Up Close: 22-year-old Brian Perkins steps up to the Unlimited ranks - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Up Close: 22-year-old Brian Perkins steps up to the Unlimited ranks

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Brian Perkins, lane 2, circa 2002 in one-litre race in Yelm, WA Brian Perkins, lane 2, circa 2002 in one-litre race in Yelm, WA
Brian Perkins drove S-6 Perkins Glass  to the Lighter than Lights 4 cylinder Championship in 2004 Brian Perkins drove S-6 Perkins Glass to the Lighter than Lights 4 cylinder Championship in 2004
Perkins (right) wins in the first Unlimited Lights race of 2006 in the UL40 Miss Red Dot Perkins (right) wins in the first Unlimited Lights race of 2006 in the UL40 Miss Red Dot
Brian working on the new U-21 Brian working on the new U-21

He's 22 years old and is moving up to the ranks of the Unlimiteds after piloting the Red Dot UL-40 Unlimited Light for Thunder Valley Racing in 2006.

"This is a dream come true," Brian Perkins said. "I'm nervous, excited and proud all at the same time."

Perkins has been in the cockpit of the big boats before - but only briefly - he tested an Unlimited in 2005.

Freedom racing team owners Jeffrey Michael Johnson and Kevin Aylesworth chose Perkins to drive their new ride, being built after the U-21 was destroyed in a fire at Seattle's Seafair race in 2006.

"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."   

"Brian puts himself and his boat in a position to win"

- U21 co-owner and former driver Kevin Aylesworth

In 2003, Perkins traded victories in the four-cylinder class with best friend and now U-5 FormulaBoats.com driver Jeff Bernard. Bernard won the Lighter than Lights title in 2003.  Perkins won the title in 2004 and split driving duties in 2005, resulting in another first place finish. 

He's also competed in the 1-litre and 2.5-litre class.   In 2006, Perkins won the Issaquah race in the UL-40 Miss Red Dot unlimited light.  He finished the year in 5th place in Driver High Points.

Perkins' has been crewing on Unlimited teams since he was 15 years old.

Aylesworth, who drove the U-21 in 2006 also made the jump from Unlimited Lights.  But 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.  So he decided to turn the reins over to a then 21-year-old Brian Perkins.

Perkins has been spending time in San Diego this off-season helping build the new U-21.

Brian Perkins
Hometown:  Black Diamond, WA
First Race:  2001
2006 5th overall in Unlimited Lights High Points Driver
2005 Co-National High Points Driver, Lighter than Lights
2004 National High Points Driver, Lighter than Lights

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