Racing in Qatar will be different than anything the Unlimited Hydroplanes have ever seen. While they've run on salt water before - most notably San Diego and Miami - this time it's higher than anyplace they've ever run.
“It’s 50% more dense (the salt water)," said U-16 Ellstrom driver Dave Villwock. "That’s strike one. Strike two is a two mile course. It’s been a long time since we’ve run on less than a 2.5 mile course."
"More salt in the air and will cause more trouble for the turbines,” said Villwock. "It’s something we have to deal with. We know there are some challenges there that may cause us trouble.”
Some of that salt in the air will be due to the boats themselves, which kick up a lot of water in the roostertails. The salt will still be lingering by the time the boats get around the shorter course.
"The problem is it hangs in the air," said U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto's Steve David. "With a short course, we’ll be running into our own salt in the air.”
In case you don't know, turbine engines don't like salt. It tends to gum things up. In San Diego, teams typically run additional scoops on their intake to filter the salt out and limit damage to the engines. Expect similar contraptions in Doha.
“Other than San Diego, I don’t have much experience with salt water and turbines,” said U-5 FormulaBoats.com's JeffBernard. “They raced in Miami, which was a smaller course, and seemed to get out of there without much problem.”
"The salinity is higher than in San Diego,” said David. “We’re trying to run a tighter operation – different filters and intakes."
“We have plenty of motors and hopefully it doesn’t screw us up,” said Bernard.
After the race, teams will have to take engines apart and clean them before transport to minimize the corrosion and damage to the engines and parts.
“All the top teams are well prepared,” said David. “Formula is sending over its machine truck for the teams.”