Fantasy Unlimited Hydroplane Racing

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Detroit APBA Gold Cup: Fantasy Preview

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Handsome Transom Motorsports

The most prestigious race in all of powerboat racing is the APBA Gold Cup, held each year on the Detroit River. But it’s not just H1 Unlimited drivers who should pay close attention to the action in the Motor City: Deck2Deck players hoping for championship glory should take note of the unique aspects of the Gold Cup race and their fantasy implications.

What makes Detroit different?

1. The Racecourse
The race on the Detroit River is famous for its Roostertail Turn, the hairpin second turn on the west end of the course. In 2010, the Gold Cup course will be lengthened to three miles to allow for safe maneuvering around hazards in the river. The addition of a half mile per lap means that the final five-lap heat will run for a distance of 15 miles. The longer straightaways will give drivers additional time to gain speed, pushing equipment harder before entering the tightest turn on the circuit. Unlike broad racecourses found in Seattle and Doha, the Gold Cup will test each driver’s ability to handle extremes of distance, speed, and cornering.

2. The Heats
The APBA adds an extra flight of heats to the Gold Cup, for a total of four two-section heats leading up to the final. To the victor of this fourth heat go 400 points, making this race the most valuable on the circuit. Preliminary heats last four laps in Detroit, while they are only last three laps in the other races on the circuit. While the 2009 World Championship race on Doha Bay also included a fourth flight under UIM rules, no details for 2010 have been released for the Oryx Cup yet.

3. The Start
Many starting procedures have been tried in the unlimited class throughout its history, from the flag starts of the 1990s to the ever-changing lane assignements during the HydroProp era. Sometimes used to achieve competitive parity and other times employed to maximize fan entertainment, each set of rules has had its fans and detractors.

Since 2009, H1 Unlimited has assigned starting lanes in the following manner: The boats are placed in each heat by blind draw, while the lane position is chosen by the teams themselves. In Heat 1, the fastest qualifier picks first, then second fastest, and on down the line. In Heat 2, the losers of Heat 1 pick first. In Heat 3 and in the Final, the overall points leaders picks first.

While this arrangement has eliminated the unpopular “5-liter start” with many boats virtually off-plane on the backstretch, it has also deprived fans and drivers of the spectacle known as “fighting for lanes.” The APBA Gold Cup rules restore this free-for-all element to the unlimited class for one weekend, allowing drivers to slice through the infield, cut each other off, and essentially put on a “race before the race” as soon as the five-minute gun sounds.

Choices, Choices
There are obviously 400 more Deck2Deck national points at stake in Detroit than at Madison, Tri-Cities, or Seattle. But picking the best boat for Detroit is not an easy decision. Does the boat have the beans to reach speeds over 200 MPH on the long straightaway? Does the driver have the skill to maintain a lead through the tricky Roostertail Turn? If the long racecourse and extra laps take a toll on the equipment, does the crew have enough spare parts to restore the boat in time? How will the boat and driver perform in variable-speed scenarios during the fight for lanes?

Take these factors into consideration when considering your pick for Detroit, but don’t forget the most important (and least predictable) variable of all: racing luck. 2005 Gold Cup champion, the late Terry Troxell, would be able to attest to the x-factor that played a role in his improbable victory on the Detroit River. Just like the great Troxzilla, Deck2Deck players should expect the unexpected at the Gold Cup and be ready for a wild ride.

Posted on: Jul 07 2010 06:11 AM UTC Edited on: Jul 07 2010 06:14 AM UTC
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