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Ellstrom hoping quick fix has Qatar ready for 2013 opener
, Courier Sportswriter
Tuesday, January 22, 2013 10:00 AM
MAKING PLANS: Safety and rescue workers rush to assist Spirit of Qatar driver Dave Villwock after that boat caught fire during Heat 4A of the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship on Jan. 4 in Doha, Qatar. Team owner and crew chief Erick Ellstrom (pictured below with Villwock after winning the 2012 Gold Cup in Detroit) said the team will try to repair the boat in time for next month’s 2013 season opener in Doha and build a new boat for the 2014 season. (H1 Unlimited photo above by Chris Denslow, staff photo below by David Campbell)
The Spirit of Qatar racing team is facing a quick fix after the fire that ravaged that unlimited hydroplane during the season finale in Doha two weeks ago.
The boat caught fire during Heat 4A of the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship when it hit a wave, launched into the air and landed hard on the water. The impact broke motor mounts, snapped fuel lines and caused the engine to catch fire.
Driver Dave Villwock scrambled out of the boat and was able to pull the engine cowling off but the Lycoming turbine engine was a complete loss. After an inspection, it was determined that the boat itself was also seriously damaged by the heat and flames.
"We built the boat with two backups for the electrical system, so we could make an easy switch in case of a failure. All three systems and the housing around them melted together," Qatar owner and crew chief Erick Ellstrom told H1Unlimited.com. "We can't pull the wires out of the tube. It all has to be cut out."
Ellstrom said there was also some delamination in the hull under the area where the fire occurred as well as damage to the hull itself. The boat has cracks in the air traps, left sponson and elsewhere.
The team is facing an early deadline for repairs. The 2013 season will kick off in Doha on Feb. 8-12, in just over two weeks.
Ellstrom told the website that the team has three plans. The first is to rebuild the boat in time for the 2013 season opener but Ellstrom admits that getting the boat fixed is a "long shot."
"If we can replace the damaged portion of the boat and systems and make the boat stable in the three weeks we have before the Oryx Cup, we'll race the boat," Ellstrom said. "(Hull specialist) Jeff Minar will be returning to Doha soon with fiberglass parts he is building and we will have a crew of four working on the boat."
If the boat cannot be repaired, Ellstrom is prepared to move on. The team could lease one of the other boats that will be in Doha in order to pick up team points. As for the rest of the season, Ellstrom is already planning on getting the team's old boat - which last raced under the Boeing colors a few years ago - ready to run.
As for the more long range future, the team is moving ahead with plans to build a new boat.
"As of Jan. 16, we have begun the process of building a new Spirit of Qatar which will debut in 2014," Ellstrom said. "We plan to work with Sheikh Hassan and represent Qatar for many years to come, so we may limp through the 2013 season with a patched up boat and a backup, but beginning in 2014 it's a whole new game."
Hydros returning to water soon
The 2012 season just ended but the 2013 season begins in two weeks, the shortest turnaround in Unlimited history.
As a result, all 10 boats that were in Doha, Qatar, two weeks ago have remained on site in anticipation of the next race. For the local Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison Racing Team, that means most of the crew stayed in Qatar to get the boat ready.
"In about three weeks we'll all be headed back to Doha for the 2013 Oryx Cup," Oberto driver Steve David said. "I can tell you that Mike and Larry Hanson and most of our team stayed an extra week and are returning early to insure that your boat and the Oberto Nation have everything necessary to win this race."
The race in February will have one of the more unusual race schedules in history. Testing, qualifying and preliminary heats will take place on Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9. The final heat will be then be run on Tuesday, Feb. 12 as a centerpiece of Qatar's National Sports Day.
The Doha race will kick off an eight-race 2013 schedule - the biggest for H1 Unlimited since an 11-race schedule was contested in 1999. Races in Sacramento, Calif., and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, are new this season.
The complete 2013 schedule as released by H1 Unlimited includes: Doha, Qatar, Feb. 8-12; Sacramento, Calif., May 31-June 2; Madison, July 5-7; Detroit, July 12-14; Tri-Cities, Wash., July 26-28; Seattle, Aug. 2-4; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Aug. 31-Sept. 2; and San Diego, Sept. 13-15.
H1 announces awards
Because of the short turnaround between the seasons, H1 Unlimited handed out most of its post-season awards at the post-race gala in Doha. The rest of the awards will be presented at individual race sites.
Steve David and the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison were honored for winning the driver and boat championships.
Other award winners were: Special Contribution - Mona Nassar, QMSF, David Holley, Peters & May, and Scott MacCracken, FBI Qatar; Boat Sponsor of the Year - Graham Trucking; Owner of the Year - Leland Racing; Crew of the Year - Jones Racing; International Print Media - Gulf Times, Sports Department; International Television - Mohammed Abdulla Al Marzoqi, Al Kass Sports TV; Fastest Qualifier of the Year - Spirit of Qatar; Mechanix Wear Crew Chief of the Year - Tom Anderson, Graham Trucking; Peters & May Rookie of the Year - Kelly Stocklin, Bucket List Racing; Award of Excellence - Qatar Marine Sports Federation; Official of the Year - Steve Montgomery; Chairman's Award - Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al Thani; Fan Favorite Award - Jimmy Shane, Graham Trucking.
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