COME TOGETHER: A still from the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison onboard camera shows the collision between the Madison boat and rival U-16 Oh Boy! Oberto during the final heat of the HAPO Columbia Cup in Tri-Cities, Wash.
COME TOGETHER: A still from the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison onboard camera shows the collision between the Madison boat and rival U-16 Oh Boy! Oberto during the final heat of the HAPO Columbia Cup in Tri-Cities, Wash.
It’s not unusual for Unlimited hydroplane fans to have to wait several hours to find out who won a race, but it’s unlikely there will ever be a delay to top this one.

Five months after Jimmy Shane and the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison were penalized for a collision in the final heat at Tri-Cities, that penalty has been reversed and the win awarded to Shane and Miss Madison Racing.

The decision, which was announced on Tuesday, came courtesy of APBA National Commissioner Charles Strang, who notified the team on Dec. 7 that the appeal had been upheld. H1 Unlimited, the division’s governing body, initially fought the decision, delaying the announcement for nearly a month.

“It’s kind of a crazy turn of events how things played out,” Miss Madison President Charlie Grooms said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “We’re very happy with how things turned out. We’re very pleased with the result.”

The road from on-water incident to appeal was a long and winding one that was as unusual as it was unprecedented.

Shane and Jean Theoret, who was driving the U-16 Oh Boy! Oberto, were locked in a tight dual for two laps of the final heat at the HAPO Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities, Wash. on July 31 when the two boats collided in turn two. While it was a significant jolt, both boats maintained their positions and kept racing.

One lap later H1 announced a penalty on Theoret for encroachment and, rather than continue to run hard, the veteran driver backed off, conceding the victory to Shane. Shane steered the HomeStreet across the finish line for what appeared to be his 13th career victory.

But 90 minutes after the race, H1 officials determined that Shane was at fault so it was he, not Theoret, who was penalized one lap. As a result, the win was awarded to J. Michael Kelly and the U-5 Graham Trucking, who had passed the slowed Theoret on the last lap, and Shane was sent down to seventh.

Almost immediately the Miss Madison Team cried foul. The initial call was made by the referee in a helicopter hovering over the turn and the video seemed to show that it was Theoret who turned into Shane.

The incident might have ended there, but the Miss Madison team had an ace up its sleeve. H1 places a “black box” in every boat before each race, a device that records several dozen different sets of data regarding each boat’s performance. The primary data collected by H1 involves both fuel flow and engine RPMs, but there was another piece of data that Miss Madison crewmember Jimmy Gilbert wanted to see: G-forces.

Each box records the g-forces that the boat is subjected to and it is those g-forces that show when a boat turns and at what angle. Gilbert, a former engineer with NASA, wrote a program that reads the data from the black box. According to Grooms, the data showed that as the boats entered the turn, Shane maintained his turning arc while Theoret’s g-forces spiked just before impact, indicating that it was he who deviated from his path.

Grooms and the Miss Madison team presented the g-force data along with the official appeal to H1 Chairman Steve David within the seven-day limit required by the H1 rulebook. David — a former Miss Madison driver — and his referees reviewed the data and denied the Madison team’s appeal.

The matter could have died there, but spurred on by HomeStreet Bank CEO Mark Mason, the team decided to play one final card. Within the H1 rulebook exists one final appeal, this one to APBA National Commissioner Charles D. Strang. Strang, a 95-year-old former chairman of Outboard Marine, is considered the “Supreme Court” of motorsports and his decision is final. Every major national motorsports federation, including NASCAR, has used Strang as its final appeal.

Like the actual Supreme Court, Strang’s word is final, and like the Court, Strang doesn’t have to hear an appeal. He decides what cases he is going to hear and on his schedule. Grooms submitted the data to Strang with no idea on when or whether he would hear back.

“It wasn’t that we forgot about the appeal, it’s just that we assumed that he didn’t take the case,” Grooms said. “It wasn’t until he notified us of his decision that we found out he took it.”

Grooms had appealed to Strang before — after the 2013 Gold Cup in Detroit — to no avail. With the matter in Strang’s hands, the team returned to business at hand, winning the season finale in San Diego and claiming the team’s third-straight National High Points title.

Meanwhile, Strang took the case and went to work. Along with reviewing the data, Strang watched the video from the final heat, interviewed race officials — including the referee that made the initial call — and went over the H1 rulebook. In the end, Strang concluded that Shane was not at fault and the results should be reflected to show that the HomeStreet Bank won the race.

“It’s the position of our team and our organization and our sponsor that we work really hard to play by the rules. And the rules afforded us an opportunity to have these things reviewed,” Grooms said. “I think the circumstances of what happened in the Tri-Cities are unfortunate in a lot of respects, so we’re extremely happy. The timing wasn’t the best in a lot of respects, and I don’t know the reason why an early August appeal didn’t get addressed until December because I have no clue what the process is, but we’re happy with it and thrilled to death that we were able to get an objective review and we’re ready to move forward.”

The news was understandably met with anger from several members of competing teams. Jim Bakke, a longtime crewmember in the sport who now works with the Graham Trucking team, expressed his frustrations to The Madison Courier in an email shortly before Christmas.

“This will kill the sponsorship and personnel working on these boats,” Bakke wrote. “No one wants to work this hard for this result.”

The result of the appeal does not change the order of finish in the National High Points Standings. Shane and the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank won both the driver’s and boat titles with Kelly finishing second in the U-5 Graham Trucking and rookie Andrew Tate third aboard the U-9 Jones Racing. Shane’s winning point total is now 8,424 points, 1,348 more than runner-up Kelly.

The reinstated victory also gives Shane 14 career wins, tying him with Danny Foster and Bill Cantrell for 11th on the all-time list just one win shy of Chuck Thompson in 10th place. The win was also the 28th for Miss Madison Racing, tying the team for third all-time, ironically with Erick Ellstrom the owner of Theoret’s U-16.

Kelly’s career win total drops to seven while owner Ted Porter now has 18 wins, back in a tie with former Miss Thriftway owner Willard Rhodes for 10th on the all-time list.

Grooms, who briefly served as interim H1 Chair after David’s resignation in September, said that he has been in contact with new H1 chairman Doug Bernstein and the H1 Board and all parties are ready to move forward.

“HomeStreet is looking to do a number of things (this year) and is looking forward to being a great partner and we’re looking forward to that,” Grooms said. “I just want to thank our fans for their support and thank Jimmy Shane for the continued focus and the continued effort on our behalf. And I just want to thank the tremendous support that we get from Mark Mason at HomeStreet Bank. He is a phenomenal guy and a phenomenal partner for us and I couldn’t thank him more for pushing us to the excellence that we have been able to achieve. Kudos to him, he’s the one that drives us every day.”