Brian Perkins: "This is a dream come true" - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Brian Perkins: "This is a dream come true"

Kevin Aylesworth is taking some time off and named a new driver for the U-21 team.
Freedom Racing news release
Heading into their sophomore season on the American Boat Racing Association national tour, Freedom Racing Team will maintain a rookie association in 2007 with a new driver in the U21 cockpit.

The San Diego Unlimited hydroplane team announced today that Brian Perkins of Black Diamond, Wash. will replace Kevin Aylesworth in the cockpit of the hull, which is being rebuilt after a season-ending fire in Seattle in August. The 21-year-old Perkins, deemed a "Young Gun" in the sport, currently drives the Red Dot UL40 Unlimited Light for Thunder Valley Racing.  2007 will be his first full-time ride in one of the world's fastest race boats, though he tested an Unlimited in 2005. 

Freedom Racing Team owners Jeffrey Michael Johnson and Aylesworth said they wanted a competitive driver who had an extensive knowledge of Unlimited hydroplanes that could grow with the team. Perkins' qualifications made him their first-choice to take over Aylesworth's driving duties.

Nearly speechless, Perkins said he couldn't ask for a better opportunity than to drive an Unlimited for Freedom Racing Team.

"This is a dream come true," Perkins said. "I'm nervous, excited and proud all at the same time." Since it's only the second season for the U21, Perkins said the pressure of stepping up to the top rung of the powerboat racing ladder should be manageable.

Perkins has demonstrated he has what it takes to compete at the professional level, and his character is a good fit for the team, Johnson said.

"We've watched him race neck-and-neck with Jeff Bernard," Johnson said. "We expect him to race smart and do the best he can possibly do. We know he won't race above his head," Johnson said. "As a rookie, he can grow with us."

In 2003, Perkins traded victories in the 4 cylinder class with best friend and now U5 driver Bernard. Perkins' performance earned him a seat in Pat Roach's UL136 Unlimited Light at the San Diego and Port Angeles races in 2003 and 2004.

"His values and philosophies are consistent with our ‘When We Race Children Win' mission," Johnson said. In addition to contributing a percentage of sponsorship dollars to children's charities, the team visits hospitals and children's organizations across the nation throughout the year. Since its inception, Freedom Racing Team has helped raise more than $100,000 for Children's Hospital and other charities in race host cities.

After nearly losing his life twice in the past year in hydroplane racing accidents, Aylesworth said he's taking time off from driving to spend more time with his two sons and get healthy. Aylesworth escaped the cockpit of the fiery U21 blaze in Seattle just 9 months after his near fatal crash in the team's Unlimited Light hydroplane during the 2006 San Diego Thunderboat Regatta.

"Brian puts himself and his boat in a position to win," Aylesworth said. In addition to making good starts and jockeying for position on the race course, Perkins' has been crewing on Unlimited teams since he was 15 years old and has a good handle on how these highly technical boats work, Aylesworth said.

"Brian shares our objective to promote the sport, work with the media, and relate with kids," Aylesworth said. He indicated the team will dedicate just as much energy to raising the excitement level of fans on the shoreline with their contagious enthusiasm in an effort to grow the sport's popularity as in their 2006 debut season on the ABRA tour.

At 22 years old during the 2007 circuit, Perkins will be the youngest Unlimited driver (he's five months younger than Bernard). Working his way up through the hydroplane racing ranks over the past five years, the majority of his experience is in the 1 liter and 2.5 liter classes. The son of Kevin and Laurie Perkins, Brian graduated from Kentlake High School in 2003. He works for the family-owned Perkins Glass in Seattle, started by his great grandfather 100 years ago.

Perkins will spend time in San Diego this off-season helping replace the decks, engine compartment, and electrical components of the charred U21. A new cockpit will be installed and the turbine engine is being repaired.

Perkins is a great fit for the Freedom Racing Team crew, who congratulated him at the U21 shop in San Diego last week, Johnson said. "There are only a few drivers we trust with these million dollar boats."