Friday, August 07 2009
As far as Jerry Hopp is concerned, Grand Prix unlimited hydroplanes will bring the thunder back to Thunder on the Ohio on Aug. 21-23.
"We are supercharged 468 ccs, and we'll bring all kinds of noise," said Hopp, Graham Trucking's Grand Prix driver and a former unlimited driver.
The American Boat Racing Association announced Wednesday that the Grand Prix boats will complement the larger unlimiteds.
"Our top speeds are 160 to 165 mph," Hopp said. "We'll bring seven boats to Evansville and run on a 12/3-mile course. Our boats are 24 to 26 feet long and generate 1,300 horsepower. Most Most are Chevy motors." By comparison, unlimiteds are 28-foot, 6,800-pound crafts that run primarily T-55, L7C jet turbine military helicopter engines and can reach speeds of 200 mph on the straightaways.
For years, unlimited hydroplane fans have bemoaned the absence of thunder at Thunder, with the exception of Posey County resident Ed Cooper Jr.'s piston-powered U-3 Master Tire. Jimmy King drove Cooper's U-3 to a second-place finish Sunday at Seattle's Seafair.
"I think the unlimiteds are the fastest, biggest, meanest things on water," Hopp said.
"But the turbines don't make the noise the (old piston-powered) Allisons and Merlins made. I think that has been missed. When the Grand Prix boats stand next to each other, four or five deep, you can feel the power. The noise will knock you over."
Sam Cole, American Boat Racing Association chairman, said 11 unlimiteds are expected to compete at the 31st annual Thunder, the final unlimited race of the season before the boats are shipped to Doha, Qatar, for the world championship Nov. 12-14.
In addition to the Rib America Festival, the Evansville Road Knights classic car show and the boats, two concerts are planned for Thunder weekend at Sunset Park.
The Thunder on the Ohio Concert Bowl will open at 5 p.m. on Aug. 21. Jason Clutter and the Dirty South Band will perform at 7, with the Marshall Tucker Band to follow at 8:15. New addition Tara McCormick will open the Aug. 22 concert at 6 p.m., followed by Jack Ingram at 7 and Travis Tritt at 8:30.
For information, log on to www.thunderontheohio.net. Tickets for Thunder, which give holders admission to all events, are $15 in advance and $20 at the gate. Advance tickets are available at area banks and grocery stores.
Thunder on the Ohio Inc. consultant Ken Deans was not certain how many tickets have been sold.
"The initial interest has been very positive," Deans said.