Greg Hopp wins Desert Thunder 2007 in Richland, WA - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Greg Hopp wins Desert Thunder 2007 in Richland, WA

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RICHLAND, Wash. - Vince Xaudaro hit the start line hard and took the lead coming out of the turn two exit pin.

Greg Hopp, way back behind everybody at the start, came flying down the backstretch and caught the X-Man on lap two to make it close.  Hopp and Xaudaro battled it out for most of the race with deck-to-deck racing:  They were dead even going into the backstretch on the final lap before Hopp took the lead.

The UL-929 Xaudaruo got caught in Hopp's wake, but recovered to take second.

Kayleigh Perkins, running in her first Unlimited Lights, took third.  Michael Flaherty fourth followed by Rod Borque and Mark Echolls.

Windy conditions and overcast skies meant choppy water and slower race times again on Sunday for the final day of the opening season for Unlimited Light hydroplane racing for 2007.

The Finals order of finish:

  1. UL-1 Greg Hopp
  2. UL-929 Vince Xaudaro
  3. UL-72 Kayleigh Perkins
  4. UL-8 Michael Flaherty
  5. UL-62 Rod Borque
  6. UL-33 Mark Echolls

During the B-Main Heat of today's Unlimited Light races, Joe Turner's UL-18 had its right sponson snap off causing the boat to capsize and sink into the river.  Turner was able to release his seatbelt and open the capsule, luckily escaping unharmed.

I took a hard hit and then I just saw water, and more water," says Turner, who was visibly shaken as he watched his boat being saved from the churning Columbia.  Other drivers continuously came up to Turner to hug him and tell him they were so thankful that he was ok.  "In my 22 years of racing this is the only wreck I've ever been in."

Turner's boat will have to be completely scrapped and if he wants to race again it's going to cost him about $100,000.  When asked if he would ever race again after this type of a crash, Turner replied, "I don't think Mrs. Turner will let me race again."



In the B-Main restart, UL-1 Greg Hopp beat UL-8 Michael Flaherty by two lengths, followed by  UL-33 Mark Echolls to make the finals.  UL-19 Ryan Mallow finished fourth after sustaining some damage.

Unlimited Light Heat 2A saw Rod Borque in the UL-62 edge out Kayleigh Perkins in the UL-72 for the win with Mark Echols finishing third.  Wil Muncey in the UL-83 again could not get his boat to finish the race.

Vince Xaudaro put up his first win of the season in the UL-929 in Heat 2C.  The heat pitted Vince and brother Charles head-to-head for the first time.

Muncey managed to get his equipment running in Heat 3A and finished second.  Ryan Mallow in the UL-19 won the heat.

Then it was Kayleigh Perkins winning for the second time this weekend in Heat 3B over Bourke.

Greg Hopp and the UL-1 held off Vince Xaudaro in Heat 3C to finish the preliminary rounds.


On the opening day of the 2007 racing season for the Unlimited Lights, it was a rookie driver - and the only female driver - who got the crowd going.

18-year old Kayleigh Perkins, running her first ever Unlimited Lights race, started 5 seconds behind the other in Heat 1B on Saturday.  But that didn't stop her from making her first ride in the UL-72 Miss Boat Electric her first win.

"Going into the second lap, I though maybe I could run him down," said Perkins about Ryan Mallow in the UL-19 5 Star Racing.  She did, powering through the second turn and making up the time on the back stretch of lap number two, and then turning on the jets in the final turn and sliding past Mallow at the finish line by two-tenths of a second.

"I can't believe it," Perkins said after the win.

Earlier in the day, Greg Hopp started things off right for the UL-1 Happy Go Lucky team winning Heat 1A fighting through choppy water and a windy day to beat Rod Bourke in the UL- 62 IRS Environmental presents Benz Electric by a full 8 seconds.

In Heat 1C, Mark Echols in the UL-33 Estes Racing Presents; Miss Graham Trucking picked up the win.  Another rookie, Charles Xauduro, brother of the UL-929's Vince Xauduro, made his debut in the UL-98 Atomic Screen Printing, owned by the Atomic Screen folks in Kennewick, WA.  Charles finished second.

Standings after Day One

400 Points 300 Points 225 Points