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The 2014 H1 Unlimited Season Preview was hosted by the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent, Washington on Saturday. The event was well attended and gave fans a chance to meet and mingle with series owners and drivers and hear their plans for the season.
Included on the panel were; J. Michael Kelly, Larry Oberto, Art Oberto, Jimmy Shane, Jon Zimmerman, Shannon and Scott Raney and Steve Montgomery.
Montgomery opened the discussion by outlining plans for the season including race sites, television coverage and rule changes. Steve said he expects plans for network TV to be finalized in two to three weeks. He also gave a brief explanation of the new starting procedure which will require all drivers to maintain a minimum speed of 80 mph during the milling period.
J.Michael Kelly will be driving the 1 Graham Trucking.
Kelly will be taking over the seat in Ted Porter’s 1 Graham Trucking, the defending National High Point Champion boat. JMK told the crowd he was happy to be working with people like crew chief Tom Anderson, who brought him into the sport and looking forward to driving for Porter and sponsor Rob Graham.
Larry Oberto talked about what he termed “reinventing the team.” He said they are starting with a sold base with all the key players in place. Besides replacing one of the top drivers in the history of the sport following the retirement of Steve David, Oberto said there will be a new paint scheme on the boat with a little less red and green. He added that the popular “shark teeth” in the familiar Oberto scheme will return in some form. Oberto also said the he team will do some testing before the season.
New Oberto pilot Jimmy Shane, fresh off the 2013 National High Point Driver’s Championship, said he is glad to be part of the new Oberto Marketing program, which will include dropping the Oh Boy! part of the name and the boat called simply the 6 Oberto.
Shane said, “I have big shoes to fill. Steve David was so good for the sport, on and off the race course and I am very fortunate to take over the driving for a team with such a rich history.”
Jon Zimmerman was all smiles as he described work being done on the 9 Team Red Dot by crew chief Jeff Campbell and the team. Zimmerman said the boat has a new bottom and transom and will be lighter and faster. He expects to see continued improvement in his ride after a strong showing in 2013.
Scott and Shannon Raney explained that, while it’s true they are working on two boats in their Edmonds shop, the primary race boat is getting most of the attention and is being readied for the season. That boat is the former Bud T4 which the team campaigned for most of 2013. Peters and May will return as primary sponsor and changes in the color scheme will be minor.Scott added that small changes made during the off-season should make Tom Thompson’s ride a little quicker as well.
Asked about their favorite moments as participants in the sport, Shannon Raney said the team’s record setting trip to Coniston, England and seeing the reaction from people who had never seen anything like a big Unlimited was a high point for her and the team.
Zimmerman said, “Just having the opportunity to drive an Unlimited is a great moment for me, every time I get in the boat.”
Jimmy Shane said he had a chance to visit the Bud shop when he was 13 and was very excited to get his first ride in an Unlimited. He added, “And now that I’ve won a championship…I want to win some more!”
Kelly’s answer was, “200 mph on the water! What more do you need to say?” He added that Unlimited racing has given him the opportunity to travel the country and the world and see places he never would have seen otherwise.
The H1 Unlimited Racing season gets underway in Madison, Indiana July 5 & 6.