Owner Stacy Briseno has brought in accomplished outboard racer Aaron Salmon to drive the U-99.9 H1 Unlimited hydroplane, the team’s only boat left in what many have called the “Leland Navy.”
Salmon is a first generation boat racer and began his career in the J-Stock outboard hydroplane class. He built his first boat through the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum’s junior hydro program, a program that allow kids from the age of nine to 16 an affordable way to enter hydroplane racing. In this program, kids learn wooden boat building skills and rigging on their own J-Hydro. The kids build the hydros alongside their family members at the Museum’s facilities in Kent, Washington.
The 25-year-old Salmon said he has raced every class of outboard hydroplane, honing his driving skills along the way. He won the 2014 national championship in the OSY 400 Pro outboard class and the 2016 45SS outboard class national championship.
“This is a story you only dream about. I began with a dream and a lot of help along the way, including my Dad and family,” Salmon said. “This year my dream is coming true. When Stacy presented me the opportunity I had to take it,” he said.
Briseno said that race hull, built in 1998 and crashed in a “blow-over” type accident on the Detroit River during last year’s President’s Cup Regatta will also be repaired and maintained by a Salmon led crew. There was some minor damage to the hull as a result of the crash but Salmon and the crew he is assembling plan to have the boat ready in time for the 2018 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing season opener in Guntersville Lake, Alabama in June.
In addition to Salmon’s experience driving and building outboard hydroplanes, he worked for many years as a full-time on the crew member of the U-11 Unlimited Racing Group under the guidance of their co-owner and crew chief Scott Raney. Raney is also servicing the team’s turbine engines. Raney said Salmon is a very skilled craftsman, “especially with composite construction and is a very capable up-and-coming driver.”
When not at the Kirkland, Washington boat shop, Salmon is employed at Blue Origin in the engine department, the same company where the current H1 Unlimited Driver’s Champion, Jimmy Shane, is employed.
“Fred Leland was all about giving people chances, whether you were a new driver or a crew member looking to get started in the sport of unlimited hydroplane racing,” Briseno said. She continues Leland’s tradition.
Leland Racing, founded by Fred Leland in 1978 has turned out many H1 Unlimited hydroplane rookie drivers including — Leland, Jack Barrie (retired), Jeff Bernard, Doug Brow (retired), Nate Brown (retired), Mike Hanson (retired), Tom Hindley (retired), Steve Hook (retired) Greg Hopp, Ryan Mallow, J.W. Myers, Terry Troxell (deceased), David Warren, David Williams (retired), and most recently Kevin Eacrett. Other notable drivers that have driven for the Leland moniker include –Dave Villwock, Mark Evans and Chip Hanauer.
In the team’s 40-year existence, Leland Racing has won 17 races, including two Gold Cup trophies, and a national championship.