Led by peninsula drivers and their very fast boats, “sprint boats” are making waves in U.S. sporting circles.
This month Port Angeles driver and sprint boat team co-leader Dan Morrison was featured on SpeedTV’s “Lucas Oil on the Edge,” an extreme sports show produced by Newave Productions.
Upcoming episodes will feature Sequim drivers Paul Gahr, Tim Cummings and Cummings’ son, Dillon Brown-Cummings. Series producer Joe DiGiacomo says SpeedTV establishes airing dates for the shows at the last minute but he anticipates Gahr’s show should air by the end of April or early May. The last show, featuring the Cummingses, should air about two weeks later.
“We’ve been wanting to do this for years,” DiGiacomo said, but the expense of transporting his production crew to remote Washington locales was simply too much. He said he was fortunate to work out an arrangement with Matt Webb, one of the owners of the race track in St. John where the three segments were filmed. The shows feature local racers competing at the track in August 2010.
Morrison said Wicked Racing is featured on the show because his team, like the TV show, is sponsored by Lucas Oil.
(SpeedTV is channel 150 on the Dish Network, 607 on DirecTV and is available with most cable packages.)
Local boy makes good
There are additional good reasons for featuring peninsula teams on the cable show. The U.S. Sprint Boat Association, the sport’s sanctioning organization, now has 30 boats competing in three classes: Superboat, Group A-400 and Super Modified. In 2010 peninsula teams produced some of the top finishers in all three classes.
Sequim’s Brown-Cummings, who at the ripe old age of 18 drives for Sequim-based TNT Racing, is the current national champion in the Super Modified class. Brown-Cummings’ TNT teammate Paul Gahr finished second in the A-400 class. Morrison turned in a second-place finish with his Superboat while his Wicked Racing teammate Doug Hendrickson topped the A-400 field.
Morrison was introduced to the sport when he and his buddy Tim Cummings — father of national champ Brown-Cummings — traveled to a 2006 race in Woodland. Morrison said two days later Cummings called with a quick question: “Are you in?”
Gahr said he went to two races in early 2007 to watch Morrison and Cummings race and brought home a message to his wife: “I’ve got to have one of those.”
In 2008 Gahr was “Rookie of the Year.”
Eventually two teams formed, with Morrison and Hendrickson managing Wicked Racing. Cummings joined with his brother-in-law Paul Gahr to start TNT. It’s a family-and-friends affair: Gahr’s navigator is his son, Josh, a senior at Sequim High. Brown-Cummings drives with his stepmom Teri as navigator.
Everyone serves as pit crew and cheerleader.
The teams also share racing info, parts and pit space, not unlike IndyCar, F1 or NASCAR racing teams.
Extreme sports crazy
The appeal of sprint boat racing is obvious.
The sport originated in extreme-sports-crazy New Zealand, then gained a following in Australia. The engines in the boats range from 500 horsepower to well over 1,000 horsepower in the Superboat class.
With the boats’ incredible turning capabilities, drivers and their navigators can pull 3-7 Gs in the tightest corners.
The sprint boats dash around small, shallow water courses with lots of twists and turns to maximize the thrills and show off the remarkable acceleration and agility of the boats.
In fact Morrison often practices behind his Port Angeles home on a small pond he describes as “slightly longer than a football field.”
In those 400 feet Morrison can hit 100 mph. More important, he can come to a full stop with no assistance from the shoreline.
His boat is a marvel of engineering, featuring a methanol-injected, 480-cubic-inch all-aluminum engine that turns out a staggering 900 horsepower at 7,000 rpm. The propulsion is provided by two water jets, with 700 gallons a second passing through. The tiny boat leaps from 0-100 in three seconds, which as Morrison pointed out would whip pretty much any land vehicle short of a top fuel dragster. Rather than deploying a parachute to slow down, the driver spins the boat perpendicular to the forward motion, and the drag of the hull does the rest — quickly.
Is it expensive?
“Oh, yeah,” Morrison said. He said anyone who hopes to build a similar boat will pay between $70,000 and $100,000 for the pleasure.
“Racing is always a labor of love,” he said.
Track on track
Morrison, who owns Morrison Excavating, has broken ground on a new racetrack in Port Angeles. He is one of several investors who purchased land in South Fairchild Industrial Park in 2008. While waiting for better weather to complete the work, Morrison also is waiting for one last permit, to allow public gatherings on the site.
Building a racecourse for speedboats isn’t as large a project as it might seem, though the red tape Morrison has worked through to this point would suggest otherwise. The lanes are shallow and narrow, perhaps 3 feet deep and 12-15 feet wide.
Port Angeles becomes the second new track to be dug this year and will host the Nationals at the end of the season. Paul Gahr is stoked: “Knowing Dan, this track’s gonna be incredible,” he said. Gahr said he hopes the Port Angeles track will draw racers from as far away as New Zealand and Australia, making the city an international destination for aficionados of the sport.