In a day filled with weather delays, and an evacuation of the entire venue, eventually the nearly 7,000 fans lined the shore to see four H1 Unlimited Hydroplane teams qualify on the 2-1/2 mile course on Lake Guntersville.
Andrew Tate driving the U-9 Delta/Realtrac was the top qualifier after two qualifying sessions with a speed of 157.866 mph. His speed established a new course record.
He was followed by Jimmy Shane (Maple Valley, Wash.) in the U-1 Miss HomeStreet with a speed of 154.425 mph. Third in qualifying was the U-11 Reliable Diamond Tool present J&D’s driven by Tom Thompson (Cambridge, Md) at 148.306 mph. 2017 rookie-of-the-year Dustin Echols (Sultan, Wash.) was fourth with a speed of140.265 mph in the U-440 Bucket List Racing.
“It is quite an honor to be top qualifier for this inaugural event,” Tate said. “We are super happy, for now. Everything changes tomorrow when we get three to four boats next to each other racing.”
The Alabama based U-27 Greater Gadsden presents Chase Building Group, U-21 Darrell Strong presents Payne West Insurance, and CARSTAR powers Miss Rock have yet to qualify for Sunday’s race for the Southern Cup.
Runner-up, Shane said, ”We ripped off a couple 160’s (mph), but received word that those speeds did not count because we had a fuel flow violation.
The fuel flow rule regulates teams to manage their fuel to under 4.1 gal per min. Shane said they were slightly over that number.
A high wind weather watch was issued in the morning and the event organizers were forced to evacuate the entire venue along Sunset Drive in Guntersville. A first in the sports 115-year history.
The orderly evacuation was announced one hour before the storm was schedule to hit the area. After about an hour the storm passed through and the fans were allowed back. Soon after that, the course markers were reestablished and qualifying that originally was schedule for Friday began.
The fans were on their feet cheering as the boats took to smooth water. Shane said the water “laid down and it was like glass” the remainder of the day.
Sunday’s schedule includes testing from 9:00 am-10: 30 am (CT), preliminary heats 1A an 1B at 11:30-noon. Preliminary heats 2A and 2B at 1:30-2:30 pm (CT), Preliminary heat 3A and 3B between 3:00 pm-4:00 pm. The Southern Cup final is scheduled for 5:00 pm.