Owner Jerry Hopp works on the supercharged automotive engine of the GP-15 Happy Go Lucky Racing. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Owner Jerry Hopp works on the supercharged automotive engine of the GP-15 Happy Go Lucky Racing. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
With the Grand Prix World series heading to Tri-Cities at the end of the month, Hopp Racing’s GP-15 Happy Go Lucky crew chief Brett Holloway and full-time crew member Jimme James face the tall task of helping driver Greg Hopp make the necessary repairs to an engine that was damaged before and during Sunday’s North American Championship final heat in Madison.

No doubt, the repairs will certainly be made as the boat continues its pursuit of a national high points championship but such work will have to be done late at night and into the wee hours of the morning at the team’s boat shop. After all, Holloway and James have rather impressive day jobs they have to tend to first.

For Holloway, who also serves as crew chief for the team’s GP-18 boat driven by Kevin Eacret, boats, motorcycles and automotives have been a way of life and it shows. A business owner by trade, Holloway’s time spent as a motorcycle racer paved the way for an early career designing distance ramps for motorcycle jumpers.

“I started designing in 1996,” Holloway said of his unusual career. “I actually owned a business that built ramps for distance and that led to me having the opportunity to design ramps for the X Games and that evolved into my business specializing in those ramifications alongside the motorcycle ramps. I did that for a number of years and built ramps for guys like Seth Enslow, Ryan Capes and other big-time distance jumpers.”

As Holloway’s career progressed, the Lake Stevens, Washington, native split his time between the world of boat racing and auto racing. His new business venture serves his appetite for auto racing along with an appetite for cars in general.

“I’ve been involved with all kinds of racing with the offshore racing and auto racing before I came into hydroplane racing,” Holloway said. “Now I own a shop called Plan B Garage that is out of Arlington, Washington. We actually build race cars, race car chassis, kinetics, design, all that kind of stuff. We also build pro touring cars and custom hot rods and then do classic car restoration on top of it.”

James, the team’s only full-time crew member aside from Holloway, can easily be spotted in the pit area at race sites around the country. Sporting long black hair, black jeans and a black top hat while working on the GP-15, it’s a guessing game for the average eye on what the Washington native does for a living. And most guesses would probably be wrong.

Away from the water, James’ career is to aid the design of airplanes rather than hydroplanes. James works as an engineer for Boeing.

“Yeah, man, I design airplane doors,” James said. “Certainly different from the boat racing side of my life but I enjoy doing it and it’s a lot of fun designing doors and engineering them for aircraft all over the world. Not to mention I have a wife and grandchildren so I try my best to split my time between work, play and family.”

And when not designing doors, there’s a racer inside of James, who races out west in the smallest rendition of the sport.

“I race scaled unlimited RC boats,” James noted. “I’ve been a national champion three of the last four years back in the northwest so we get about 10 races each year. Throw that on to five or six races a year in the Grand Prix series so it’s certainly a busy life when you factor in everything I do but I wouldn’t trade it. There’s never a dull moment and you just do it because you love doing it.”

Holloway said he lives the same hectic lifestyle. Back-to-back weekends on the road with the two Hopp Racing entries at Guntersville Lake in Alabama and Madison was a reminder in itself.

“I’ve been involved with all sorts of racing plus the businesses that I have run so certainly there’s not a lot of down time but I enjoy doing what I do,” Holloway said. “I have great people around me that support what I do and that is always a big help.”

But once the sun sets, both are at the boat shop with Hopp and the three primarily spearhead all repairs and adjustments to the two-boat team. While Hopp has his specialties with the boats he operates, the other two split up duties that play to their strong suits. While one takes care of the framework, the other takes care of the mechanics.

“I couldn’t do this without Jimme,” Holloway said of his fellow crew member. “Jimme is on all the kinetics of the boat, the skid fin, how the boat turns and how the boat handles with speed and things like that. I focus on mechanical aspects of the boat so I’m dealing with the engine a lot. Plus there’s the overall details I oversee as a crew chief.”

Part of James’ work was on display the last two weekends in Guntersville and Madison. The GP-15 was the recipient of a new skid fin for the 2019 season and all that work can be credited to James, who earned his driver’s trust to make sure the piece would be a reliable asset to the team’s success. “There’s just something about boat racing and what I love about it is that there’s no set way in how things work,” James, a former crew chief on the U-99.9 Miss Rock Unlimited hydroplane three years ago said. “It’s not completely figured out so I spend a lot of time designing parts for the boat. Greg (Hopp) let me put on the new skid fin for the GP-15 this year and it had been something I had worked on for years. He finally said I could put it on the boat and so far it is doing its job. It keeps me wanting to make more parts.”

Hopp Racing is thankful for the two and all the work they contribute. Greg Hopp says the two are valuable assets to the race team and to his boat all year long. He noted the work the two do on top of their everyday lives is admirable and means the world to him.

“I can’t begin to tell you how key those guys are,” Hopp said. “They are my rock and my friends and I enjoy spending time around those guys no matter where we are. Without them and the work they put in, we would never be able to do this let alone put a boat on the water. They are big to the success that we have.”