Hydros set to bring ‘Thunder’ on the water

Three of the Unlimited Light boats round the turn nearest to the shore on Dyes Inlet during heat 1B at last year’s quicksilver hydroplane races. It’s now the Graham Trucking Cup at Silverdale Thunder. - Aaron Managhan/file photo 2006
Three of the Unlimited Light boats round the turn nearest to the shore on Dyes Inlet during heat 1B at last year’s quicksilver hydroplane races. It’s now the Graham Trucking Cup at Silverdale Thunder.
— image credit: Aaron Managhan/file photo 2006

Look back on the final heat at the Graham Trucking Unlimited Lights Cup at Seafair and you just might see a rerun at the Graham Trucking Cup at Silverdale Thunder this weekend.

Fans remember a thrilling finish where Greg Hopp edged teenage sensation Kayleigh Perkins by three boat lengths. What they may forget is, for two-plus laps both were led by Paul Becker before his boat went dead in the water. Becker did jump the gun but maintained his advantage over the rest of the field, signaling that the UL-14 Compuware’s Miss Critical Logic is ready to challenge for Becker’s first career race victory.

Hopp, driving the Graham Trucking GT-Happy Go Lucky was required to start outside of Perkins and Becker and other teams because his engine is supercharged. In the end a drag race-type finish earned Hopp the close victory over Perkins, who picked up a career best second-place finish in her first year in the Powerboats NW Unlimited Light Series.

With three races to go, the UL championship points race is starting to be whittled down to the same two teams that have won the title the past seven years. Perkins drives the UL-72 Miss Boat Electric for Impact Racing, which won the championship from 2000 through 2002, and Hopp Racing has won the past four season titles.

Vince Xaudaro, in the UL-929 First Tech Credit Union presents Microsoft Office Project 2007, stands third in the point race. The 929 team trails Hopp by 804 points with three races to go. Xaudaro still is in contention but he’ll need to make a serious move in the points at Silverdale. The UL-929 is certainly capable of a win, as is the UL-14. Becker received from Wil Muncey at Seattle the original skid fin that was used by Randy Haas when he drove the boat, then the UL-110 Miss Comp Air, in the late 90s and early in this decade.

Suddenly the UL-14 came alive with a second-place qualifying effort at just over 113 mph and despite jumping the gun, led the final heat field for more than two-thirds of the race.

But don’t ignore a hometown favorite.

The UL-6 MAACO of Bremerton presented by Gresham Well Drilling wasn’t even in the field at Seattle on Friday, yet wound up in third place in their season debut. The BCS entry had “major surgery” in the off-season, getting a new belly pan and cockpit capsule, plus repairs from the 2006 season. Due to withdrawals by other teams, a Seafair entry slot opened for the third alternate at Seattle early Saturday morning.

Driver Al Carstensen was towing the boat to Seattle to display it at Seafair and was on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge about an hour from the course, shortly after 6 a.m., when he got the call that they were in the race.

The team also was an alternate for the final when the UL-62 IRS Environmental-Benz Electric of Rod Bourke had to scratch. Suddenly Carstensen was in the final. He made the most of the opportunity with a third-place finish, following last year’s second-place finish in this same event.

For Silverdale, it’s possible there will be a record turnout of Unlimited Lights.

Last year, an impressive 14 teams entered the second-year event and for the Graham Trucking Cup at Silverdale Thunder Saturday and Sunday, even more are possible.

The first appearance by the UL-94 is scheduled. The boat that began its racing life in the 1980s as a record setting 7-Liter hydroplane owned and driven then by current G-24 owner-driver Mike Eacrett, the Dave Bartholomew-owned craft will reappear in Unlimited Lights racing for the first time since the Seattle race in 1999.

This 24-foot craft will be driven initially in competition by “Smokin Joe” Souza while the team’s driver, rookie Mike Jack, begins his UL driver licensing effort. Jack is a veteran of limited inboard racing in the Pacific Northwest.

Also at Silverdale, the UL-18 presented by Countrywide will compete with Joe Turner behind the wheel. This is the UL-21 hull owned by Jim and Karon Wilmot of Issaquah, partnered with Turner for the balance of the 2007 season. Turner and his team came up just short of running at the Seattle event but expect to be fully ready for Silverdale.

Expect a turnaround performance by Michael Flaherty in the UL-8 Boat presents Baker Equipment. After an impressive win in the B-Main, Flaherty inexplicably erred in the score-up procedure, crossing the line about a second early in the outside lane. He tried to eliminate the one minute penalty by racing around the course, crossing the line before the start and then cutting across the infield to go around turn No. 2 in order to start the heat. So despite appearing to finish fifth in the final, Flaherty was dropped to seventh place by the imposition of the one-minute penalty.

The Graham Trucking Cup at Silverdale Thunder is the fifth race in the seven race Powerboats NW Unlimited Light Hydroplane Racing Series.

The event gets underway Saturday at 8:15 a.m. with the opening ceremonies. Sunday’s races will begin at 8:50 a.m.

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