GP West Boats

Grand Prix West boats have
storied history

They raced in Madison in earlier years

(July 2015) – In 2015, the Grand Prix Class of automotive-powered hydroplanes will return to the Madison Regatta.
That’s right. Return!
The GPs raced in Madison once before in 1977. The winner was Lauterbach Special with the late Terry Turner as driver.
Lauterbach Special and her contemporaries had little in common with their modern day counterparts. A 1970s Grand Prix was, more often than not, a beefed up 7-Litre Class hydro with the driver sitting behind the engine in an open cockpit.

Hull Number: Name, Owner, Driver, Home Port

GP-3: Grant Boat Racing LLC, Chris Grant, Grays Harbor, Wash.

GP-9: U.S. Army, Karon & Jim Wilmot, Joe Souza, Issaquah, Wash.

GP-12: Fox Plumbing & Heating, Bob Schellhase, Greg Hopp, Renton, Va.

GP-15: Happy Go Lucky, Hopp Racing, Jerry Hopp, Scohomish, Wash.

GP-17: Shockwave Racing, Rick and Shawn Bridgeman, Travis Johnston, Olympia, Wash.

GP-19: Miss Everett, Tom Eckenberg and Sue Bundy, David Warren, Everett, Wash.

GP-55: (No name), Susie and Scott Pierce & Larry Garcia, Dustin Echols, Woodinville, Wash.

GP-93: Renegade, Dennis Johnson, Marty Wolfe, Phoenix

• About the boats: Grand Prix West race boats use souped up V-8 engines that began racing in Canada in the 1960s. They were an outgrowth of the old 7-Litre Class that rose to prominence in the late 1940s.

A modern Grand Prix craft is a technological marvel with a cabover (forward-cockpit) configuration and an aircraft-style safety canopy.
Nicknamed “The Big Iron,” the sight and sound of these magnificent boats with their souped-up V-8 engines at full song is an experience like no other in motor sports.
Over the past 40 years, some of the biggest names in boat racing have associated themselves with Grand Prix Class competition. Many of these made reputations for themselves in Unlimited hydroplanes as well. These include Chip Hanauer, Tom D’Eath, Jim Kropfeld, Howie Benns, Jean Theoret and Ron Snyder.
Grand Prix boats began making their presence felt on the Canadian Boating Federation circuit in the 1960s. There was a considerable fleet of them in and around Valleyfield, Quebec. The GPs were an outgrowth of the old 7-Litre Class that rose to prominence in the late 1940s.
The American Power Boat Association first took notice of the Grand Prix phenomenon in 1974. The GPs made their United States debut on the narrow Scioto River at Columbus, Ohio. The original winner of a non-Canadian GP race was Larry Lauterbach, driving John Stauffer’s Edelweiss.
The Grand Prix Class entered a new administrative era in 2009 with the formation of the Grand Prix West Hydroplane Association, LLC.
The GPW group is a Class and a Club within the American Power Boat Association. Grand Prix West is intended to promote a homogenous category of hydroplane racing where technology, hulls, engine packages and drivers are comparable enough to provide close exciting boat racing.
In 2015, officials of the Grand Prix West Hydroplane Series and the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Series entered into a “memorandum of agreement” that will lead to increased participation and exposure for the GPW series at H1 Unlimited events.
“Our hope is that this agreement will encourage race sites to include the very exciting GPW series in their events,” said H1 Unlimited Chairman Steve David. “We will support the series by providing logistics and infrastructure, as well as including them in our live streaming, Internet presence, and other promotion.”
GPW president Larry Linn added, “On behalf of Grand Prix West, I want to thank Steve David and H1 for recognizing our series and our ability to add to the show and the fans’ experience. We look forward to working with H1 in the future.”
David said the move will help make the sport more attractive. “Our younger fans demand more on-water excitement. This agreement encapsulates what we hope will become a model for other series that join with us to raise the bar on the excitement and on-water action for future events.”
The GP boats are the largest, most powerful class of automotive-powered hydroplanes. They are powered by blown alcohol 468 cubic-inch piston engines. The boats are 26-feet long and weigh approximately 3,500 pounds. Top speeds exceed 170 mph on the straightaways.
The Grand Prix clan’s best sale point is an individual heat of racing, where the level of competition can be absolutely incredible–hardcore, auto-powered race boating at its gut-wrenching best.

• Fred Farly is a Milton, Ky., resident who serves as the APBA Unlimited Historian.

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