2022 Spring Testing

Tri-Cities preseason testing: 2022 is going to be a competitive season.

By Chris Tracy

Five unlimited hydroplanes arrived Thursday in Kennewick, Washington, for the Friday, June 3, preseason testing session: U-1 Miss HomeStreet, U-8 Miss Tri-Cities, U-9 Pinnacle Peak Consulting, U-21 Lakeridge Paving, and U-40 Miss Beacon Plumbing. They all sported final paint jobs, except the U-9 Pinnacle Peak Consulting, which had no sponsor decals on the sponsons.

It was kind of an odd June day for the normally sunny Tri-Cities, as it was cloudy and about 70 degrees in the morning. "The Tri-City Water Follies, which hosts the event, had expertly set up the course and the pits were ready for testing to begin at 9 a.m. The water looked perfect and there was little to no breeze. Cooler weather allows the engines to run more efficiently, and the boats run faster.

All boat teams came with one purpose: to test. And, they did. All tested several times over the day—maybe the most testing ever in the history of preseason testing in the Tri-Cities. One boat went on the course at a time, with the first going out at 9 a.m. sharp and the last out at 4:30 p.m. Except for a lunch break and during a half-hour heavy rain shower, the boats were consistently going in or out of the water.

There were two cranes, and they were busy. Often one was taking out or putting in boat equipment and the other was putting in or taking out a boat from the Columbia River. It’s worth noting, that during preseason testing, running top speed laps is generally secondary to running several combinations, testing systems, testing various engines and gearboxes, maybe trying something new or giving a new driver some seat time. That said, the top lap speeds during the day were pretty fast for all the participating boats.

Miss HomeStreet, with Jimmy Shane driving, tested three different engines and ran laps in the 140s to the 160s, with

the fastest lap at 166, which proved to be the fastest lap of the day. The boat looked great—solid runs, great acceleration, good ride. There was one hiccup. The boat went out for its second test session, ran three fast laps in the 160s, and then appeared to go dead in the water. Shane restarted the boat and brought it back in. A crew member told me that this had happened before with this engine and they'd have to check it out again.

Miss Tri-Cities, with J Michael Kelly driving, ran many times with the fastest lap being nearly 158. The boat looked good from the shore, but Kelly told H1’s Brad Luce that he had some handling issues in the corners. The team worked on that issue during the day. Kelly was much happier with the boats handling at the end of the day, although his speeds were not quite as fast in later runs—in the 153 to 155 range. With all the boats running well and fast, Kelly commented about the competition, “What more could you ask for?”

Pinnacle Peak Consulting ran well and fast. Its fastest lap was just under 160. If I saw anything, and this is picky, maybe a consistent tiny hop near the apex of the turn nearest to the pits. Corey Peabody seems confident in his ride and this boat is poised to be a contender.

Perhaps the boat that perked the most fan attention at testing was the Lakeridge Paving. The boat is almost new and has not run since 2019, nor has driver Brian Perkins driven an unlimited since the pandemic.

When the boat last ran, its ride was not perfect and appeared in need of new-boat dialing in. Well, that’s history. The boat needed a little tinkering after it first went out. In the second run, the boat was impressive and Perkins navigated a top speed lap of 159! That team has to be happy.

The boat likely ran more laps than any other, as owner Greg O’Farrell’s grandson and co-owner Brian O’Farrell’s son, rookie Gunnar O’Farrell, took the boat out and ran many laps, enough reportedly to qualify as an unlimited driver. His fastest lap was a respectable 148.

O’Farrell, who is in his early- to mid-twenties and sports a distinctive mullet haircut, appeared to be more and more confident in the boat as he ran more laps. But he’ll likely need more seat time to refine his track and turning arc. The Lakeridgeboat is expected to compete at both the HAPO Columbia Cup in Tri-Cities and the HomeStreet Bank Cup in Seattle.

Innovations abound with the Miss Beacon Plumbing. In Vancouver, the boat appeared with significant changes to the left sponson. At Tri-Cities, there was more handiwork on the left sponson, as a flaperon was installed between the two upright fences. It appears to work in connection with the front canard.

Dave Villwock took the boat out several times and tested engines, gearboxes, and combinations. The boat’s ride appeared improved from last year and was generally smooth. Fastest lap was 164. Driver Dave Villwock explained in an Hl interview that, “Everyone [on the Bucket List team] is all in” and “People that work hard often get lucky.”

One boat was a no-show and another did not test, which had fans wondering. The U-91 Goodman Real Estate, which ran in the Vancouver exhibition, was thought to have committed to test, but did not show. The Goodman boat is expected to compete at all races this season.

And fans are scratching their heads about the Graham Trucking boat. The Graham team had NOT confirmed with Tri-Cities that they would test. Reportedly, the team has done much work to the hull in the off-season, but the boat did not run in Vancouver, nor test in Tri-Cities, which is uncharacteristic for the Graham team.

Scott and Shannon Raneys U-ll was not expected to test in Tri-Cities, but participated in the Vancouver exhibition. The piston powered U-3, owned by Ed Cooper, traditionally does not make the long trip from Indiana to Tri-Cities to do preseason testing. Both boats are expected to race for the Gold Cup in the season opening race in Guntersville, Alabama.

It’s clear, all the boats are fast this year. The competition will be good, and this will be a great year for fans to attend as many races as they can.

--- Unlimited NewsJournal, July 2022