A Season of Change

New driver Shane, crew chief
Hanson enter uncharted waters

Shortened Regatta race schedule
leaves little practice time

It must have been a little awkward at first for Crew Chief Larry Hanson and his Oberto-Miss Madison teammates when their newly hired driver Jimmy Shane showed up June 27 from Seattle to be introduced to the community and fitted in the seat of the hometown Unlimited hydroplane. After all, it was just last season that the 28-year-old Shane, then driving the Ted Porter-owned Graham Trucking hydro, won four Unlimited races and bumped Madison’s legendary Steve David from winning the National High Points Championship by a mere 68 points in his last season.

Photo by Don Ward

Larry Hanson is a longtime crew member for the Oberto-Miss Madison, but this season he will have his hands full as crew chief, taking over for his brother Mike, who left to guide the rival U-96 Spirit of Qatar.

David retired at the conclusion of last season at age 59 after 13 seasons with the community owned hydroplane. He was the winningest active driver in the sport’s history at the time. And now here was Shane, the former arch rival driver, crossing the lines after accepting a lucrative offer in March to drive for the Oberto-sponsored Madison boat. What’s more, he is bringing with him his longtime radioman, Dan Hoover, who has been at his side ever since he entered the sport in 2007.
What a difference an offseason can make.
“They are not very happy with us right now,” joked Hanson, 50, referring to the other Indiana-based Unlimited hydroplane team located in Decatur and owned by Porter.

Photo courtesy of Bob Cline

Jimmy Shane is all smiles
during his June 27 visit to the
Oberto-Miss Madison boat shop in Madison to meet his new crew.

Porter, who is fielding not one but two former Budweiser hulls this season in the U-1 and U-7 Graham Trucking tandem, quickly responded by replacing his departing star driver in Shane with another up-and-coming young driver in J. Michael Kelly, 34.
The changes have set up an intriguing battle this season between these two young guns. They will be chased by several competitive teams, most notably the U-9 Jones Racing, with Jon Zimmerman driving as Team Red Dot, and Erick Ellstrom’s U-96 Spirit of Qatar, to be piloted by Kip Brown. Brown finished third in National High Points last season behind Shane and David. But this year, the team is fielding a new boat, which isn’t expected to be ready for competition until the West Coast swing.
But there’s more drama unfolding.

Miss Madison Drivers Through the Years

2014: Jimmy Shane
2001-2013: Steve David
2000: Nate Brown
2000: Charley Wiggins
1999: Todd Yarling
1988-98: Mike Hanson
1988: Mitch Evans
1986, 2000: Jerry Hopp
1985-86: Andy Coker
1985-86: Jon Peddie
1976, 1982-84, 1986-88: Ron Snyder
1975: Jerry Bangs*
1974, 1978-81, 1984: Milner Irvin
1973, 1982: Tom Sheehy
1972-73: Charlie Dunn*
1967-68: Ed O’Halloran*
1966, 1969-71: Jim McCormick*
1963-65: Buddy Byers
1963: Morlan Visel*
1961-62: Marion Cooper*
(* = Deceased)

Hanson, himself is a newly hired crew chief for the team, replacing his brother, Mike Hanson, who surprised the team in March when he announced he was leaving to accept a similar job with the rival U-96 Spirit of Qatar. Hanson accepted a five-year contract to lead Ellstrom’s well-funded team and work closer to home. Hanson’s announcement came just two days after Shane was named the new U-6 driver.
A former Miss Madison driver himself, Mike Hanson had been with the Madison team on and off in some capacity since 1988. Larry Hanson, who has been with the team since 1991 when the boat was converted from a V-12 Allison engine to turbine, was named crew chief for the U-6 in late June. The exception was a five-year span from 1997-2004 when the Hansons worked for Jones Racing. The Madison team did not have a sponsor during those years.
“When Mike, left, the boat was literally in pieces,” Larry Hanson said. “We had to put it back together without him.” Asked if he was ever tempted to call his brother for any help on the project, he replied, smiling, “That’s not something we wanted to do since he is now our competitor.”
Larry Hanson, who as team’s gear box and engine specialist previously alternated spending three weeks in Madison and three weeks in his native Auburn, Wash., with his family, has only been home once since his brother departed. His 19-year-old son, Tyler, is part of the Madison crew this season.
The team has been scrambling to put the boat back together and also embarked on an ambitious project to repaint the boat, trailer and truck with a new design. As a result, there has been little time for testing and no time for putting the boat on the water prior to the upcoming season. And with the July 5-6 Madison Regatta race schedule having been reduced from three to two days this year, the team won’t have Friday to make practice runs on the Ohio River. They will have only Saturday to test and qualify the boat with its new driver in preparation for Sunday’s heat races and the Indiana Governor’s Cup at the end of the day.
“The only consolation is that everyone else is in the same boat,” Hanson said of the shortened practice time.
So Shane traveled to Madison June 27-28 to be fitted in the seat and make other adjustments in the boat with his new teammates. He also signed autographs and met with hydroplane racing fans Saturday night during a party at the Boneyard Grill.
Reached June 24 by telephone, Shane said he had a “great visit to Madison.” He said the interaction with Madison fans “really got me fired up for the season.”
Shane spent time at the boat shop, but his visit there was hectic and often interrupted by fans wanting to meet him, Hanson said. “I really didn’t get a lot of one-on-one with him.”
Longtime crew member Jimmy Gilbert added that as an engineer, Shane seemed very precise on his suggestions for adjustments. “He was knowledgeable and specific about what he wanted done.”
Shane said he is anxious to work with his new team, adding, “I have a good feel for the crew.” He called the Oberto-Miss Madison race boat “an absolute work of art. It’s well maintained and you can see the team’s work ethic – every bolt and nut is replaced every season.”
As for the challenge ahead, Shane admitted he feels the pressure of not only following in David’s shadow but living up to the expectations of Madison hydroplane fans. “Not only am I driving for the sponsor and the team but the entire community,” he said. “I knew from being here before how competitive and passionate they are about the sport and the team. And with Madison’s history with the sport, I know they will let you know when you do a good job or a bad job.”
Shane comes from a hydroplane racing family – his father, mother and sister were all racers in various APBA inboard classes – in Havre de Grace, Md. He and his wife, Bianca, have only lived in the Seattle area for one year. An integrated engineer by profession, he moved there to accept a job at Blue Origin LLC, an aerospace company. The couple have a 1-year-old son, Colton.
Shane began racing in the Unlimited class in 2007 as a substitute driver and raced his first full season in 2012. He has since won six Unlimited races, including back-to-back UIM World Championships. Prior to that, he was the 2001 A.P.B.A. Region 4 Rookie of the Year in the Limited class.
At this year’s Madison Regatta, Shane will be at the center of a new era for the storied Miss Madison racing team. He plans to bring his entire family with him to witness history and cheer him on in the U-6.
But considering the enthusiasm and love for this sport among Madison hydroplane racing fans, they won’t have any trouble getting help in that department.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.


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