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Ellstrom to lease Red Dot hydro for '13 opener
Courier Sports Staff
Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:00 AM
The Spirit of Qatar name and colors will fly on the Our Gang Racing entry at next week's H1 Unlimited season opener in Doha, Qatar, the team announced Wednesday.
The original Spirit of Qatar was badly damaged during the race in Doha earlier this month when a high bounce on the water broke engine mounts and caused fire to erupt in the back of the boat. The fire was contained but not before the boat was heavily damaged.
Qatar crew members have been in Doha for the past few weeks attempting to repair the boat but owner Erick Ellstrom, along with sponsor Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al Thani of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation, made the announcement to lease the Our Gang Racing for at least one race.
"The guys wanted a chance to fix the boat and get it back on the water," Ellstrom said in a news release. "They are making good progress, but it is becoming more and more evident that the damage to the hull and systems is probably just too great to be overcome in such a short period of time. So we move to plan B which will have us working with Nate and Kip Brown, John O'Brien and Our Gang Racing to field a team for our sponsor."
As part of the deal, Our Gang driver Kip Brown will remain in the cockpit and the boat, which ran last season as the Miss Red Dot, will be refinished in the maroon and white colors of the nation of Qatar.
The boat will also wear the number "95" - a departure from the Ellstrom team which normally wears the number "96." As a result, any points accrued by Brown during the race will not transfer to the Spirit of Qatar's main entry for the rest of the season.
Ellstrom said that the group running the boat in Doha will be a combination of both the Ellstrom and Our Gang teams.
"Four of our guys will be there working with the OGR team and we look forward to working with their great team and driver," Ellstrom said.
As for the current Spirit of Qatar, repairs continue to be made and Ellstrom did not rule out an appearance by the main boat in Doha.
"We will see how far it gets by Feb. 8," Ellstrom said. "If we think the hull is stable and the critical systems are functioning, we may put a motor in it and see how it runs."
This is not the first time that the Ellstrom team and Nate Brown have worked together. Brown drove for the team in the early 2000s and was primarily responsible for construction of the new boat.
In 2006, Brown stepped into the Ellstrom's back-up boat for one race after the primary hull was damaged in an accident at Valleyfield, Quebec, and regular driver Dave Villwock was too tall to fit into the cockpit of the older boat.
Brown also leased his Miss Red Dot to Ellstrom halfway through the Evansville race in 2009 after Villwock and Miss Elam Plus flipped in Heat 1A.
While there has been rampant speculation as to Villwock's status with the Spirit of Qatar team, H1 Unlimited said on its Facebook page on Wednesday that Villwock was still the team's driver.
The 2013 H1 Unlimited season kicks off on Friday, Feb. 8 and runs through Tuesday, Feb. 12. The Unlimiteds return stateside in late May for the inaugural race in Sacramento, Calif.
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