The Jean Theoret Story
Seldom has a driver arrived on the Unlimited hydroplane scene with credentials as impressive as those of Canadian-born Jean Theoret.
Now in his third season as a Thunderboat pilot, Theoret has five Unlimited victories to date: two in 2005 with Bill Wurster's Llumar Window Film team and three in 2006 with Billy Schumacher's Miss Beacon Plumbing.
He is the winningest driver in the history of the Grand Prix Class, the category just below the Unlimiteds, with 43 first-place trophies. He won the GP National Championship Race six times between 1986 and 2001 driving Miss Danash and Casino de Montreal.
A resident of Maple Grove, Quebec, Jean qualified as an Unlimited driver at the 2005 "Thunder on The Ohio" in Evansville, Indiana. At season's end, his team was third in National High Points and Theoret was Rookie of the Year.
Jean's victory in the 2005 Chevrolet Cup at Seattle was an historic one. Theoret became the first Canadian driver to win an Unlimited race since Bob Hayward captured the Harmsworth Trophy at Picton, Ontario, with Miss Supertest III in 1961.
Jean dominated the Final Heat action at Seattle in 2005 by outrunning Dave Villwock and Miss E-Lam Plus, 137.448 miles per hour to 133.955. The margin of victory was 6.8 seconds after five laps.
A month later, Theoret captured the Music City Thunderfest in Nashville, Tennessee.
Despite his comparatively short time in the sport, Jean Theoret was already shaping up as one of the most successful rookies in Unlimited history. Only Howie Benns, who won three races in 1974 with Miss Budweiser, has more victories during his rookie season.
For 2006, Billy Schumacher entered the ownership picture for Theoret's team, replacing the retiring Bill Wurster. Schumacher had been a champion Unlimited driver in his own right during the 1960s and '70s.
If one word can summarize the 2006 Unlimited tour, that word is competition. Quite simply, there was more boat-to-boat competitive action than in any other season in recorded history. No one team won the majority of races or dominated for very long. It was an uphill struggle for Schumacher and Theoret. Their boat did a barrel roll at Evansville that seriously damaged both sponsons. But thanks to a round-the-clock repair effort, led by crew chief Scott Raney, Miss Beacon Plumbing was ready to continue on the tour.
The highlight of the year was in winning the fabled APBA Gold Cup, first contested in 1904, on the Detroit River.
It was a wild weekend of boat racing. Theoret received three penalties in the first three preliminary heats and almost didn't survive the cut for the Final Heat. But Jean came through when the chips were down by winning the fourth preliminary heat and the all-important Final Heat.
Not only did he have to win the last preliminary heat to qualify for the championship final, but with three boats deck-to-deck in front of the Detroit Yacht Club, Theoret had his engine cowling blow off crashing through the stabilizing wing as he entered the tight Roostertail turn.
"I really didn't know that anything had happened," Jean recalled. "But when I looked in the mirror, I saw that the wing was gone. Then I figured it didn't really matter and just kept racing."
Theoret proceeded to outrun second-place Jimmy King and Miss Chrysler Jeep, 142.398 miles per hour to 139.312 in the Final Heat.
Theoret thus became the first non-U.S. citizen to win the Gold Cup since the Italian Count Theo Rossi, driver of Alagi, in 1938.
After a fourth-place finish at the Tri-Cities (Washington) Atomic Cup, Jean rebounded at Seattle and made it two Chevrolet Cup wins in a row on Lake Washington.
Theoret and Miss Beacon Plumbing survived a gutsy pre-race move by Villwock and Miss E-Lam Plus in the Final Heat.
Villwock cut across the infield just before the one-minute gun to take away the inside lane from Theoret. But Jean made a perfect start from lane-two and never looked back. His first lap speed of 144.895 was nine miles per hour faster the second-place boat. And his second lap of 147.507 was the fastest lap of the day. He averaged 142.013 in the Final Heat.
"When I saw Dave cut across the infield and get inside of me, I thought now I have to hit the start at zero," said Theoret. "I was full throttle when I hit the starting line."
At the season-concluding Bill Muncey Cup at San Diego, there was the added incentive of a World Championship Race label, sanctioned by the Union of International Motorboating.
Five boats qualified at over 160 miles per hour on San Diego's Mission Bay. And the competition was simply fantastic. Heat 2-B saw three drivers--Villwock, Mike Allen, and Theoret--in a photo finish.
Miss Beacon Plumbing and Jean Theoret won their third race of the year, winning the Final Heat and taking home the coveted Muncey Cup. Theoret used a 154.257 mile an hour first lap to lead the field and posted an average speed of 148.066.
Cooper Motorsports and Jimmy King finished second to Theoret in the Final Heat at 146.650.
Jean summed up the 2006 campaign by thanking owner Schumacher, his sponsors, and the Miss Beacon Plumbing crew for giving him a competitive piece of equipment: "I couldn't have won without them."
Now a respected veteran of the Unlimited Class, Jean Theoret promises to be in the thick of things when the starting gun fires on July 8 at the 2007 Madison Regatta.
Jean Theoret Victories:
(1) 2005 - Seattle, WA (Chevrolet Cup) with Llumar Window Film (U-8)
(2) 2005 - Nashville, TN (Music City Hydrofest) with Llumar Window Film (U-8)
(3) 2006 - Detroit, MI (APBA Gold Cup) with Miss Beacon Plumbing (U-37)
(4) 2006 - Seattle, WA (Chevrolet Cup) with Miss Beacon Plumbing (U-37)
(5) 2006 - San Diego, CA (Bill Muncey Cup/UIM World Championship) with Miss Beacon Plumbing (U-37)