The 2013 Air National Guard Hydroplane Championship roars into life in Doha Bay over the next seven days and less than a month since Qatar hosted the last Oryx Cup UIM World Championship, the finale to the 2012 season.
Drivers, managers and team staff may have gone back to the United States between the two Qatar race meetings, but all the boats and race equipment have been kept in safe storage in Doha in readiness for the 2013 Oryx Cup UIM World Championship, which starts a new season of H1 racing from Feb 7 to 12.
After the disappointment of losing U-1 Spirit of Qatar to an accident in one of the race heats at the start of January, Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor al-Thani, president of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF), has been in discussions with U-1 team owner Erick Ellstrom of Ellstrom Racing and agreed to support the challenge of Kip Brown and Our Gang Racing in the 2013 Oryx Cup. Damage done to the U-1 boat, which has been renumbered as U-96 Spirit of Qatar for the new season, was extensive and it was doubtful whether Dave Villwock would have been able to make the start of the Qatar races in any case.
Rather than miss out on a Qatar boat being represented at the QMSF’s home race, Sheikh Hassan has agreed for Our Gang Racing to be entered as U-95 Spirit of Qatar for the 2013 Oryx Cup UIM World Championship. The familiar red, blue, yellow and white colour scheme of the U-17 Miss Red Dot will be replaced by the colours of the flag of Qatar in a livery identical to the damaged U-1 boat. Kip Brown will take the helm.
“The Miss Red Dot was closely watched after the damage sustained by U-96 during the event in January,” said Sheikh Hassan. “We kept looking at their performance. They were fast and that’s when we decided in plan B. Kip is no stranger to the podium, so we can expect him to run hard and go for the win in Doha.”
“The guys wanted a chance to fix the boat and get it back in the water,” stated Ellstrom. “They are making good progress, but it is becoming more and more evident that the damage to the hull and the systems is probably just too great to be overcome in such a short period of time. So we move to plan B, which will have us working with Nate and Kip Brown, John O’Brien and Our Gang Racing to field a team for our sponsor.
“Four of our guys will be working with the Our Gang Racing team and we look forward to working with them. We will see how far we get with our boat by February 8th. If we think the hull is stable and the critical systems are functioning, we may put a motor in it and see how it runs.” That could mean the possibility of both U-95 and U-96 Spirit of Qatar running in the Doha race meeting.
In the four-year history of the Oryx Cup, no driver has ever won the trophy twice. J Michael Kelly won the inaugural race in 2009, Dave Villwock was triumphant in 2010, Scott Liddycoat took the chequered flag in 2011 and rookie Jimmy Shane stunned defending National High Points champion Steve David to secure the 2012 Oryx Cup last month.
The provisional racing schedule is weather dependent, but race officials are hoping to run testing, qualifying and the first of the heats on Friday, February 8th and the second and third set of heats on Saturday, February 9th. The intention is then to delay the fourth heats and the 2013 Oryx Cup UIM World Championship final to Tuesday, February 12th to coincide with Qatar National Sport Day.