The record course at Guntersville produced records speeds and close racing. Unfortunately, Mother Nature prevented the conclusion of the race. What were your thoughts of the first weekend of racing? What were some storylines that you took away from the first weekend?
Craig Fjarlie (Unlimited News Journal Writer & H1 Unlimited Volunteer)
Guntersville clearly demonstrated how fast Unlimited Hydroplanes are. Dustin Echols set a lap record in U-40 Bucket List Racing during qualifying. Clearly, the majority of the boats are all close in speed and handling. The margin of victory comes down to boat set-up and the skill of each driver. It is unfortunate that high winds and an approaching thunderstorm resulted in a compressed schedule, so what had been planned as a full day of racing activity instead ended early with damage to two boats and fans running for cover from the drenching rain. The race committee does a great job setting up the event; let’s hope weather conditions are better next year so fans can appreciate boat racing on the South’s fastest water.
Jeff Morrow (Former Sports Editor of the Tri-City Herald)
First, Corey Peabody is on a mission after his 2022 season was cut short last July in Madison with the U-9 flip.
By winning all three of his preliminary heats in Guntersville — and thus being named Southern Cup champion when the race was cut short because of weather — Peabody and the Strong Racing team have the inside track to a national championship.
Yes, I know there are plenty of points left to grab. But with the loss of the San Diego Bayfair this year, the window has gotten tighter with just three races remaining.
On that same tangent, the Madison boats need a quick bounce back if the team has anything to say.
Can the crew get Andrew Tate’s U-91 up and running quickly after the flip in Alabama?
How will Dylan Runne react after his first race in the U-1?
The other thing that caught my eye was Dustin Echols’ qualifying speed of 170 and change. Kelly Stocklin and his team have that U-40 tuned in. Echols might be the right guy for that boat.
Andy Muntz (Unlimited News Journal Editor & H1 Unlimited Board Member)
When we learned about the massive turns on the new Guntersville racecourse, we knew that it would be a fast track. I think the result even exceeded expectations. I recall a couple of years ago talking to another hydro fan about speed records, and the fellow said he didn’t expect that the non-restricted fuel-flow marks of the 1990s would ever be broken. Based on what we saw at Guntersville, it looks like that day has already arrived.
Dustin Echols’s qualifying run of over 171 mph was stunning—the fifth fastest in the history of our sport and only two miles per hour slower than the all-time fastest lap ever recorded. Corey Peabody did some record setting of his own. His average speed in Heat 1B was the fastest competition heat in the history of the sport.
So, I’d say the story that came out of Guntersville is clear. It was a weekend that featured speed like the sport hasn’t seen for about two decades.
David Newton (Publisher of Roostertail Talk Podcast)
The 2023 H1 Unlimited season is underway, and Guntersville didn’t pull any punches with its improved course. The widened 2.5-mile course showed some excellent speeds. Friday testing indicated speeds were up (most of the fleet were in the mid to upper 160s) and proved that the change in the course was what we needed. Fans got to see a historic qualifying run with the U-40 Bucket List Racing surpassing the eluded 170MPH mark with a top qualifying speed of 171.294 mph. The stage was set for some fast, fast racing.
The heat racing on Saturday and Sunday brought deck to deck racing. Some of the races came down to the wire. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the epic battle in the final heat. Extreme weather shortened the race. After the Goodman Real Estate flipped, H1 Unlimited ran out of time to have a re-run of the final heat. What would have happened? Did J. Michael Kelly have enough speed to beat his Strong Racing partner? With a few laps under his belt, would Runne and Homestreet be the star of the show? Would Peabody have left the field in his wake? We don’t know what would have happened if there was a restart, but we should have a good show next week. My only hope is that the teams will be able to get repairs made on the U-40 and U-91 in time to have a full field in Madison. Everyone needs to stay healthy in order to have some great racing on the west side swing for Tri Cities and Seattle. If we can have a healthy fleet, the Gold Cup will be one of the most exciting to watch in recent years.