Greg Hopp is more often than not at the top of the leaderboard for the Unlimited Lights. That's even more amazing when you consider at some of the race sites, he's also racing Unlimiteds and "hopping" back and forth between classes.
He's been driving the UL-1 FestoolSupply.com presents Graham Trucking GT/Happy Go Lucky as well as the U-100 Mirage Boats for Fred Leland.
"It's really not that different," said Hopp. "The timing boats runs are pretty much the same (comparing Unlimited Lights to Unlimiteds). The lights boat accelerates just as fast - maybe even a little faster - than the unlimited. So the timing runs are all the same.
He also said the Lights handle a little better during the turns. The turns are a little rougher in the bigger boats and then, there's the speed. "The Unlimiteds are maybe another 50 mph faster on the straightaway," he said.
Hopp's had a lot of success in the Unlimited Lights series. While an injury kept him out of the final two races in 2007, costing him a chance at the driver's points total, he won the driver's crown in 2005 and 2006. And he's piloting the UL-1 to High Points Championships in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.
Jumping back and forth between the two classes of boats has it's advantages. After driving the Unlimited, Hopp said going to the Lights makes it "seem like everything's happening slower. You can read the water a little better."
If you've had good luck over the weekend and your equipment's held together, running two classes of boats might put you in the finals of both. That's happened to Hopp on a number of occasions. "The disadvantage is when it comes finals time," he said. "The Lights final comes right before the Unlimited final. Sometimes, with as little as 10 minutes in between."
Hopp said that gives him barely enough time to get out of one boat and strapped into another. He tells the story of one year in the Tri-Cities, when he ran the final Lights race and won. With just a 10 minute window between the Lights final and the Unlimiteds, they had to race to make it.
"We were clear across the point," he said. "I had to sprint with all the driving gear on, then swap helmets." But that was just part of it. "Usually we have someone who sets clocks for me," Hopp continued. "We either didn't pick one or they didn't do it. I had no clock." To make it worse, the radios in the boat didn't work. And there was a problem with the clock on the course.
"I didn't know what time it was," he said. "I tried to make the start by just getting into lane one and going putt, putt, putt. Then I saw a roostertail come up and jumped on it."
Unfortunately, the boat he followed jumped the gun and crossed the start line early. So did Hopp.