Bill Weber, Mike Allen to head H1 hydro broadcasts on Versus
Saturday, June 11, 2011 5:00 AM
NBC Sports motorsports announcer Bill Weber and former H1 Unlimited driver Mike Allen will serve as the broadcast team for the Air National Guard Hydroplane Series television shows that will appear on the Versus Network this fall.
For the past decade, Weber has covered everything from NASCAR events to IndyCar racing for NBC Sports and is considered one of the premier motorsports announcers in broadcasting.
Weber also has a deep knowledge of unlimited hydroplane racing, covering the sport as a local sports anchor in Indiana and serving as a public relations consultant for one of the sport's biggest teams and drivers during the 1980s.
Weber, a native of Middletown, N.J., graduated from Butler University in 1979 and began his TV career at WISH in Indianapolis before serving as sports director at stations in Terre Haute and Evansville. He eventually went to work in public relations for Miller Brewing Company and the U-00 Miller American and driver Chip Hanauer.
"This is a homecoming for me," said Weber, who lives in Florida. "I started out covering hydroplane racing and traveling to races because it was so popular. I want people to understand how fun and exciting this sport is."
Joining Weber in the booth is broadcast newcomer Mike Allen, who will provide color commentary that only a fellow driver and competitor can deliver. In 2006 Allen became the first rookie driver to lead his team to the National High Points Championship in the U-7 Formulaboats.com, which earned him Rookie of the Year honors. He has been in boat racing nearly 25 years, more recently in the limited classes.
"I want to take the viewer into what it's like being in the cockpit," said the New Orleans resident. "There is so much going on inside the boat during a race that viewers probably don't know or might not understand it."
Providing feature stories from the races will be Steve Montgomery, who will also lead H1 Unlimited's live Internet streaming race coverage. Montgomery is a long-time commentator of the sport and his relationships with the drivers and team owners will provide insight rarely available to unlimited hydroplane racing fans.
This year marks the full return of the Air National Guard Hydroplane Series to cable television and is the only professional boat racing tour in the United States to have its full schedule televised. Seven one-hour shows will appear Saturday afternoons on the Versus Network starting in October.
Versus Network is under the NBC Sports umbrella, which is owned by Comcast. Tampa Digital will handle the television production led by Mike McKown, vice president of broadcast for the Florida-based company. The races will be recorded and broadcast in high-definition with each of the boats equipped with at least two onboard GoPRO cameras to take viewers inside the cockpit - a view only seen by the drivers.
Weber believes the high-definition broadcasts and with the races set in scenic locations will bring a new generation of fans to H1 Unlimited racing.
"The sport was made for high-definition television, it's just another reason to tune in," said Weber, who was a member of NBC's Emmy-awarding NASCAR coverage. "If you watch - whether it's on TV or in-person at the races - you're going to be hooked."
H1 Unlimited Chairman Sam Cole said it was important to have a broadcast team that understands the sport and be able to convey the racing action to casual and hard-core fans of the boats that run speeds of up to 200 mph in the straightaways.
"We're delighted for the fans to have such an experienced group of broadcasters covering our sport," Cole said. "With the return of Bill Weber to hydroplane racing and with his professionalism from NASCAR racing and hydroplane driver Mike Allen, they are going to bring incredible color and insight to our television shows."