Blast from the past

U-3 Cooper Motorsports boat
retains nostalgic sounds of past

The boat is the only piston-powered
Unlimited left in series

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(June 27, 2008) – Undaunted by a series of incidents that resulted in a disappointing finish in 2007, Cooper Motorsport’s U-3 Unlimited hydroplane will be a major competitor for the 2008 ABRA Unlimited Hydroplane Series season, team owner Ed Cooper Jr. said. The team spent the offseason repairing and replacing broken equipment, which contributed to its lackluster finish in the National High Points standings.
The U-3, whose home turf is Evansville, Ind., will be one of 10 boats competing in the annual Madison Regatta, scheduled for July 4-6 in Madison. The U-3 hopes to bring home a victory in the Indiana Governor's Cup.

U-3 Cooper Motorsports

Photo by Don Ward

The U-3, whose home
turf is Evansville, Ind.,
will be one of 10 boats
to compete on Unlimited racing circuit this season.
Last year, the boat
finished fifth at the
Madison Regatta after
a tough day. Things
grew only worse later
in the ABRA season.

“We had a rough end to the season because of accidents and broken equipment,” said Cooper. “We cured most of those problems over the winter, and we are ready to race this year.”
Cooper owns the U-3 hydro, a second-generation unlimited racer. It is the only
boat left powered by an Allison V-12 piston power plant, an engine that makes that traditional roar of the bygone-era unlimited hydroplanes. The Allison V-12 was a motor originally used in World War II fighter planes. The rest of the unlimited hydroplanes switched years ago to turbine-powered engines that are quieter than the piston-powered boats.
While some people think the turbine-powered boats are faster than the piston-powered, that’s not true," said Cooper in a late June telephone interview. “When our engine is running right, we will absolutely be in the race.” The biggest difference between his Allison V-12 and the turbine-powered boats is the reliability, according to Cooper. “The turbine engines have better longevity and a more reliable record. That’s why the airline industry switched over to them years ago.”
Cooper, who retired from teaching several years ago, began his racing career with his father in the 1960s. Both of them were crew members for the Miss Madison. Since that time, Cooper has turned in several firsts on the ABRA circuit.
In 2002, his boat was the first with a reciprocating engine to complete a lap at over 160 mph. In 2003, he made history again when his crew became the first non-turbine winner since 1983 to claim the American Power Boat Association Gold Cup. In 2006, the U-3 team finished third on the circuit.
In 2007, the team started out with a third place in their hometown “Thunder on the Ohio,” in Evansville. That finish included a pair of second-place heat finishes and the top time in the second heat of the race.

Jimmy King

Jimmy King

At Madison, the team finished in fifth and garnered a seventh-place finish in Detroit. In the rest of the races of the season, the team failed to qualify for the final heats. For the season, the boat finished in the top two in nine of its 17 heats entered. Despite the dismal second-half of the season, the boat’s pair of top-five finishes helped it finish in seventh place in the ABRA National High Point standings for the season.
The Cooper Motorsports boat has been piloted by Jimmy King of Memphis, Mich., for the past four years. Although King has not been able to capture any victories yet for the U-3 team, he is a well-decorated Grand Prix Class driver with three National Championships, three World Championships and three Detroit Silver Cup victories.
With more than 14 years of experience in driving unlimited hydroplanes, King was named Rookie of the Year in 1994 on the circuit.
“King is fiercely competitive in a quiet way,” said Cooper. “He doesn’t get mad, and he doesn’t get shook; that’s why he is a perfect fit for our racing family.”
Cooper felt King’s experience in Grand Prix piston-powered boats was a “real plus” for driving the U-3. “Our boat is a bit more complicated than a turbine-powered boat,” he said. “You have to get a feel for it and learn how it runs.”

Ed Cooper Jr.

Photo by Don Ward

Ed Cooper Jr.
oversees his team’s
work in the pits at
the Madison Regatta.

King, a masonry expert who operates his own company, had actually retired from boat racing in 1994. Cooper contacted him with the offer to drive the U-3, and he felt the team would be wonderful to work with. “I am very happy where I am at; we have the best team possible, and I feel like I have truly found a good home with the crew.”
King is ready for the 2008 season. “We resolved the issues that caused the conflicts, and we are very optimistic going into the season,” he said. “When we were up and running last season, we ran well.”
He said Madison’s Indiana Governor’s Cup race is always a favorite of his. “It is a great town to visit and a challenging race course. The course is long and narrow, and you really get to see who is on their game.”

Back to 2008 Madison Regatta Articles.



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