Hydroplane drivers embrace Sunday's full wave of events after postponement

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — When the surface of the river is a moderate chop between the Detroit Yacht Club and the Roostertail, people who race unlimited hydroplanes know conditions are likely worse about a mile west, at the other end of the course, near the MacArthur Bridge.

High winds forced the postponement of the Gold Cup H1 Unlimited hydroplane race in Detroit.

“It can be kind of calm, down here, but if you get down to the Belle Isle turn, it can be three-foot waves and whitecaps,” said Ted Grange, H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series director of operations as he stood in the pits near the Roostertail. “When we go into that turn at 180 miles an hour, that doesn’t do us any good.” 

With the first heat of the 102nd Gold Cup set for 2 p.m., Saturday, a few whitecaps crested in the Roostertail Turn.

Officials, including Grange, delayed the start. By 3 p.m., there were many more whitecaps.

The winds, steady at about 17 knots, shifted slightly from south to southwest, the most perilous direction for racing on the river, which flows at a rate of about 1.5-2 knots in the opposite direction.

The combination of water flow and opposing wind can produce hazards all over the course, especially when the wind is brisk.

So, race organizers announced a postponement of the 102nd Gold Cup race, until Sunday.

Testing for the big thunder boats is 7:15-8 a.m. The eight heats of the four “flights” start at 9 a.m. with the final for the Gold Cup at 4:10 p.m.

Some liked the idea of a full slate of racing on Sunday, which once was the schedule in Detroit.

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And, for an old-school guy like driver Jimmy King, of Wales, Mich., a full day of racing is just fine.

“In my eyes, starting in unlimited racing when we ran everything on Sundays, that’s the way it’s supposed to be done,” Kings said. “I’m not going to be disappointed.”

King runs the only piston-powered boat entered in the American Power Boat Associations’ 2018 Gold Cup.

The dual-turbocharged Allison V-12 roars along the river. Turbine-powered boats have whistling accent to their muted growl.

Like the drivers, the World War II fighter-plane technology has its fans in the pits with spectators frequently seen taking photographs with it.

When King qualified third at 156.713 mph Friday, the crowd roared. It was the most popular announced result of the day.

“Everything went real well for us,” King said. “We hit on a combination that’s working and we just want to maintain that and, hopefully, extend that. I think we can go a little bit to show the boys.”

Andrew Tate, of Walled Lake, in Delta/Realtrac holds a prohibitive lead in the series. The fourth-generation driver and Plymouth High graduate has never won the championship or Gold Cup.

Jimmy Shane, of Maple Valley, Washington, in Miss Homestreet, the defending Gold Cup champion and five-time defending series champion, is in second place.

Shane started racing in a new Miss Homestreet in Seattle, early this month, and qualified at 4.6 miles per hour faster than Tate — 162.256 miles per hour to 157.636.