H1 Unlimited participated in the annual Spring Test Session held by the Tri Cities Water Follies on the Columbia River last Friday. What were your impressions from the test session? Who was your biggest surprise?
Craig Fjarlie (Unlimited News Journal Writer & H1 Unlimited Volunteer)
The test day at Tri-Cities, on June 2, filled in several pieces of information. Watching Dylan Runne turn a number of fast laps in Miss HomeStreet made it obvious that he is a good choice to take over the cockpit of that boat following Jimmy Shane’s retirement.
It was interesting to see the repaired Miss Beacon Plumbing run well. A winter of work rebuilding the boat after its flip in Madison last year has paid off. Some fine-tuning is still needed, but for the first time back in the water since the accident, it is apparent that the boat can be a winner.
Dustin Echols pushed Bucket List Racing to some impressive lap times, and he will be in the mix at Guntersville.
Finally, Jamie Nilsen in Legend Yacht Transport seemed much happier driving the boat that the team used in 2021 as opposed to the boat the team ran last season. I anticipate improved performance from this team.
I hope Gunnar O’Farrell and Brent Hall will be able to qualify as Unlimited drivers and make their rookie starts later in the season.
Brad Luce (H1 Unlimited PA Announcer)
The annual test session on the Columbia River June 2, came just days after H1 Unlimited Chairman of the Board, Tim Austin, issued his report addressing the “State of the Sport.” In it, Tim stated there was “new interest in this sport, attendance has increased, the boat count is climbing, and our events feature more highly competitive deck-to-deck racing.” The test session would give the fans a first glimpse of what the sport might look like in 2023. Fans had been optimistic leading up to the season, and Tim’s report provided yet another reason for that optimism.
The chatter on social media prior to the test had largely centered on more boats and increased competition and parity. Many fans stated the season might be the most competitive in years. And there was good reason for the excitement and optimism. Change was abundant across the H1 Unlimited teams. We had new drivers, returning drivers, rebuilt boats, and even a new boat rumored to be joining the circuit at some point in 2023.
On June 2, on the Columbia River in Tri-Cities, WA., it was time to put the boats and the H1 Unlimited product on the water. In short, the test session did not disappoint. There was plenty of action. The 7 boats that ran completed 108 laps, 18 of which were above 160 mph. And for overall speed and parity, less than 8 mph separated the 7 boats top to bottom. The teams came prepared, and it showed.
The bottom line: The fans watched the test session with an optimistic outlook for the 2023 season, and the session did nothing to deter that positive mindset.
Jeff Morrow (Former Sports Editor of the Tri-City Herald)
I was impressed with the speeds. I also think fans in Guntersville will benefit most. Now that these teams spent a full day running their systems and set-ups, they won’t need to worry about that in Alabama and get right into the racing.
J. Michael Kelly says his U-8 isn’t as wonky as it was last year — it’s keeping a straight line instead of listing left or right. Corey Peabody is excited about his U-9, and the team may have rebuilt it where it’s better than before the Madison flip last year.
Andrew Tate never realized how much he missed racing an unlimited until he didn’t have that chance last season. The Madison team spent a lot of time this offseason making the U-91 better. That should help Tate.
But the biggest impression came from Dylan Runne for me. He seemed confident, cool and calm — like he belongs here. Especially when he hit 163 mph and some change on a lap.
Most of us on the outside looking in don’t know much about him. But this is what Charlie Grooms told me: “When Jimmy Shane told me last year he was going to retire, I accepted that. But I told him ‘Then you need to find me the next Jimmy Shane.’ It didn’t take him long. He called me one day and said it was Dylan.’’
That’s good enough for me. For now.
Andy Muntz (Unlimited News Journal Editor & H1 Unlimited Board Member)
It’s important to understand that the race teams and most fans were looking for two very different things during the testing session. While fans might consider the lap speeds as the most important outcome of the event, the race teams are experimenting with different engine and prop combinations and hope to return to their shops with a wide range of data to assess. Plus, they also are not willing to show all their cards, so to speak. So, the lap times should be taken with maybe a little grain of salt.
Nevertheless, it was impressive that the lap speeds were as high as they were and that there was so much parity between the boats. The difference in speed between the fastest and the slowest of the seven boats that got onto the river was less than eight miles per hour. It indicates we should see some close racing this season and that 2023 should be a very competitive season.
David Newton (Publisher of Roostertail Talk Podcast)
Last Friday fans were treated to 8 H1 Unlimited hydroplanes attending the annual preseason test session in Tri-Cities, WA. The pits were packed with boats, which made it look like Christmas… I mean the Columbia Cup came early this year.
I was very impressed with how prepared the teams were. Seven of the boats made multiple runs which showed how their hard work over the offseason had improved their boat rides and speeds. (The only one not to make it out was the U-440 Boitano Homes with electrical problems). This was a real treat for fans that attended or streamed online as boats were on the water all day long.
It is hard to choose which team and boat stood out above the rest. Each team ran impressive laps in testing, which many ran faster than the year before. Four (almost five) boats ran laps over 160MPH. The Strong Racing Team has 2 fast boats that ran over 162 MPH with equally impressive rides on the water (check out their sleek drop sponson look!). Tate had no problem reeling in the 160 mark and Dustin Echols showed he is ready to be a formidable component in the Goodman Real Estate.
If I had to choose one boat that stood out above the rest, it has to be Dylan Runne in the Homestreet. This was the first time driving that boat (remember he tested the 91 last year in San Diego, a different hull). He showed no fear in climbing the speed chart to hold the fastest lap time in the testing session. He didn’t look the part of a rookie, but that of a seasoned veteran cruising the river. The boat is a proven performer and with a no fear driver such as Dylan they are going to be one to watch this year!