Emily Estes confirmed today that Freedom Racing will be building a new Unlimited Hydroplane.
The U-21 was ravaged during the fire at Seafair last year. Driver Kevin Aylesworth managed to escape, but the boat was all but destroyed. After serious investigation and negotiations, the team decided to build a new boat for the future.
Official News Release from Freedom Racing
Freedom Racing Team elevated the level of competition on the American Boat Racing Association national series with a surprise announcement today that a new hull is being built to replace the charred U21.
The new boat will be a cross between the 2005 National Champion Miss Elam Plus U16 and the 2006 Gold Cup and UIM World Champion Beacon Plumbing/Miss Seattle U37. It will be ready to race next summer.
Esteemed boat builder and designer Dale Vanwieringen outlined the project with Freedom Racing Team owners Jeffrey Michael Johnson and Kevin Aylesworth and Crew Chief Kevin Braun in their San Diego homeport on Tuesday.
Johnson said although the U21 team's rookie season on the Unlimited hydroplane tour was enjoyable, it will be more fun to hit the water with a competitive boat in 2007. "We want to be a contender next year with a shot at winning on Sunday afternoon," Johnson said. "We want to put our driver in the best piece of equipment on the circuit, and attract sponsors with a winning program on and off the water."
Brian Perkins will drive the new U21. He replaces Aylesworth in the cockpit, who escaped the devastating blaze that burned the U21 at Seattle's SEAFAIR race in August. The spectacular footage captured national media headlines.
It will take about the same amount of time to build a new boat as it would to repair the charred U21, Vanwieringen told the team. And the number of significant changes that would need to be made to get the existing hull to "fly" correctly on the water and win races would be nearly as costly as constructing a truly competitive boat from scratch.
Vanwieringen's credentials are impressive. He has been building boats since 1982, when he worked with Jim Lucero on the legendary Atlas Van Lines boats. He was involved in the construction of all of the Budweiser boats since then (now racing as FormulaBoats.com U5 and U7), the U37 reconstruction that helped earn owner Billy Schumacher three major victories in 2006, the powerhouse Miss Elam Plus U16, and Ed Cooper's piston-powered U3.
A resident of Seattle, Vanwieringen will be making frequent trips to the San Diego U21 shop to supervise the crew this off-season. The boat will be completed early enough to test before the kick-off race of the ABRA tour in late June (Evansville, Ind.).
Vanwieringen is also working on the new Oh Boy! Oberto U6 boat being built for National Driver Champion Steve David and the City of Madison, Ind.
The cornerstone of Freedom Racing Team is its "When We Race, Children Win" campaign, in which a percentage of all sponsorship dollars are donated to children's charities. Since its inception, more than $100,000 has been raised for Children's Hospital San Diego and other charities in race host cities. The U21 has raced to benefit Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation. In Seattle, the team raises funds and awareness for the Hydrocephalus Research Guild of Children's Hospital.
To this perseverant team, giving back to the community and promoting the sport on the shoreline is as important as performing on the race course. Sponsors are being sought to partner on this exciting endeavor for the 2007 national tour.
The 2007 ABRA racing season kicks-off in Evansville, Ind. (June 29-July 1), and includes stops in Madison, Ind. (July 7-8), Detroit (July 13-15), Tri-Cities, Wash. (July 27-29), Seattle (August 3-5) and San Diego (Sept. 14-16).