The Detroit River grew a leg over the past weekend and kicked me repeatedly in the balls. Well, not just me. Actually, the Mr. River kicked a few other guys harder. Allow me to digress...
I flew on a red-eye to Detroit on Thursday night. My trusty crew chief, Dave Bell, happens to be a borderline insomniac, and picked me up at the crack of dawn. We took the scenic route to the pits, and the crew had asssembled our "moisture missile" in fine form. Testing went OK. I actually waited until a couple boats were on the water to chop it up, for two reasons. First, I knew that the water was gonna be junk, 'cause it's the Gold Cup. Second, 'cause I am a bad-ass. As qualifying rolled around, we watched some guys running and putting up some stout numbers. After sizing up the competition, I figured the old 17 had about a 156- 157 mph chambered. All I had to do was pull the trigger. Instead of a bullet, I fired a boomerang, in the form of a pretty nasty hook in the Roostertail Turn on my WARM UP lap. Who crashes during a warm up lap? Oh yeah... Super Dave did...
As it turns out, the hook was due to loose steering cables. The cable actually spun on the drum at the bottom of the steering shaft. After the spin, the steering wheel was 180 degrees out. So, the trusty crew went to work tightening the cable, and I went to work trusting that the hook was a fluke. We made it out for qualifying, and during the warm up lap the steering shifted a bit again. After learning a valuable lession the previous time out, I tip-toed through with a 154. something lap, which qualified us in the middle of the pack.
Friday evening was spent disassembling the steering, then reinstalling the cable properly and putting some extra "oomph" on the cables. Saturday morning we went out and had a good test. I was excited for the first heat. I was confident that we were on our way to a good weekend. So confident, in fact, that I figured I would give the ENTIRE REST OF THE FIELD a six second head start in the first heat. To be fair, that bone head move was caused because of another bone head move: I put the fire out right before the score up. So, I watched a pretty good race in front of me that I should have won, or at least finished well. As it turns out, I got last.
That's OK. It's the Gold Cup, and you are allowed a bad heat (there are four qualifiers in Detroit.) I went to score up in the second heat, and pulled a pretty nice leapfrog. J Dub pulled one, too, and came over on me into lane 1. I had to choose to eat his tail and put the fire out again, or do a donut in the infield. That donut tasted like crap, and I was a few seconds late for the start on the outside, playing catch up again. This time I was pissed, and legged out the U-17 and beat her up pretty good. Passed J Dub (the cheater got called for the lane infraction) and Hopp, and was chasing down Mark Evans when I ran out of time. Well, that was better: second place points would make the team forget about the morning screw up. BUT NO!!! We were cheaters too, and were called for an N2 violation (basically too high RPM). So now we are last in points. Sweet.
Then Mikey Webster blew over. I don't know how the boat flipped, because the weight of his giant balls should have kept it down. Hopp was on the inside. Mike was in the middle. Old Man Chelan was on the outside in the U-57. They went BOMBING into the Roostertail Turn, about 5 feet apart, and nobody was going to give an inch. Mike had boat speed, but was in a bad position due to a marginal start. Just before entering the turn, the U22 took off and never looked back. Mikey is fine, but the boat is badly damaged. The only saving grace is that the boat was really rolling, and the team seems to have foun the speed they have been looking for.
Sunday morning- a new day. We had a good heat, finally, and raced Jimmy Shane in the Graham Trucking to a secnd place finish. That was a good step forward, but our chances were very slim for makiing the final, unless lots of bad things happened to other boats.
Then lots of bad things started to happen. J Dub blew over the Miss Peters and May, continuing his horrible streak of luck at the D. He was fine, but the boat was a little banged up. The U11 guys and gals are an awesome crew, and they will be ready, and yellow, for Tri Cities. Then the wind REALLY started blowing. We nearly did not go out for the fourth heat, as it made no sence to break up the boat, knowing we were unlikely to make the final. I decided to run outside, because I figured if the other guys raced, one would probably crash. Scott Liddycoat crashed the 88 Degree Men in front of me. He popped right out the bottom hatch and was pissed, but unhurt.
While the broken boats were put back on their trailers, it gave us time to let the wind calm down. We got in for the restart and I went to take off at about 5:30 on the countdown clock. The turbine started to spool, then... nothing. Nothing, that is, except people yelling, "Fire!" I'll have you know I can get out of the cockpit in about .8 seconds. A battery cable melted at a quick connect fitting, and our weekend was over.
Super Dave won the final for the Qatar team, and brought the boat back from an impossible angle (how it did not blow over, I will never know). Congratulations to the entire 96 team, and also to Dave for his TENTH Gold Cup.