Brown to remain Qatar driver
Thursday, April 25, 2013 11:00 AM
The Spirit of Qatar name will stay on the Our Gang Racing entry and Kip Brown will remain as driver for the rest of the season the team announced recently.
The Spirit of Qatar, driven by 11-time national champion Dave Villwock, was badly damaged by fire during the 2012 season finale in Doha, Qatar in mid-January. As a result, the Qatar team turned to Brown and the Our Gang Racing team for the 2013 season opener February in Doha.
In the February event, the Our Gang ran under the Spirit of Qatar banner with the number '95,' a change from the Qatar's normal number '96.'
Last week, Spirit of Qatar owner Erick Ellstrom and Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, president of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation, announced that arrangement will continue through the rest of the season.
"It's going to take some time to get the 96 repaired and back on the water," Ellstrom said in the statement. "In the meantime, we feel it's important that our sponsor be represented by a quality driver in the H1 series. Our experience with Kip Brown in Doha in February was very positive and we feel very good about working with him for the 2013 season."
In the February race, Brown was plagued by mechanical problems but still managed a pair of heat wins. He is currently fourth in the National High Points standings.
"I am very honored and happy to be asked to continue to represent Qatar for the rest of the season," Brown said. "The excitement we felt from the fans in Doha mirrored my excitement about the sport and made for a very special experience."
Ellstrom indicated that his team's damaged boat may appear at selected races in 2013 once repairs are complete and the hull is considered safe and competitive. This opens the possibility of seeing the Spirit of Qatar 96 alongside the 95 in the pit area and both boats competing before the end of the season.
Liddycoat joins Miss Madison
Former World Champion driver Scott Liddycoat has joined the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison Racing Team as a crew member.
Liddycoat, who drove the Degree Men entry a year ago, made the announcement on his Facebook page last week and Miss Madison Racing confirmed the arrangement.
"I am thrilled to be joining the Oberto/Miss Madison team for the 2013 season!" Liddycoat wrote on Facebook. "I will do whatever I can to help bring Steve and the team another National Title!!!!!"
Liddycoat broke into the Unlimited ranks in 2011 aboard Ted Porter's Valken.com and had one of the more impressive rookie seasons in recent campaigns. He finished on the podium in four of the six races and won the season finale in Doha.
Last year Liddycoat joined the Gregory family's USA Racing Partners Team, the team's first foray into the sport in five years. The team struggled for the most of the season before a wreck at San Diego ended its season.
Liddycoat is joining the Miss Madison team as a crew member only and is not officially the team's backup driver. Steve David won his sixth driver's title a year ago and currently leads the National High Point standings.
USA Racing Partners has not yet announced its status for the 2013 season.
Villwock may skip Gold Cup
Ten-time Gold Cup champion Dave Villwock may not be in Detroit to defend his crown, the driver told the Detroit News last week.
Villwock, who trails only Chip Hanauer (11) in Gold Cup wins, is currently without a ride while his Spirit of Qatar is repaired after damage suffered at Doha in January.
"I think I'm all done with it," Villwock was quoted. The article did not further elaborate.
There has been speculation that Villwock has been suspended because of his actions at Doha prior to the fire that damaged his boat. In an earlier heat, the all-time winningest driver took out eight course buoys which prompted the team to issue an official apology for what was viewed at least partially as an intentional act. H1 Unlimited has not discussed the matter.
Villwock's 67 wins are the most all-time and he has won the last five contested Gold Cup races.
With Villwock out, the door may be open for Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison driver Steve David to win his first Gold Cup. David has 16 career wins but has never hoisted the Cup. Only Jim Kropfeld (22) has more wins without winning the Gold Cup.
Oberto home in Indiana
The Unlimited hydroplane fleet has arrived in the United States from its ocean transport around the world and the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison is tucked safely back in its shop on Milton Street in downtown Madison.
Preparations are already under way for the second race of the season in Sacramento in late May. The boat suffered no serious damage at either Doha race earlier this year.