J. Michael Kelly in the 1 Graham Trucking (Left) and Jimmy Shane in the 6 Oberto Beef Jerky (Right)
Photo by Chris Denslow – H1.
With 2000 H1 Series High Points up for grabs at the final race of the H1 Unlimited season, the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship in Doha, Qatar, the 832 point lead held by Jimmy Shane in the 6 Oberto Beef Jerky over closest challenger J. Michael Kelly in the defending series and Oryx Cup champion 1 Graham Trucking would appear to be a comfortable margin. But neither Shane nor Kelly is taking anything for granted.
It was Shane who drove Kelly’s current boat to the Oryx Cup Championship at the 2012 and 2013 events racing for Team Porter Racing, but Kelly’s name is also on the trophy as winner of the inaugural race in 2009, also driving for Team Porter. After winning the 2013 championship for Porter and Graham Trucking, Shane moved to Miss Madison Racing’s Oberto team replacing retired driver Steve David.
Ted Porter says, “We are definitely going to Doha to make a run at the Oryx Cup and the Series Championship. We are sending all of our best stuff, turbines, gearboxes, propellers, etc.”
As far as strategy, Porter says, “We need to pick up points and narrow the gap every chance we get starting with qualifying. It will mean three days of qualifying and racing hard with high finishes in the preliminary heats and then we probably need to win the Final. Hopefully its close enough at that point that it puts us over the top.”
Porter’s team has had a lot of success on Doha Bay, winning four of the five Oryx Cups. Before Shane won in 2012 and 2013 driving for Team Porter, Kelly was the first Oryx Cup Champion in 2009 driving for that team. Scott Liddycoat also finished at the top of the Oryx Cup podium driving for Team Porter.
Porter added that Kelly has “exceeded our expectations” in 2013, adding, “He has obviously done a great job for us in the race boat and he and his family have been great to have on our team.”
Porter also had praise for Cal Phipps, who has driven the team’s second boat – Graham Trucking II – into third place on the series high point ladder with a season of strong runs and high finishes, nearly 1400 points ahead of fourth place Jon Zimmerman in the 9 Team RedDOT/Les Schwab Tires.
Shane says his team’s strategy is simple, “Our goal is to win the Oryx Cup and everything else will take care of itself.”
Oberto team manager Charlie Grooms agrees, adding, “The series championship is always the highest priority for our sponsors and owners. It’s always our #1 goal and an Oryx Cup win will do that for us.”
Grooms says the Oberto team is well equipped for the season finale. “We did all the setup work for the salt water races after Seattle – all the prep on the engines and the filters we use – and we only had to run one motor in San Diego, so we have three fresh motors for Doha and all the hardware is in great shape.”
Asked for his impression of the team’s new driver (Shane) Grooms said, “I have been amazed. He had big shoes to fill on and off the race course. If you had told me we could lose Steve David and Mike Hanson (crew chief) in one season and go out and qualify faster and have the season we’ve had, I would not have believed you. And Jimmy has total recognition of what the sport is all about. We have a unique situation with our ownership and sponsor, not to mention the most rabid fan base in the sport. No one had to explain to him how to conduct himself or what was expected. We knew replacing Steve would not be easy but never imagined any driver could come in and do such a great job in every phase of the sport.”
Both drivers will have to deal with a pair of returning veterans who know the short way to the finish line. Dave Villwock will pilot Schumacher Racing’s 21 Miss Seattle and the winningest driver in the history of the sport has the yellow and red boat performing very well. One of Villwock’s 67 career victories came in Doha when he drove Ellstrom Racing’s 96 Spirit of Qatar to a win in 2010 before the team’s “home crowd.” Kelly finished second in that race in Porter’s 7 Graham Trucking. Villwock has also won 10 Gold Cups and 10 Series Championships.
Add to the mix Jean Theoret, the six time winner on the H1 circuit and former Gold Cup Champion who returns to competition as driver of Ellstrom’s new 96 Spirit of Qatar. The boat made its debut at mid- season and was progressing well under the direction of crew chief Mike Hanson with Kip Brown at the controls. Brown is on the beach with a herniated disc in his neck and team owner Erick Ellstrom turned to a proven front runner in Theoret and says he will have the boat ride he needs to compete with the front-runners.
“We shipped two of the strongest motors we have ever had,” said Ellstrom. “We saw the best numbers we have ever seen on the dyno so we know the motors will be strong. We also shipped spare fuel controls and other parts as well as four new propellers engineered especially for the course in Doha. The boat will be ready.”
Steve David drove the Oberto Miss Madison in five Oryx Cups and will be making his first trip to Doha as H1 Unlimited Chairman and says, “In my new position, I will be as nervous as a turkey the week before Thanksgiving watching my former colleagues compete for the Oryx Cup. I believe we’ll have the best final heat we have had in a long time. There are so many motives:
– Jimmy wants the National Championship and needs to protect his points lead, winning the race would likely sew up the U-1 title.
– Kelly wants the National Championship and needs points at every chance, they’ll be set on max every time out and Team Porter has a phenomenal record in Doha
– Theoret is one of the best strategic racers I ever competed with, and no one is more motivated to win than Team Ellstrom on the sponsors home course
– Villwock needs to run a strong clean race, and a win would help to put an exclamation point on his record setting career
– Zimmerman, if anyone is poised to win, it’s this team. Regardless of the hurdles they faced this season, they came back stronger. Jon is ready to bring home his first win in a big way.
“Don’t write off the rest of the field,” David concluded, “They’ve each proven that in the right circumstances they can win heats.”
The 10 boat H1 fleet is in Qatar and will move into the pit area on the Corniche in downtown Doha on Wednesday. Testing and qualifying are set for Thursday with racing scheduled Friday and Saturday. The championship final heat is set for 3pm Saturday Doha time.
2014 Oryx Cup UIM World Championship Boat Roster
J. Michael Kelly
Bonney Lake, WA
Graham Trucking II
Sterling Heights, MI
Maple Valley, WA
Les Schwab Tires
Peters & May
Red Roof Inns
Spirit of Qatar
Maple Grove, QC
Lake Stevens, WA