Fred Leland, 1938 – 2012
by Kirk Pagel
Fred Leland, age 74, passed away just before 5:00 am on May 21, 2012.
It was important to Fred, that he not meet his end in a hospital room, and as he had wished, he passed away among friends and family, at home in his own bed.
Fred began his racing career in 1968 buying a Karelson built 5 liter hydro he named Hombre and numbered F-40. After owning and racing three different 5 liter hulls, and one 7 liter hull, Fred went to the ‘unlimited class’ in 1976, owning and driving his boats with Merlin power.
In 1982 Fred hired Scott Pierce as his first of many well know drivers. He liked driving himself , but was far more successful as an owner and builder.
Besides Pierce, his roster of drivers included Nate Brown, Mike Hanson, Mike Weber, Jeff Bernard, Jack Barrie, Mark Evans, Terry Troxell, and Greg Hopp. In 1994 Fred hired an up and coming driver, Dave Villwock, who gave him two wins in his first season. In 1996, he sold his masonry business to become a full time owner and builder.
In 1996 Villwock drove Fred’s PICO American Dream to six wins, including the Gold Cup and the National Championship. Villwock would go on to become the sport’s most winning driver of all time.
Mark Evans gave Fred five more wins between 1997 and 1999, then Fred hired Chip Hanauer for three more wins including the Gold Cup for a second time.
Fred’s last win came in 2001 with Terry Troxell at the Tri-Cities.
At one time, only five years ago, Fred had five racing hulls in his Kirkland shop, and was always available to lease a hull to a team in need.
Fred built his own gearboxes and like to innovate with intake cowlings for the Lycoming turbine motors.
Fred’s hulls and equipment will remain in the sport, the same sport who has lost a true craftsman and innovator.
[Reprinted from Unlimited NewsJournal, May 2012]