Guests: Michael Hanson, driver of U-9 Fiesta Bowl & Casino Mark Weber, driver of the U-10 Miss Diamond Lil's Greg Hopp, driver of the U-100 Miss Znetix I HYDRO-PROP, Teleconference moderator HYDRO-PROP: "Mark, we'll give you the visitor's honor,...
Michael Hanson, driver of U-9 Fiesta Bowl & Casino
Mark Weber, driver of the U-10 Miss Diamond Lil's
Greg Hopp, driver of the U-100 Miss Znetix I
HYDRO-PROP, Teleconference moderator
HYDRO-PROP: "Mark, we'll give you the visitor's honor, you're coming out of Detroit, driving U-10 for USA Racing Partners. Mark is currently second in the O'Doul's National High Point standings, actually pretty close, 21 points behind Dave Villwock and Bud. Mark has already won 5 heats this year. Mark, tell us about your season and what you think going out west?"
Mark Weber: "The guys are in Vegas, they are so busy right now, I haven't even talked to the shop since Detroit. We have a new boat that we debuted in Detroit but we lost a propeller. That new boat is far superior to the one we've been racing all year. We are going to bring it out in Tri-Cities to continue our quest for the championship and we are going to have Mike Weber in the number two hull, which has been our primary hull. Basically, to support the sport and give Mike more seat time. The bottom line of our race team since day one is the national championship and we haven't racked up great final heats but that's okay, that's going to change."
Q. Mark: "It's probably been a few seasons when someone who wasn't driving the Miss Budweiser boat has thought seriously about winning the championship. Could you please talk about this season, that not only are other people winning, but the championship is tight."
Mark Weber: "Well it is, and that is a tribute to HYDRO-PROP and Gary Garbrecht and what he is trying to do. We have to have parody and close competition on the racecourse. I feel very confident with my team because we've been together for three years and you add all those scenarios together and that's why we are only 21 points out. I had a meeting with my team in Evansville on Thursday night and I made it clear what my goals and objectives are. I feel that as a driver I know how to win championships. Championships are an attitude and we are carrying that attitude all summer long, and we are just knocking on the door and it's going to be fun out west."
Q. Mark: "What's the new boat, you just started using that in Detroit?"
Mark Weber: "What it is, it actually is the boat George raced last year. The whole front wing section was redesigned. Obviously it had a brand new cockpit put in it. The whole front of the boat is totally reengineered. That boat doesn't have eight races in it its entire life, it's a nice piece."
Q. Mark: "And is it built to run on restricted power?"
Mark Weber: "It obviously has a lot of the qualities you would need. You want to be on the weight limit, when you take away fuel there is one way to get a hydroplane up off the water, either with horsepower or with air. Obviously the Budweiser builds new boats; they are building them wider to carry more air. This boat has the widest tunnel in the pit area. With the front wing, we also feel that is going to be really good to dial the new boat in. We have to get more than three laps on the thing. It was pretty quick in Detroit, a lot quicker than we showed."
HYDRO-PROP: "Let's get Greg Hopp involved here. Greg is driving the U-100, Miss Znetix I. He has been in the top three at all three events this year. He was 3rd in Evansville, 2nd in Detroit, 2nd in Madison. He has four heat wins and Greg was the 1999 Unlimited Rookie of the Year. He has been everywhere but the top spot. He has been very close to winning and a lot of us in the sport think it is coming pretty soon. Greg, maybe you can give us a thought on you're heading back to your home country?"
Greg Hopp: "Well you know, I am glad to be coming back home and racing in front of the friends and family and it makes it easier. My wife wasn't able to go with me to the races back east. It's nice to have her here with me. I am looking forward to that first win myself. Fred Leland is a very determined man and he wants a national championship and so do I. And boy we have a long way to go. Unfortunately, we have three heats we didn't finish in at all and didn't get any points. So, we are kinda back there in fourth or fifth place and need to get some points to get up there and try to get that national championship."
Q. Greg: "You guys were markedly improved from Madison to Detroit, can we expect to see that same amount of improvement coming out west?"
Greg Hopp: "Well I would think so. We actually hurt some engine parts back there and I was surprised that we were as fast as we were in Detroit. And now that we've come home and had that week in between we went back through our motor program and put some good stuff back together so I'm excited to see what we can do out here."
Q. Greg: "Greg, what happened in the three heats you guys didn't finish in?"
Greg Hopp: "Actually one of them we did finish and we won. Unfortunately, we had a fuel restriction violation. We've had our fuel a lot more in check this year than last year. Last year, we basically won Tri-Cities but we had a fuel violation. Same thing happened in Evansville and then the very next heat it wouldn't start. Then we went to Madison and we ended up getting pushed into our teammates roostertail and almost crashing the boat and that of course hurt the motor and that's why we have no points for three of the heats."
HYDRO-PROP: "Michael Hanson - Congratulations to our 2001 APBA Gold Cup winner. Mike, thanks for joining us and tell us what it means to win a Gold Cup?"
Michael Hanson: "Well, it means everything, like a told everyone in Detroit, this is a 6 or 7-year old young boy's dream to race Unlimited Hydroplanes and someday win the Gold Cup and we've worked really hard at doing it for the last fifteen years and to have it come true, there is nothing in the world to compare."
HYDRO-PROP: "Michael, you were also top qualifier in both Evansville and Madison and you were second just by a couple of thousandths of a second in Detroit. How come you guys are running so fast and are you surprised?"
Michael Hanson: "We were surprised when we first brought the boat up to Lake Washington prior to the season and put it on the water. It was running 195mph right off the trailer and we were like 'Oh I guess we made a few right moves.' We made several changes over the winter, most of them were to adapt to the new rule changes. As far as adding weight to the boat, we had to add weight to get to get to the 6700 lbs. We did it in places that we felt would benefit the boat on the race course and evidently we hit the nail on the head."
Q. Michael: "What do you think has resulted in so much parody this year? Is it directly related to the rule changes? Or what do you think it is?"
Michael Hanson: "I think it is directly related. Gary Garbrecht was with us throughout the whole season last year with his entourage of people. They spent the summer learning what were the pitfalls of our sports as far as boats running side-by-side and the competition. They spent a lot of time trying to find out what kind of rule changes would adapt and be more conducive to side-by-side racing and competition in our sport. Adding weight to the boats brought some of the lighter boats back up to the weight where everyone else was at and that helped. Then playing with the fuel system as far as standardizing that and using that to level the playing field."
Q. Michael: "Are you surprised, I know he had promised before the season began that he will have different winners. Are you surprised that it has been this even this soon?"
Michael Hanson: "I am to some extent, there are five or six teams that are capable of winning a boat race. That's a great deal for the participants and a great deal for the fans. Even up and down the pits, Mark Weber is all pumped up, Greg Hopp is all pumped up, I am all pumped up, we all know we have a shot at winning this race. We aren't racing for second like we were in the past. We are racing to win this thing. It's a lot of adrenalin in the pits from every driver and every crew member."
Q. Michael: "Do you really feel a different energy or different attitude? Is it more fun to race again?"
Michael Hanson: "There's no doubt about it, it's brought a lot more fun to it. Last year, I was considering retiring at the end of the season. After we looked at some of the rule changes and we felt that Gary had gone the right way to create closeness and competition, I thought 'well, this could be fun let's do it one more time.'"
Q. Michael: "Can you take us from the depths of the damage in Madison to the exhilaration of the Gold Cup in Detroit in seven days?"
Michael Hanson: "It was devastating in Madison, we were 11 mph faster in qualifying and it was a matter if I could keep my nose clean, we would have a good chance of winning Madison and it was a big deal to me and my brother because we had lived there for 10 or 12 years. I couldn't get the thing to round the turns in the rough water and it was awfully hooky and we ended up tearing the skid fin bracket and all the hardware off in the first lap and it was just devastating for us. For one, it takes us out of the national high point championship, we lost 12% of the points available to us in one turn so it took us out and that was distracting. Then we looked at the fact that the Gold Cup was five days away and we had a tremendous amount of work to do. For a while on Sunday afternoon it didn't look like we were going to try. The owner was down in the dumps about the whole mishap and we weren't sure if we were gonna try. Then Sunday night I started talking to other teams and I tried to beg and borrow parts and glue and glass and by Sunday evening it looked like we had most of the components at least in hand to put the thing back together. So we went ahead and for the next five days for 16-18 hours a day in the hot sun of Indiana putting the thing back together. To have it all come together for us in Detroit, it was an emotional roller coaster that I've never been on before."
Q. Michael: "I understand there was some damage from the Detroit race that you are working on right now as well."
Michael Hanson: "Yeah, the patch we did in Madison, it wasn't a fix, it was a patch. I was pretty vocal about that, unfortunately some of the honeycomb we used to repair the deck wasn't quite up to stuff and actually during the course of the race on Sunday the whole deck had come delaminated from the core. So consequently when we got the boat back here we had to pull the deck back off the boat, we are in the process of the re-decking it right now. We still have our hands full, but it was well worth it to win the Gold Cup."
Q. Michael: "So a good time to have a week off before you come to Tri-Cities."
Michael Hanson: "I think we'll have a couple weeks off after Seattle but we have our nose to the grindstone for a couple of weeks here."
Q. Michael: "Do you have a full time sponsor for the rest of the season, or what is your sponsor situation?"
Michael Hanson: "Basically, we have sponsors for all the events, they are just different sponsors at every race site. At Evansville we ran as WABX, at Madison we ran as Ms. Bello's Pizza, and Tubby's Subs in Detroit. But we'll run as Fiesta Bowl & Casino in Tri-Cities and then we'll switch our logo to Skyway Park & Bowl for Seattle and we are still negotiating with a couple of sponsors in San Diego so we are not sure of the title name will be for the San Diego event."
Q. Michael: "You mentioned a minute ago that everyone has more of a spring in their step. Do you think that is starting to translate to the fans and outsiders?"
Michael Hanson: "I think so, there has been several heats this year that we are just gang busters. I hooked up with Terry Troxell in the second heat in Detroit, and it was just three laps of side by side at 148, 149 mph. It's exciting for everyone that is anywhere near the river to watch something like that. We've had several heats, I know Greg has hooked up with some people and so has Mark Weber, it makes for a tremendous show to have side by side boat racing."
Q. Michael: "It sounds like in the Gold Cup they were still finagling with what lanes you guys are going to start in before the final heat. Is that right?"
Michael Hanson: "Yes, HYDRO-PROP calls it their Laughlin Wildcard. They'll change the show, the draws, and the heat assignments, at will, to try and put on a better show. I don't know if it benefits anybody directly. It's awful hard on the race teams. It's awfully hard to set the boat up not knowing what lane you are going to be in the next heat. In our team, we have the tendency of changing gear boxes depending what lane we are going to be in and with twenty minutes notice, it kinda makes it impossible to change the gearbox. It's difficult for the teams, but I think it is a better show overall."
Q. Michael: "When did you guys find out the lane assignments for the final heat of the Gold Cup?"
Michael Hanson: "We didn't find out until about 25 minutes before the start of the final. We had our driver's meeting Sunday morning and they let us know that it was up in the air as far as how they were going to determine the heats for the rest of the day. So none of us knew how it was going to come about but we just all had to race hard to make sure we had enough points to guarantee we were actually in the final. And then it turned out that we ended up drawing ping pong balls out of a bag."
Q. Michael: "What ever they say is going to make a better show are you all just willing to go with that?"
Michael Hanson: "We are at this point, we want to save this thing. We all have a lot of special equipment here that we don't want to turn into flower boxes. We got to put on the best show we can for the fans, and we've tried several different options over the years and we are going to hear Gary out. We're gonna see what Gary and his competition directors come up with and we'll go run that way."
HYDRO-PROP: "Does Mark or Greg have any comment on that?"
Greg Hopp: "I agree with Mike, we are willing to do anything we can to put on a good show, the racing this year has been better by far than I've seen in a long time. So whatever they are doing seems to be working."
HYDRO-PROP: "Mark... ...we have to say, Mark ended up going into the final in Detroit, second in points but pulled lane five in the draw. The process under the HYDRO-PROP format - there are four methods of determining the start of a heat; it can be a free start, which is the old-fashioned clock start, fight for your lane, draw start, lane choice based on points or inverted lane choice. Going into the final, Gary's preference was that he wanted to do a free start, but was told by the officials that the water levels in Detroit, due to the drought we've had here, the water levels were such that it would not give the boats the full race course for milling so they went to the draw and unfortunately for Mark, he drew the number five. But that is background Mark, you can tell us what you think."
Mark Weber: "I can tell you right now that I was not pleased with how they determined how to run the final heat of the Gold Cup, but keeping with what I've said since Gary Garbrecht came on board like it or not, I'm behind it and I am going to support him 100%. I do not agree with the analogy with the middle ground on the racecourse because if you look at last year that is exactly how we ran the race. I have also expressed that to the officials that I feel they could have run a conventional clock start because they did that one-year before successfully for five heats. I actually just talked to Gary Garbrecht 20 minutes before this call and we'll talk about it again but the bottom line is three races, three winners, who can argue with this success and we'll keep going along with the program."
Q. Mark: "Do you guys know what the situation will be with the Tri-Cities race?"
Mark Weber: "We will find out Sunday afternoon at some point and that is okay. It is obviously working. It is hard on the teams but the bottom line is the end result and the end result is that the show is better. Who can argue with that?"
Q. Michael: "Was this one of the first times that the Gold Cup format was changed?"
Michael Hanson: "Yes, this was the first time that they changed the format. The Gold Cup rules pretty much have stayed the same over the past ten years. HYDRO-PROP felt that they could not have a set of rules for just one race, so they made all the rules the same for all the races."
Paul Scurlock (Detroit News and Spirit of Detroit): "To clarify so people don't think that HYDRO-PROP made this change at the spur of the moment. HYDRO-PROP started making adjustments to the heats as early as heat 2 on Saturday at Detroit. Greg Hopp was moved from Heat 2B where he should have been into Heat 2A to increase competition. HDYRO-PROP was not waiting to see who was in the finals - they started working to make competition good for us at the beginning of Saturday and it made for some great racing."
Mark Webber: "There was definitely some great racing. It is kind of hard not knowing what lane you will be racing in. Unfortunately, we got stuck outside for the entire event. Maybe next time we will be on the inside. It was a good show."
Q. Greg: "You obviously have a roll going on this season with your finishes, do you prefer having a schedule in which you are racing pretty much every week? In the past there have been times where there was one event a month. Do you like this pace better than before?"
Greg Hopp: "As a driver I would prefer to race every weekend. And when I am not racing Unlimited's, if there is an Unlimited Light event in between, I will go race in that event. I would prefer to race year round but you can't feasibly do that with an Unlimited. You have to fix it at some point."
Q. Greg: "This is a lot better than it has been in past years in terms of the races being closer to each other. Do you prefer to have back to back races like this year?"
Greg Hopp: "I actually liked the schedule in 1999. We had 11 races and it makes your life really busy and hectic but heck, you're racing. I would prefer it to be back-to-back-to-back."
HYDRO-PROP: "We have one announcement. Harold Mills, Seattle, is scheduled to attempt to qualify for his Unlimited license in the Tri-Cities event driving for Dr. Ken Muscatels U-25 Silver Dollar Casino. Harold is the APBA 2000 National Champion in the 2.5 liter modified class. He also won the Region 10 High Point Championship, the Western Divisionals and the George Babcock Outstanding Driver Award. If he qualifies he will be the first African American driver to qualify for his Unlimited license. So we all wish him good luck."