With his new capsule boat just a week old, Doug Hall was cautiously optimistic coming into the weekend of racing at the Lake DePue PRO National Championship Boat Races.
Turns out he was able to figure out his new ride just in time.
The DeKalb, Missouri resident won the 1,100cc Top Hydro crown Sunday at Lake DePue with victories in two-of-three heats, including the decisive finale, to take home his second national title of the weekend after Friday’s win in the 500cc Hydro class.
Tied with Bristol, Wisconsin’s Amy Nydahl after the two racers split 1st and 2nd-place finishes in the opening two heats Sunday, Hall was able to get his new black No. 51 boat out in front early of the final heat of the races’ showcase event and held on to stay ahead of a hard-charging Nydahl for the win.
“I was surprised with the new boat. Wednesday, it was drivable but not really raceable. Thursday we made some improvements and Friday we ran good and we had some luck and won the (500cc Hydro) championship there because some people had some problems,” Hall said.
“We made changes after every single heat. Every time we came out and practiced we made changes,” said Hall of dialing in his new boat.
Hall said the key to Sunday’s Top Hydro victory was strong starts in the second and third heat that both led to being able to use his straightaway speed to capture narrow wins over Nydahl.
“I knew Amy was right on the inside. I couldn’t quite stay on the pins like I would like - we haven’t got it quite right. I slowed down a little bit trying to stay tight; because I knew she was running right on the pins. We were fast down the straightaway and that’s how we outran her,” Hall said.
Hall finished the weekend with victories in the 500cc and 1,100cc Top Hydro as well as a second-place showing in Saturday’s 700cc Hydro race.
In with the new
Like Hall, several of Sunday’s champions were working with new boats.
Pete Kelly, of Lakeland, Florida, got his first ever national title, and the ceremonial dip in Lake DePue that accompanies it courtesy of his crew, in his new 125cc Hydro watercraft.
“It’s a brand new boat, we just put it together. It wasn’t running too good last week and we worked on it all week and got it working good,” Kelly said.
Kelly claimed a win in his opening heat but fell back to fourth in his second heat due to a sticky throttle in his new rig. But he was able to iron out the kinks in time to have things back running smoothly for a third-heat victory and national championship win.
“I’ve never won any (national titles) and I’ve been racing for 20 years, it feels great,” said Kelly, who described the Lake DePue water he took his victory bath in as simply “cold.”
Chris Hellsten defended his national championship in the 250cc Hydro class — one of the largest of the races — with a strong afternoon of racing that saw him win all of his three heats in a new boat he recently acquired in Italy.
“I’m very happy; this is only the second race I’ve had with my new boat. I brought it over from Italy,” said Hellsten, who christened his new craft last week in Italy with an 8th-place finish at the World Championships.
Hellsten raced out to wins in both of his “Heat A” races to set up a battle with David Mitchell, who took checkered flags in both of the two preliminary “Heat B” races.
The final showdown in the third heat proved to be anti-climactic however, as Mitchell stalled his engine as he attemmpted to avoid jumping the gun with an early start. Regardless, Hellsten took the lead early and never looked back as he defended his title in his new boat.
“I flew in Friday and got a couple of test runs in (Sunday) morning. Everything kind of came together and worked out real well,” Hellsten said.
Brothers Mike and Rich Krier of Iowa put on one Sunday’s best displays of racing as the duo battled side-by-side for nearly the entire duration of of the opening heat of the 350cc Runabouts.
Rich was able to sneak ahead at the finish line for the first-heat win, and followed it up with an encore victory in the second heat before playing it safe for a third-place finish in the third and final heat.
The two victories and third-place finish helped Rich edge past his brother, who won the third heat, 1,025-1,000 for the national championship.
Rich, whose boat was built and patched up with the help of brother Mike after an accident in Saturday’s racing, said it’s always nice to come out on top of the Krier family sibling rivalry.
“Me and Mike are great competitors, we learn a lot from one another. I think we are both better in our sport because of it,” Rich said, adding that he joked to his brother that the patch “maybe helped the design of the boat.”
Driver Derek Gesler and deckhand Derek Cox teamed up for a win in the crowd-favorite 1,100cc Runabouts edging past the duo of Mike and Julia Thirlby for a win in the deciding third heat after the two teams split wins in the first two races.
“It’s always good competition in the 1,100, Mike Thirlby runs really well. It was all about getting to the start on time. That was probably the biggest thing,” said Gesler, who also won the class in 2011, and estimated his top speeds to be near 100 miles per hour.
Cox, who won his first ever championship, said riding shotgun with Gesler in the races’ only two-person event was “fun and exciting.”
“Trust is definitely key,” he chuckled.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.