The fastest boats in the world will be back in action this summer when the H1 Unlimited Racing Series gets underway on June 26 and 27 in Guntersville, Alabama. In competing for the Southern Cup, the H1 hydroplanes will give Alabama race fans the “Greatest Show on H-2-O” as they careen across the water at speeds reaching 200 miles per hour and throw a spectacular plume of spray high into the air.
The Guntersville race, held on Lake Guntersville, one of the fastest racecourses on the circuit, will be the first of four events scheduled this season. The H1 Unlimited Racing Series also will include the Gold Cup on July 2 to 4 in Madison, Indiana; the HAPO Columbia Cup at the Tri-Cities, Washington, on July 23 to 25; and the HomeStreet Bank San Diego Bayfair event on September 17 to 19. A fifth race scheduled in Seattle was canceled because of health restrictions related to Covid-19.
Seven hydroplanes are expected for the H1 Unlimited season opener in Guntersville. The field includes several very fast boats driven by talented drivers—a combination that is likely to produce one of the most competitive seasons of racing in many years.
Headlining the action will be the return of Dave Villwock, the sport’s all-time greatest champion, who will be driving the U-40 Miss Beacon Plumbing. Adding to the excitement will be two entries by a new race team owned by Vanessa and Darrell Strong of the Tri-Cities, Washington, and the move of former national champion Andrew Tate to the cockpit of Graham Trucking, a boat that ended the 2019 season with three straight victories.
The field also will include U-1 Miss HomeStreet, which will represent the team that won the 2019 national title and was winner of the most recent Guntersville race. Driving duties will be shared by Jimmy Shane, 35, of Covington, Washington, the defending national
champion and winner of six titles, and Jeff Bernard, 36, of Kent, Washington. Their boat this year will be a craft that won 23 races and eight national championships during its career.
Also competing will be the U-11 J&D’s and the U-440 Bucket List Racing entries. J&D’s is based in Cle Elum, Washington, and will be driven by Jamie Nilsen, 36, of Fife, Washington. Bucket List Racing’s unlimited will be driven by Dustin Echols, 41, of Monroe, Washington, and is part of a race team based in Snohomish, Washington, that includes the boat that will be driven by Villwock.
At age 67, Villwock, also of Monroe, will be among the oldest drivers to ever sit at the controls of an unlimited-class hydroplane, but he also has a career record that is unmatched in the sport’s 118-year history. With 67 race victories earned while driving from 1990 to 2014, he has more wins than any other driver in history, many coming at the wheel of notable hydroplanes such as Miss Budweiser, PICO American Dream, and Ellstrom. With 10 national titles, he also has won more championships than any other driver.
The boat Villwock will drive was purchased last year by Sharon and Kelly Stocklin. “We have worked with Dave for many years and had great success in the flatbottom classes and could not be more excited to have him drive our new boat in the upcoming season,” Kelly Stocklin said.
Last winter, Darrel & Vanessa Strong purchased the U-9 Jones Racing hull that won the 2018 national title and shortly thereafter purchased a second hydroplane – the former U-96 Ellstrom Racing hull that showed impressive speed when it raced from 2014 to 2017. Their team is based in Auburn, Washington.
The ex-Jones hull will compete as Pinnacle Peak Consultants and will be driven by Corey Peabody of Kent, Washington. Driving duties for the other boat, the U-8 Miss Tri-Cities, will be handled by J. Michael Kelly, 42, of Bonney Lake, Washington, who has collected 11 race victories during his career.
Kelly won all of his races driving the U-12 Graham Trucking, but with his move to the Strong Racing Team, his seat in that boat will be taken by Andrew Tate, 31, of Canton. Michigan.
In a career that started in 2016, Tate already has eight race victories to his credit, including the race held in Guntersville in 2018, and he won the 2018 national championship.
The race in Guntersville will be the first H1 Unlimited Racing Series event held since the 2019 season ended. Last year’s races were canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Action on Lake Guntersville will get underway with testing and qualifying runs on Saturday, June 26. The racing will begin that afternoon with the first preliminary heats.
Additional preliminary heats and the winner-take-all final heat will happen on Sunday, June 27.
Tickets to the race are still available at www.explorelakeguntersville.com. For those who can’t attend, the race also will be streamed live on the H1 Unlimited YouTube Channel and available on our website at www.h1unlimited.com.