The final heat of Sunday’s HomeStreet Bank San Diego Bayfair proved to be a fitting finale for the 2018 H1 Unlimited season, an anti-climatic affair that offered little on-water action and one final dominating win by Andrew Tate.

Tate steered his U-9 Delta/Realtrac to a resounding victory on Mission Bay to cap a championship season that saw him win five of the six races on the H1 circuit. But Tate’s latest win felt a bit hollow after chief rival Jimmy Shane failed to even start the winner-take-all finale in his U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison and two other boats experienced on-water mishaps.

Without any real competition, Tate was never threatened in the final, winning the race by nearly half a lap with an average speed of 143.605 mph. Dustin Echols finished second in the U-440 Bucket List Racing while Brian Perkins recovered from a near-spin to place third in the U-21 PayneWest Insurance. The three boats were the only ones running at the end of the heat.

“A weird final to a weird season,” Tate said. “Pretty much sums it up.”

With the National High Points race decided at last month’s Gold Cup in Detroit, H1 officials took the opportunity this weekend to experiment with a different race format, one that saw lanes assigned based upon season and race points rather than allowing drivers to fight for lanes before the start.

The result was a weekend with little drama. Tate, Shane and Perkins all won preliminary heats from lane three, but only one of the heats featured any real side-by-side drama for the top spot.

Shane, who was trying to finish a rough season on a high note, was top qualifier, won a pair of heats and posted a faster average speed throughout the weekend and, as a result, earned the inside lane for the final to set up one final duel between him and Tate.

But that duel never materialized. The ignitor failed to light the engine on Shane’s Miss HomeStreet leaving the boat dead in the water near the dock. Crew members swarmed the decks of the boat in a frantic effort to get the engine to fire, but to no avail.

“It was unfortunate it was the guy who had the most points this weekend and was to be in lane one,” Tate said. “We want to beat them on the race course. It’s no fun for anyone when we are all not out there.”

Without Shane on the water, Tate moved over to lane one and seized control of the race as one by one his chief competitors fell by the wayside. The first was Perkins, who caught too much of the roostertail from Tom Thompson’s U-11 J&Ds in turn two of lap two, causing his engine to sputter and die. Perkins was able to restart but was never again a factor.

A lap later it was Thompson’s turn to run into trouble when his U-11 broke a propeller blade. Thompson was battling close with Tate at the time but the incident ended his race.

With nobody left to challenge, Tate cruised to the win.

“It was actually pretty rough out there, surprisingly, then Brian went dead in the corner unfortunately,” Tate said. “He was up running in front of Tommy and me for a few laps mixing it up for us for a little bit.”

The victory was the eighth of Tate’s career in just 16 starts, an impressive .500 winning percentage that is the best of any driver this century. It was also the 10th career win for owners Mike & Lori Jones.

After several years of barely finishing heats, the Bucket List Racing team picked up not only its highest-finish ever, but also climbed to fourth in the National High Points after competing in all six events in 2018. After the race, Jones presented the team with a celebratory bottle of champagne.

“After the start of the race I kind of backed out of it when we started to get some of the saltwater in our engine and then one-by-one they started dropping and then (owner) Kelly (Stocklin) started yelling on the radio, ‘keep the engine going and keep the salt out of the motor,’” said Echols who added that he believes his last two laps were his fastest-ever in the boat.

Left out of the celebration was Shane and the HomeStreet team, which saw their four-year run of championships ended in the worst of ways. Sunday’s final was the first time since 2013 (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) that the team failed to start a heat and the first time since 2011 (Detroit) that the team failed to compete in a final heat.

But you have to go all the way back to the San Diego race in 2005 to find the last time Miss Madison Racing failed to either start or finish a final heat in which they had qualified. It is that level of consistency that has served the team so well during its streak of eight national titles since 2008 and 10 driver’s championships since 2005.

But consistency was the HomeStreet’s undoing in 2018. Shane won 16 heats of racing on the season with the team’s new “White” hull winning nine of 13. But the team also had five heats where they scored zero points — three by technical disqualification, one by racing disqualification and one by engine failure — a devastating string of mistakes that sank the season.

The teams must now turn their attention to a crucial offseason and identifying and implementing the changes the sport must make in order to survive. Along with possible rules changes and adjustments to the way the sport deals with race sites, H1 is also seeking a full-time commissioner, something it has had since Doug Bernstein’s resignation in August 2017.

That offseason officially kicks off Oct. 13 with the annual Awards Banquet in the Tri-Cities, Washington, an event that also doubles as a meeting of the owners and race sites. It is there that possible changes are expected to be discussed.

The 2019 H1 Unlimited season is currently scheduled to begin June 28-30 at Guntersville Lake, Alabama. The rest of the race schedule is tentative.

Briseno dies in accident

The race weekend couldn’t have started off worse for the U-99.9 Miss Rock team after owner Stacey Briseno was killed in an apparent pedestrian/vehicle accident en route to the race.

Briseno, who took over the team after the death of owner Fred Leland in 2012, went missing on Thursday as the team’s hauler and boat made its way to San Diego. Her body was discovered alongside Interstate 5 just south of Los Angeles in Santa Ana, nearly 100 miles from San Diego.

Citing its belief that Briseno would have wanted the team to race, the U-99.9 team opted to compete at San Diego but placed a large sticker with the name “Stacey” on the side of the salt-water snorkel.

Briseno is the second key player in the hydroplane series to die suddenly this year. Dan Hoover, crew chief for the U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison, died of an apparent suicide in February.

———

H1 UNLIMITED HYDROPLANE SERIES

HOMESTREET BANK

BILL MUNCEY CUP AT BAYFAIR

at Mission Bay, San Diego

Length: 2.5 miles

RESULTS

Sunday, Sept. 16

FINAL HEAT

Andrew Tate, U-9 Delta/Realtrac; 2. Dustin Echols, U-440 Bucket List Racing; 3. Brian Perkins, U-21 PayneWest Insurance; Tom Thompson, U-11 J&Ds, DNF; Jimmy Shane, U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison, DNS; Aaron Salmon, U-99.9 Miss Rock, DNS.

PRELIMINARY HEATS

Saturday, Sept. 15

HEAT 1A

Tom Thompson, U-11 J&Ds, 139.072; 2. Brian Perkins, U-21 PayneWest Insurance, 137.809; Aaron Salmon, U-99.9 Miss Rock, DNF.

HEAT 1B

Jimmy Shane, U-1 Miss HomeStreet, 152.530; 2. Andrew Tate, U-9 Delta/Realtrac, 140.187; 3. Dustin Echols, U-440 Bucket List Racing, 125.045.

Sunday, Sept. 16

HEAT 2A

Jimmy Shane, U-1 Miss HomeStreet, 149.228; 2. Brian Perkins, U-21 PayneWest Insurance, 142.931; 3. Tom Thompson, U-11 J&Ds, 142.448.

HEAT 2B

Andrew Tate, U-9 Delta/Realtrac, 137.263; 2. Aaron Salmon, U-99.9 Miss Rock, 135.788; 3. Dustin Echols, U-440 Bucket List Racing. 131.476.

HEAT 3A

Brian Perkins, U-21 PayneWest Insurance, 137.786; 2. Dustin Echols, U-440 Bucket List Racing, 137.165; 3. Aaron Salmon, U-99.9 Miss Rock, 118.821.

HEAT 3B

Andrew Tate, U-9 Delta/Realtrac, 150.304; 2. Jimmy Shane, U-1 Miss HomeStreet, 147.713; Tom Thompson, U-11 J&Ds, DNF.

FINAL POINTS STANDINGS

(After all 6 races)

BOATS

U-9 Jones Racing, 10,170*; 2. U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison, 7,987; 3. U-11 J&Ds, 6,481; 4. U-440 Bucket List Racing, 5,274; 5. U-21 PayneWest Insurance, 4,683; 6. U-1918 Oberto Beef Jerky, 2,344; 7. U-99.9 Miss Rock, 1,924; 8. U-12 Graham Trucking, 1,724; 9. U-3 Go3Racing, 766; 10. U-27 Wiggins Racing, 625; 11. U-7 Spirit of Detroit, 565.

*clinched season championship

DRIVERS

Andrew Tate (U-9), 10,170*; 2. Jimmy Shane (U-1), 7,987; 3. Tom Thompson (U-11), 6,481; 4. Dustin Echols (U-440), 5,274; 5. Brian Perkins (U-21), 4,683; 6. Cal Phipps (U-27/U-1918), 2,969 2,344; 7. Aaron Salmon (U-99.9), 1,924; 8. J. Michael Kelly (U-12), 1,724; 9. Jimmy King (U-3), 766; 10. Bert Henderson (U-7), 565; 11. Jeff Bernard (U-7), 0.