Detroit — A fourth-generation powerboat racer, Andrew Tate of Walled Lake, climbed out of the cockpit of the Delta/Realtrac unlimited hydroplane Sunday and stood trembling with emotion.
Tate, a Plymouth High graduate, had just won his first Gold Cup.
Amid considerable confusion, as officials tabulated the points and possibilities for the umpteenth time, it also became clear that Tate had just clinched the 2018 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series Championship.
And, as his father Mark, who won the Gold Cup in 1991 and 1994 on the Detroit River, stood a few yards away, the Tates would soon be informed they are the only father and son drivers to win the Gold Cup.
It took 102 races, over 114 years.
“I don’t have words,” said Tate, brushing back his hair through perspiration that dripped from him. “I can’t describe it.
“The inside lane is advantageous, and we had a good start.”
His dad’s emotions also brimmed.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my son, and that is what this is all about,” said Mark Tate, whose wife, father and grandfather have raced motorboats, including unlimited hydroplanes.
“Just a tremendous drive by him and the team,” he said, his voice suddenly halted by a few tears of joy.
“It’s the love of the sport,” he said, explaining his family’s success. “My grandfather started racing, and it’s the love of the boats.
“Anytime you can win a race in front of your home fans and all your friends, and also in front of your peers, it’s a tremendous feeling.” It provided stunning reversal of performance.
All weekend, defending Gold Cup champion and five-time defending series champion Jimmy Shane drove a dominating boat.
The Miss Homestreet, new in the water for the first time in Seattle earlier this month, qualified 4.5 miles per hour faster than Tate in the Delta/Realtrac.
Shane also won all four of his preliminary heats entering the final, including two against Tate.
But in the mixing before the start of the final, Tate maneuvered Delta/Realtrac to the inside lane, the advantageous position, providing the shortest route around the track, which also makes passing on the outside most difficult.
Tate’s start proved prompt.
But, given the results through the weekend and the performance of Shane and Miss Homestreet, when he appeared to grab the lead momentarily, ahead of Tate, in the first turn, the broad arc that passes the MacArthur Bridge and a portion of Belle Isle, it looked like the previous four heats.
But, Tate seized the initiative.
No one had pushed back against the Homestreet team, all weekend.
Then came Tate.
“We changed one thing for the final, and it seemed to work,” he said. “The crew made the right call all weekend long, as far as the boat setup.
“They gave me a rocket ship, and I just pointed it in the right direction.”
All week, H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series officials had said that despite Tate’s large lead in the standings, he could not clinch the championship. Even if he won the Gold Cup, they said, Shane would have to encounter disaster.
And, through four heats, he proved dominant.
But, 20 minutes before the final heat, officials approached the media to explain that Tate could win the championship, by simply winning the heat.
When he did, they said he had clinched it by just three points, going into the final race in San Diego, Sept. 14-16.
“If that’s true,” Tate said, still uncertain of the championship result himself, “then San Diego is going to be a lot of fun.”
The win may also herald a significant shift in the series.
In his quick new boat, Shane seemed poised at his fourth Gold Cup in five years.
Only four drivers have won more American Power Boat Association Gold Cups: Dave Villwock and Chip Hanauer (10), Bill Muncey (8), Gar Wood and Jonathan Wainwright (5).
Had he won a sixth straight championship, Shane would have been one short of Hanauer’s record of seven, from 1982 to 1988.
Tate put an end to all of that, with a brilliant drive, averaging 150.460 mph.
Shane complained that race officials made a change to the competition just before the final heat.
“They didn’t say too much about it, and I wasn’t happy with what they did,” he said. “I’m not going go into detail, but exactly what happened in the last phase is exactly what I predicted.”
Shane also expressed concern about the driving in the first turn and thought a penalty flag flying would endorse his point of view that Tate had driven improperly.
But the penalty was for another driver.
Shane pleaded for consistency in how the series is officiated.
“We should have come away with the Gold Cup win,” he said. “Unfortunately, there’s no consistency.
“That’s the biggest challenge for us to overcome for the professional race team that Miss Homestreet is.”