MADISON, USA: Kip Brown’s exciting new 96 Spirit of Qatar hydroplane boat will not be ready to start its 2014 H1 Unlimited Championship racing programme at this weekend’s Madison Regatta Indiana Governor’s Cup on the Ohio River.
Instead of rushing to prepare Brown’s new racer for the season opener, Ellstrom Racing – in conjunction with His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and the Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF) – has struck a deal with Jones Racing and Jon Zimmerman’s 9 Red Dot boat will be renamed Spirit of Qatar 96 for the Indiana race.
“We are so close to ready it was tempting to try and make Madison with 96,” said team principal Erick Ellstrom.
“But, in the long run we will be better off making sure we are ready to go on the road and put the boat in the water. We are fortunate to be able to team up with Jones Racing. Jeff Campbell has done a great job with that boat and Jon is a much-respected driver. I will know will represent us and Qatar very well.”
Strong currents, wind and excessive rain forced H1 officials to cancel last year’s race on the Ohio River, but H1 officials are relishing this year’s race where new faces abound and Jimmy Shane has taken over the helm of the 6 Oberto boat, following the retirement of Florida-based veteran Steve David. Shane won both the team and driver championships in 2013, got married and had a son and moved across the USA from Maryland to Washington State.
J Michael Kelly takes to the helm of Shane’s former boat 1 Graham Trucking and Ted Porter’s team will run a second 7 boat for Cal Phipps. Tom Thompson is set to race in the cockpit of 11 Miss Peters & May.
The 21 GoFastTurnLeft Racing team returns to action with Brian Perkins sharing the cockpit this season with last year’s rookie of the year Jamie Nilsen. Nilsen will represent Greg and Brian O’Farrell’s team in Madison this weekend. Greg Hopp is entered in the renumbered 12 Miss DiJulio and 22 Webster Racing will also be present with Mike Webster at the helm to complete the eight-boat field.
Testing, qualifying and the racing heats will all be compressed into the weekend, with Heat 1A scheduled for 11.00hrs (18.00hrs Qatar time) on Saturday and the Indiana Governor’s Cup final scheduled for 16.05hrs (23.05hrs Qatar time Sunday).