In the wake of the “bounce and burn” incident that took the Spirit of Qatar out of the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship in Doha, Qatar, team owner Erick Ellstrom shed some light on his plans for the future of the boat and his race team.
Driver Dave Villwock was ¾ of a lap into heat 3A and leading when his boat hit a roller in turn two and launched into the air – flying about 75 feet and landing with enough force to damage the hull and sheer the motor mounts.
The damaged engine then erupted into flames which created enough heat to melt the ¼ inch aluminum heat shield under the exhaust stack and completely melt the electrical system and backups before rescue teams could extinguish the flames.
Ellstrom explained, “We built the boat with two backups for the electrical system, so we could make an easy switch in case of a failure. All three systems and the housing around them melted together. We can’t pull the wires out of the tube. It all has to be cut out.”
The melted systems are only part of the damage. Ellstrom says there is delamination in the hull under the area where the fire occurred, including the engine stringers – and damage to the hull itself caused by the impact. The boat has cracks in the air traps, left sponson and elsewhere.
Ellstrom says he has plans A, B and C regarding ways to get back on the water in February for the 2013 Oryx Cup. Plan A involves an attempt to “patch and race” the damaged boat.
“If we can replace the damaged portion of the boat and systems and make the boat stable in the three weeks we have before the Oryx Cup, we’ll race the boat,” he added. “Jeff Minar will be returning to Doha soon with fiberglass parts he is building and we will have a crew of four working on the boat.”
Ellstrom rated plan A “somewhat of a long shot” and said plans B & C will be revealed in order if it becomes obvious that the repairs will not be completed in time.
Looking to the future, Ellstrom sounded resigned to the fact that the winningest hull in the history of unlimited hydroplane racing has seen its best days and will probably not be the team’s primary piece again.
Plans for 2013 include updating the team’s backup hull, which has been on display with Boeing colors since running as part of a biofuel development program. The boat will receive an updated front wing and changes to the cockpit and other parts of the boat.
Ellstrom says the team will probably run the updated backup in the season opener at Sacramento and could use it throughout the season, possibly as part of a two-boat entry at some races, depending on the raceability of the repaired newer boat.
Asked about the possibility of a national high point championship in 2013, Ellstrom said chances are slim to none – but all that will change in 2014.
“As of January 16, we have begun the process of building a new Spirit of Qatar which will debut in 2014,” Ellstrom shared, adding, “We plan to work with Sheikh Hassan and represent Qatar for many years to come, so we may limp through the 2013 season with a patched up boat and a backup, but beginning in 2014 it’s a whole new game.”
By Steve Montgomery – H1