Snarlin’ hydroplanes rocket across Lake Sammamish at Tastin’ n Racin’

June 14, 2011

By Tim Pfarr

Unlimited hydro hits 175 mph during an exhibition run

The Red Dot unlimited hydroplane wows the crowd, hitting 175 miles per hour on Lake Sammamish during an exhibition June 12. By Tim Pfarr

UPDATED — 10 :55 a.m. June 17, 2011

The faint roar of engines drifted across the city’s rooftops June 11-12. For unsuspecting residents, it was the tale-tell sign that the hydroplanes were back on Lake Sammamish, zooming across the water at frantic speeds.

From Saturday morning to Sunday evening, fans were treated to numerous classes of hydroplane races, exhibitions and stunt shows, culminating with the weekend’s APBA Inboard Grand Prix final, won by Olympia-based GP-17 Shockwave Racing.*

An unlimited hydroplane — the largest and most powerful class of hydroplane in the world — also took to the water to show off for the crowd, blazing at 175 miles per hour several hundred yards from the shore. It was the second year the event featured the spectacle.

“I think the fans in the crowd really enjoyed just the exhibition,” said Tastin’ n Racin’ co-chairman John O’Brien, who co-owns the Red Dot unlimited hydroplane, which took to the water. “Just to be able to see an unlimited hydroplane this close and on this body of water is phenomenal.”

The radio transmission between the driver and the crew was broadcast over the loudspeakers on the shore during the exhibition, announcing the speed the boat reached as it thundered across the lake.

“The crowd was screaming down here,” O’Brien said. “It was ‘150, 155, 160. Wow!’ I’m pretty sure that 175 has got to be a record on Lake Sammamish.”

The unlimited hydroplane can hit 200 miles per hour on larger bodies of water, thanks to its T-55 turbine engine.

Competition was tight on the water throughout the weekend’s races, and although gusty winds made for choppy water at times, there were no crashes.

The Grand Prix finals the evening of June 12 were marked by cheers from fans and deafening roars from the boats’ supercharged big-block engines that allow them to hit speeds of 160 miles per hour.

The Olympia-based GP-17 Shockwave Racing boat crossed the finish line first, and the GP-15 Miss Peters and May, owned and driven by Jerry Hopp, took second place.*

Smaller class finals preceded the Grand Prix finals. However, even the smaller boats — including the relatively small 1-litre boats — put on an exciting show for attendees, as every class’ top speed was in the triple digits.

In the 1-litre final, Sammamish’s Bianca Bononcini took first in her Y-6 Pile Contractors boat, beating out her brother Nick’s Y-8 Pile Contractors boat, which took second.

Bianca Bononcini was in the front of the pack throughout the race, and when the top competitor broke down, she was able to take the checkered flag.

However, she said the wind made for a bumpy ride.

“That back stretch is really, really rough, and it was pretty windy,” she said. “It got a little flighty a couple times, so it was pretty scary.”

Bononcini said she relied on her boat’s wing to keep from going airborne. She said the wing is controlled by a pedal in the cockpit referred to as the “oh crap” pedal.

The S-83 Mega Bucks boat — owned by Dutch Squires and driven by JP Squires of Lakewood, Colo. — took first in the 2.5-litre stock finals, and the Kent-based E-55 Peters and May boat — owned by Jeff Bernard and driven by Jeff Bernard and Kip Brown — took first in the 5-litre finals.

The Shelton-based NM-1 Macks Out boat — owned by Mack Elliott and driven by Jeff Bernard — took first in the National Modified category, and SS-96 Simple 2 boat — owned by Sid Rennells and driven by Charlie Marquard of Warren, Ore. — took first in the super stock finals.

The Eatonville-based A-9 Knelleken Co. boat, owned and driven by Jared Knelleken, took first in the 2.5-litre modified finals.

Tim Pfarr: 392-6434, ext. 239, or Comment at

* This story contains corrected information.

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