Unlimited Light Hydroplane Racing in Richland: Greg Hopp and UL-15 win Desert Thunder - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Unlimited Light Hydroplane Racing in Richland: Greg Hopp and UL-15 win Desert Thunder

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RICHLAND, Wash. - Greg Hopp and the UL-15 Graham Trucking GT - Happy Go Lucky GT made it a perfect weekend, winning every heat, and knocking off defending Desert Thunder champion Kayleigh Perkins in the UL-72 Miss Boat Electric in the finals.

The Finals

It was an interesting situation in the finals.  Before the race, one buoy cut loose and started drifting down the Columbia River.  Crews replaced it, but fast water - made faster by melting runoff - kept pushing buoys farther out.  John Lynch estimated it may have added an extra quarter-mile to the course by the end of the weekend.

That meant different timings for drivers than they had seen all weekend.  Hopp was in the outside lane for the finals and split away from the pack while scoring up.  He took an extra lap at full speed as the clock counted down and absolutely nailed the start.  All the other Unlimited Hydroplanes were headed to the line early and had to slow up.  They never recovered.

Hopp cruised to victory, making it a perfect weekend, and his first victory of 2008.  "Everyone else was a little early," Hopp said.  "We came off the corner full-tilt boogie."

A good weekend for Paul Becker in the UL-14 Miss Critical Logic, who took second place.  "It was a bit of tough go," he said.  The high water was fast and added a lot of chop.  "Tough water," he said pointing to bruises.

Kayleigh Perkins in the UL-72 Miss Boat Electric almost caught Becker on the final lap, but had to settle for third place.  "I had a little trouble with the start," she said.  "Having the buoy's moved on the river made it a little more challenging." 

It tightened the turns on the far end of the course.  "It wasn't as tight as Firebird, but it was tighter than I thought it would be," said Paerkins.

Kip Brown in the UL-8 Baker Equipment Co. finished 4th, topping off a great weekend for his team with two first place finishes in Heat finals.  "We're not happy with fourth place," he said.  "But we're ecstatic about the weekend."  And he sees even better racing ahead.  "We'll come out at the next race firing," he said.

Heat 3B was the first Unlimited Light hydroplane racing match-up of brother-sister, Brian Perkins and Kayleigh Perkins.  Hopp won Heat 3B, Kayleigh took second, and brother Brian took third.  That third place finish gave Brian enough points to run in the trailer position in the finals.

RESULTS - FINALS
  1. 1. Greg Hopp, UL-15 Graham Trucking GT - Happy Go Lucky
  2. 2. Paul Becker, UL-14 Miss Critical Logic
  3. 3. Kayleigh Perkins, UL-72 Miss Boat Electric
    4. Kip Brown, UL-8 Baker Equipment Co.
    5. Brian Perkins, UL-40 King & Bunny's Applicance (started as trailer)

One accident Saturday caused significant damage to two teams, but serious injuries were avoided.  A graduate of Kennewick's Kamiakmin High School, Vince Xaudaro was in the cockpit of the UL-929 when the steering wheel came off its mount.  The boat ran up and over the center of J. Craig Fletcher's UL-13.  Fletcher's boat had gone dead in the water earlier in the heat.

View full-size photo of the aftermath (Chris Denslow) >>

HEAT RESULTS

Heat 1A

  1. Kip Brown, UL-8 Baker Equipment Co.
  2. Brian Perkins, UL-40 King & Bunny's Appliances
  3. Wil Muncey, UL-00 Trafficade Racing Team
  4. Joe Sauza, UL-39 Rouly Heat Exchange presents Pressure's On

Heat 1B

  1. Kayleigh Perkins, UL-72 Miss Boat Electric
  2. Michael Flaherty, UL-11 Executif Racing

    DNS.  Bob Smets, UL-20 SMETCO

Heat 1C

  1. Jerry Hopp, UL-15 Graham Trucking GT- Happy Go Lucky
  2. Paul Becker, UL-14 Miss Critical Logic

    DNF.  Vince Xaudaro, UL-929
    DNF.  J. Craig Fletcher, UL-13 Celtic Racing

Heat 2A

  1. Greg Hopp, UL-15 Graham Trucking GT - Happy Go Lucky
  2. Paul Becker, UL-14 Miss Critical Logic
  3. Brian Perkins, UL-40 King & Bunny's Applicance

    DQ.  Bob Smets, UL-20 SMETCO (missed buoy)

Heat 2B

  1. Kayleigh Perkins, UL-72 Miss Boat Electric
  2. Kip Brown, UL-8 Sterlings
  3. Wil Muncey, UL-00 Trafficade Racing Team
  4. Joe Souza, UL-39 Roult Heat Ecchange - Pressure's On

    DNS.  Michael Flaherty, UL-11 Executif Racing

Heat 3A

  1. Kip Brown, UL-8 Sterlings
  2. Paul Becker, UL-14 Miss Critical Logic
  3. Michael Flaherty, UL-11 Executif Racing
  4. Bob Smets, UL-20 SMETCO

    DNF.  J. Craig Fletcher, UL-13 Celtic Racing

Heat 3B

  1. Greg Hopp, UL-15 Graham Trucking GT - Happy Go Lucky
  2. Kayleigh Perkins, UL-72 Miss Boat Electric
  3. Brian Perkins, UL-40 King & Bunny's Applicance
  4. Wil Muncey, UL-00 Trafficade Racing Team - One lap penalty (jumped the gun)

    DNF.  Joe Souza, UL-39 Roult Heat Ecchange - Pressure's On -
    One lap penalty (jumped the gun)

Results from other Hydroplane racing classes >>

A number of the weekend's Unlimited Lights drivers will also be driving Unlimited Hydroplanes this season.  Kip Brown will be driving the U-17 Miss Red Dot Unlimited Hydroplane this season.  Brian Perkins will be driving the U-50 US Navy.  Greg Hopp is scheduled to drive the U-100 Mirage Boats.  But this weekend, all three were driving Unlimited Lights in Desert Thunder in Richland, WA along the shores of the Columbia River.

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