By Denis Bourbonnais
Bert Henderson picked up where he left off in 2015 by winning the first Grand Prix competition of the Hydroplane Racing League (HRL) season, this past weekend, at the 5th Stuart Sailfish Regattas, in Florida.
The Brockville (Ontario) driver lead the final race all the way through aboard the GP-777 Steeler EMS and successfully began defending the title he won last year. Henderson’s closest rival, Tom Pakradooni in the GP-88 Rolling Thunder, finished more than a rooster tail behind.
Marty Wolfe (GP-93 Renegade) round up the podium, followed by Tom Thompson (GP-525 Fat Chance), Mario Blain (GP-757 Canada Boy) and Ken Brodie II (GP-50 Intensity). Blain, from McMasterville, was making his comeback on the water after a 24-year hiatus and was on restrictions. On a sadder note, Brodie lost his fourth position because he was out of course before the start of the race.
Two of the favorites, Andrew Tate (GP-101 Fat Chance Too) and Brandon Kennedy (GP-25 H8 Cancer Racing), were unable to get into the finals. After leading the first two races, Tate’s hydroplane caught on fire during the third heat of qualifications. The driver from Michigan did not sustain any injuries, but the damages to his boat cut his racing weekend short. Kennedy encountered some mechanical difficulties aboard his new Jones hull.
Eric Langevin’s infraction before the start of the consolation final cost him a victory behind the wheel of the GP-12 Long Shot. Tom Thompson (GP-525) was therefore crowned the winner of the heat. Bertrand Dulude (GP-48 Zero Gravity) did well throughout his first races in the Grand Prix class, while Martin Rochon (GP-77 Coppertone) and Mathieu Daoust (GP-9 Meubles N. Lalonde) were slowed down due to engine problems.
Bert Henderson had a perfect weekend, winning the four races he participated in. The leaders of the other qualifications were Andrew Tate (2), Ken Brodie, Marty Wolfe, Tom Pakradooni and Tom Thompson.
In the 5 litre/Hydro 350 class, Patrick Haworth was impressive during his first finals aboard Michael Grendell’s brand new H-79 Bad Influence. The driver from Salaberry-de-Valleyfield took the lead over Matt O’Connor (E-34 Gator) in the second lap and never looked back. Derec Smith (H-1300) finished in second place, followed by John Shaw (E-1), Paul Barber (H-66) and Mathieu Lemelin (H-7). Donny Allen Jr. was forced to forfeit in Richard Hearn’s H-14 Legacy and Samuel Pagé-Morin (H-16 Qualiplast) abandoned after taking the second place of heat 1A, on Saturday.
The 2.5 litre class final was won by Alfred Thompson (S-92), followed by Alexis Weber (S-55), Philippe Billette (CS-7) and Karson Kennedy (S-25), who jumped the gun.
To read the article in the Journal Saint-François: http://www.journalsaint-francois.ca/sports/2016/5/22/bert-henderson-trop-fort-aux-regates-de-stuart-.html [French version only]