Tastin’ n Racin’ brings on the noise

June 15, 2010

By Tim Pfarr

Unlimited hydroplane makes first appearance

The GP12 Homes & Land Magazine hydroplane (left) driven by Mark Evans, goes airborne as it overtakes the GP15 Fleur Auto and Truck Parts Happy Go Lucky driven by Greg Hopp, in the Grand Prix final June 13 during Tastin’ n Racin’ at Lake Sammamish State Park. By Greg Farrar

Perfectly in accordance with gorgeous sunshine, speeding and thundering hydroplanes took to Lake Sammamish over the weekend at the 2010 Tastin’ n Racin’ competition, an American Powerboat Association event.

The event also showcased many other attractions, including a car show, rocking tribute bands on the O’Brien Law Firm Mainstage, the SeaFair Pirates, two beer gardens and — of course — plenty of food.

However, event organizer Chris Courtright said this year’s wet spring had turned Lake Sammamish State Park into a mud bath.

“I get down there on Wednesday and it’s one big mud puddle,” Courtright said, recalling visiting the park June 9. “We’ve never had the ground like that.”

As a result of the wet conditions, many of the parking areas contained deep mud, and organizers were forced to rope off the areas to keep visitors from getting their cars stuck. A truck bringing beer for the beer garden got stuck early in the weekend, and a tow truck from Clark’s Towing — one of the event’s sponsors — had to give the beer truck a yank to free it from the mud.

The mud also forced organizers to cancel the hot boat show, because the ground that was to host it had been turned a swamp.

“I’m not going to ask somebody to put their $100,000 boat in a swamp,” Courtright said with a laugh.

Organizers did not have an estimate of the event’s attendance as of The Press’ deadline June 14, but Courtright said the remaining parking at the state park had completely filled up by 11 a.m. Saturday. Some attendees even had to park as far away as the old Albertson’s parking lot on East Lake Sammamish Parkway and walk to the event.

She said the event, despite the challenges, turned out to be a success.

The unlimited boat

From early Saturday until closing Sunday, Tastin’ n Racin’ attendees were treated to thundering hydroplanes zipping across the lake. While most of the boats raced, a fleet of vintage hydroplanes as well as a monstrous “unlimited” hydroplane took to the water in exhibition.

The unlimited boat, at nearly 30 feet long, was loaded with a 3,000-horsepower helicopter-turbine engine that propels the boat to top speeds of 200 mph, although the boat was unable to reach such high speeds on relatively small Lake Sammamish.

There are only 12 operational unlimited hydroplanes in the world, and this was the first time one graced the waters of Lake Sammamish.

“It was a spectacle to see,” said John O’Brien, co-chair of Tastin’ n Racin’ and co-owner of the unlimited boat that took to the lake. “It’s more bragging rights than anything else. We wanted to be the first ones to do it.”

The races

The main races of the weekend were APBA Inboard Grand Prix races. Alcohol-fueled Grand Prix hydroplanes can hit top speeds of 170 mph, although the boats only reached 150 mph on Lake Sammamish, Courtright said.

Tastin’ n Racin’ also included races by hydroplanes in the 1-liter, 2.5-liter stock, 2.5-liter modified, 5-liter and National Modified categories.

Within the Grand Prix races, there was the KZOK 102.5 Cup and the Western Divisionals, part of a series of races held across the country.

Mark Evans, of Schelahas Racing, took first place in the KZOK 102.5 Cup finals Sunday, thanks to a strong performance in his GP-12 boat. Taking second in the cup finals was Greg Hopp, of Hopp Racing, in his GP-15 boat. Michael Movinski, who came all the way from Shelby, N.C., to race, took third in his GP-40 boat.

Hopp also took first in the Western Divisionals, held Saturday.

In the 5-liter hydroplane finals, John Zimmerman took first place in his E-72 boat, Joe Perkins took second in his E-36 boat and Travis Johnson took third in his E-20 boat.

Ford, Plymouth and Chevrolet stock V8 engines propel boats in the 5-liter boats to speeds of 115 mph. The only crash of the weekend came in a 5-liter race Saturday morning, when driver Kip Brown, an Issaquah High School graduate, flipped his boat the final turn of the first heat.

Brown said he was side-by-side with Zimmerman, who holds numerous hydroplane speed records, when he caught a rolling wave at about 115 mph and caught air.

“At first, I thought I was going to save it,” Brown said. However, when the boat began to flip, he knew he was about to crash.

“I just braced real hard and braced my arms against the steering wheel and waited for the impact,” he said. “When it came, it was significant.”

Stuck upside down, water rushed into the cockpit. One of his safety restraints was jammed, and it took rescue divers two tries to free him from the boat.

“I was only upside down for about a minute, but it felt like an hour,” Brown said.

He added that the rescue team on hand was one of the best in the country, and that he was incredibly fortunate to have them there that day. He walked away with minor scrapes and bruises, but the boat was heavily damaged.

In the 1-liter hydroplane finals, Russ Dodge took first place in his Y-11 boat, Nick Bononcini took second in his Y8 boat and Jim LeBrie took third in his Y-33 boat. These boats can reach 105 mph.

In the 2.5-liter stock finals, Mike Hoffman took first in his S-12 boat, Heather Stephens-McLean took second in her S-924 boat and Jessie Robertson took third in his S-81 boat. The 2.5-liter stock hydroplanes are equipped with 4-cylinder Ford engines.

In the 2.5-liter modified finals, Jared Knelleken took first in his A-9 boat, Leslie “Poodle” Warren took third in her A-36 boat and Chris Bertram took third in his A-90 boat.

The 2.5-liter modified hydroplanes run on pump gas, methanol or aviation fuel, and engine alterations are only limited by drivers’ imaginations, according to the Inboard Powerboat Circuit website.

Finally, in the National Modified finals, Rod Bourke took first with his NM-5 boat, Pat Bertram took second with his NM-133 boat and Steve Clark took third with his NM-222 boat.

National Modified hydroplanes feature many engine combinations, including 4-cylinder and V8 engines, according to the IPC website.

Tim Pfarr: 392-6434, ext. 239, or newcas@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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One Response to “Tastin’ n Racin’ brings on the noise”

  1. Tastin’ n Racin’ brings on the noise : The Issaquah Press | Grand Prix Hydroplane on June 16th, 2010 10:30 am

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