By Denis Bourdonnais
A new site will welcome the Hydroplane Racing League (HRL) for the official start of the 2016 season, on June 4th and 5th, in Gananoque, Ontario.
Over 70 racing teams spread in four classes will battle on the water of the St. Lawrence River in the 1000 Islands region. Drivers in the Grand Prix, Hydro 350, Formula 2500 and 2.5 litre classes all aim to take home the Nickel Cup, which has not been awarded since the last motorboating event held in Gananoque in the 1950s.
While the Grand Prix class competitors have already faced one another in Stuart, Florida, all of the other drivers will be crossing the starting line for the first time. The championships will be determined at the closing of the 8th racing weekend, at the Régates de Beauharnois, on September 3rd and 4th.
Bert Henderson, 2015 champion of the Grand Prix class, showed that he was ready to defend his title by leading throughout the Stuart Sailfish Regatta aboard the GP-777 Steeler EMS. The driver from Brockville, Ontario, crossed the finishing line in front of the Americans Tom Pakradooni (GP-88), Marty Wolfe (Gp-93) and Tom Thompson (GP-525) and McMasterville resident Mario Blain, in the brand new GP-757 Canada Boy.
In Ganagoque, Henderson will have to keep an eye on two very competitive drivers: Andrew Tate, who could not enter the final in Stuart because of a fire that broke out in the GP-101 and Brandon Kennedy, who was forced to stop due to mechanical difficulties in the new GP-25 H8 Cancer Racing. Moreover, driver Pierre Maheu, triple champion between 2008 and 2011, comes back on the water behind the wheel of Ken Brodie II’s GP-50 Intensity. Even if he will be on restrictions for a few heats, the man from Saint-Michel can aspire to the top of the podium.
Quebec drivers Éric Langevin (GP-12), Martin Rochon (GP-77), Mathieu Daoust (GP-9) and Bertrand Dulude (GP-48), a newcomer in the GP class, will also aim to leave their mark.
Sylvain Campeau replaced
In the Hydro 350 class, defending champion Sylvain Campeau had to opt out of competition because of a back injury and he picked Jonathan Daoust as his replacement inside the H-15 Canadian Tire. The very competitive group of 24 racers in this category includes Jimmy King (H-12), Nicolas Rousse (H-225), Norm Ensbury (H-99), Kent Henderson (H-777), Richard Haineault (H-2), Marc Lecompte (H-104), Yannick Léger (H-21) and Patrick Haworth, who came out victorious in Stuart, aboard Michael Grendell’s H-79 Bad Influence. Samuel Pagé-Morin, the 2014 winner, is back in the H-16 Qualiplast, while Rémy Leblanc (H-799), Donny Allen Jr. (H-14) and Nathalye Campeau (H-396) will race for the first time in H-350.
The cutthroat Formula 2500 class will once again see last year’s champion Donald Leduc (H-48) battle it out along side Bobby King (F-242), Rob Stevenson (F-10), Yan Beaupré (F-36), Doug Rapp (F-79), Yan Lecompte (F-28), Tom Huganir (F-69), Jean-François Latour (F-8), Tyler Kaddatz (F-518), Frédéric Couturier (F-313) and Yves Villeneuve (F-6). The three top drivers of the 2015 2.5 litre championship, Karson Kennedy (F-25), Leah Hoosick (F-27) and Guillaume Charrette (F-17) are all moving up to the F-2500 class.
These changes mean that a new winner will be crowned in the 2.5 litre class and Alexis Weber (S-55), who will partner with Steve Armstrong, is seen as the main contender to Karson Kennedy’s title. Claude Abbott (S-67), Tommy Shannon (S-4), Derek Demers (S-44), Sébastien/Stéphanie Leduc (S-100), André Bergeron (S-18), Marie-Ève Vallières (S-96) and rookie Eric McKenna (S-999 Le Vegas EMK), among others, should make a lot of noise. Philippe-Hervé Cardinal will make his debut aboard the S-222 Dream Maker.
To read the article in the Journal Saint-François: http://www.journalsaint-francois.ca/sports/2016/5/27/pilotes–demarrez-vos-moteurs-.html [French version only]