years Sunday, in Miss Homestreet, besting Andrew Tate of Walled Lake, who finished a distant second in Reatrac/Delta Gear.
Shane (152.579 mph) became the eighth driver to win at least three Gold Cups, the oldest actively awarded trophy in motor sports, in races on the Detroit River.
“The competition was pretty stiff this weekend, too,” Shane said, referring to the increased parity among the unlimited hydroplanes, in recent seasons. “It was even more an honor to win this weekend.
“We’ve been fighting a little bit of handling issues all season long, and we decided Saturday night to make a big change on the bottom of the boat. And that is really what won the race.”
What race officials said is likely the first doubleheader in modern unlimited hydroplane history, which included the first-ever running of the President’s Cup on the Detroit River on Saturday, set up a difficult weekend for the racing crews. They had to prepare and repair boats for seven heats in 29 hours.
Shane said what many thought a harsh challenge turned out to benefit him mechanically.
It also might have helped him emotionally.
After finishing third Saturday, Shane said he wanted to win badly on Sunday.
“We feel great,” he said. “This is what we came here to accomplish. Win the Gold Cup. And to come away with the win means a lot to the team, a lot to the owners, it means a lot to the sponsor, Homestreet Bank.
“To be out in front for the Gold Cup, it’s quite an honor.”
Increasing the triumph, Shane said, is the company he now keeps: Some of the greatest names in the 101-year history of inboard motor boat racing in Detroit.
Shane joins three-time winners, Tom D’Eath, of Michigan (Miss U.S., Miss Budweiser), the late Ron Musson (Miss Bardahl) and George Reis (El Lagarto).
Dean Chenoweth won four (Miss Budweiser). The late Bill Muncey of Detroit won eight (Miss Thriftway, Atlas Van Lines).
Dave Villwock won 10 (Miss Budweiser, Miss Elam and Spirit of Qatar). Chip Hanauer won 11 (Atlas Van Lines, Miller American, Circus Circus, Miss Budweiser, Miss Pico).
“Here in Detroit, with the challenge we face on this river, it’s just incredible to me to think about,” Shane said.
The result this weekend, with the 28-year-old Tate winning the first President’s Cup ever raced in Detroit on Saturday, sets up a three-way showdown for the 2017 H1 Unlimited title next month in San Diego.
Shane, Tate and J. Michael Kelly, who was disqualified for a fuel violation after finishing third Sunday, will vie for the title during the Bill Muncey Cup, September 15-17, in San Diego.
Kelly competed despite a harrowing incident in the Roostertail turn, the tightest corner in unlimited hydroplane racing, at the end of the warm-up laps, leading to the start of the Gold Cup.
Shane’s boat came together with the rookie Bert Henderson, in Spirit of Detroit, when both boats seemed to go for some space that allowed room for one of them.
At high speed in the dangerous turn, Henderson shunted drastically to the left towards the inner buoys and the infield of the race course.
Henderson appeared to right the boat and try to rejoin the fray. But when he entered the field perpendicular to the flow of traffic, Kelly ran right over the top of the Spirit of Detroit, in Graham Trucking.
Kelly’s boat sheared the safety canopy off the hull of Henderson’s boat.
Both drivers were treated in the on-site triage center.
Although badly shaken and speaking through some tears after running over another driver, Kelly competed in the final heat.
“I’m as good as I can be,” Kelly said, swallowing hard. “A little upset. It’s never easy seeing something like that happen.
“Seeing your buddy out there and the kind of shape his boat was in, it was kind of tough.”
Henderson summed it all up, as he walked out of treatment into the arms of friends, family and crew.
“I’m just happy to be here,” said the Brockville, Ontario, native, who won the Grand Prix race, in smaller boats, on the undercard Sunday.
After the incident, officials stopped the race before the start, and it seemed to hurt Tate more than anyone. He seemed poised to hit the start line with the most momentum, as the clock struck all zeros.
“Maybe, we’ll never know,” said a philosophical Tate. “I was definitely really close on the start before the red flag. But go big or go home.
“You win some, you lose some.”
Tate, who won the second race in his career Saturday, said he had hoped to sweep the doubleheader. But the Realtrac/Delta Gear, which is sometimes also called Les Schwab Tires, did not run as fast through the heats on Sunday as it had on Saturday.
“Jimmy Shane had a good start and he put himself in a good position there, on the inside,” Tate said. “He was definitely in the right place at the right time.”