North Tonawanda, New York
Thunder On The Niagara
August 20-21, 2011
J and Fae Report
Crank it up! Hydro action returned to the mighty Niagara River in North Tonawanda’s Gratwick Park and some intense racing was soon to follow. This area is rich in racing tradition starting in Isle View Park, Niawanda Park and recently at Gratwick. One thing is for sure, the current is extremely fast which provides some interesting scenarios for broken down boats. Also, this is a nice wide course providing plenty of room for three and four wide racing. For years we have seen some unbelievable duels and many racing icons got their start right here.
Race Director Pete Hackett and the Niagara Frontier Boat Racing Association combined to put on a very impressive show. Dick Delsner did his usual fine job on the mike and he had plenty of great action to call. Unfortunately the dreaded wind cut short Sunday's finals and that was a shame since the final fields were going to be insane.
The racing format was a compromise between APBA/CBF and ACHA. Bigger fields (APBA) and one final (ACHA) as well four laps of a mile and a quarter (APBA). Also assigned lanes (ACHA) were used. These combos worked very well as we saw some fantastic action both days. This Regatta is always a highlight on the schedule.
Here are the J and Fae boat totals: (T-13) (S-20) (PS-6) (E/H-14) (GP-10) Total-63
PS boats have a definite favorite on this circuit. Eric Hahn in Bob Zapady's (PS-555) Showboat is turning incredible laps this season. He continued here by taking the title over Hugh Monahan (PS-163) Yellow Rush and Dale Hernandez (PS-4) Widow Maker. Eric, a longtime champion, has an awesome touch handling these flat bottom monsters just like he used to do in his Rainmaker. The PS boats handled the water well except the tidal wave that swallowed
Chris Thompson (PS-41) Janet's Second Choice on the first final attempt. He was ok and the second running went smoothly.
T boats presented a deep field. Alexis Weber (T-55) Flirtin With Disaster has had a great season and came in as the favorite. John Shaw (T-5) Trophy Hunter was having none of it as he nailed the start and roared away holding off Andre Bergeron (CT-18) Little Dream and Matthieu Lemelin (CT-7) Soresto Racing. Andre and Matthieu get faster every race so look out for them at Beaurnois. John has been a strong driver for a while winning several trophies in recent years. The T's were cool.
S boats have put on some fantastic shows everywhere this season. They are a combo of speed and close competition. To win in this class you've got to run on the ragged edge, more on that later. The top dawgs read like a who's who of North America. They included Marco Poirier (CS-33) Zibra, Nicolas Rousse (CS-225) L'oiseau Bleu, Tom Diabo (CS-20) Mohawk Choppers, Rob Stevenson (CS-10) Wet Spot, Steve Armstrong (CS-11) Total Chaos, Bobby Kennedy driving Mike Grendel's (CS-79) Bad Influence, Kent Henderson (CS-00) Bank On It, Bobby King (S-242) Crush and Mike Monahan driving Greg Barker's (S-9) Rewinder. Whew, add in other quicksters and it had to be wild. Every qualifier was intense leading to a much anticipated final. Kent (CS-00) earned lane one during the prelims. Then ten boats hit the start thundering into turn one to run smack into a strong cross wind. Now, the drivers faced a decision, back off and lose or say the heck with it and pour it on. You know these guys, enough said. Kent (CS-00) had the lead on the inside when the wind got under that sponson leading to that dreaded quiet moment just before contact. Kent came out ok but the boat will be in the shop. In effect that ended the day as the rest of the finals were cancelled after a wind delay. The podiums were decided by the point standings going into the final. In this class that meant Kent (CS-00), Steve (CS-11) and Bobby (CS-79) took honors with several bombs just behind.
E and H boats ran as a combine as the H (350) guys threw in 305's to be legal and insured by APBA. The H's scored separate points for the ACHA and were set to run their own final sans wind. Jean Morin (CH-149) Cargo Tec, Norman Ensbury (CH-99) Ocr Racing, Richard Heinault (CH-2) Miss Beaurnois and Samuel Paige Morin (CH-16) Cargo Tec 2 looked the best in the prelims. Of course that was when Samuel (CH-16) was not upside down like in heat 1a. The E boats were led by a consistent run by Joe Less (E-500) Centsless 14. He took two strong second places putting him on the pole for the final. Kelly Shane (E-77) Shane Racing and Paul Hewitt (CE-45) Hewitt Racing looked great winning a heat and Derek Smith (CE-13) Adrenaline Rush ran fast and finished well each heat. The podiums decided on points looked like this: E class 1. Joe Less (E-500) 2. Kelly Shane (E-77) 3. Derek Smith (CE-13) H class 1. Jean Morin (CH-149) 2. Richard Heinault (CH-2) Miss Beaurnois 3. Norm Ensbury (CH-99)
GP boats provide the true thunder on the Niagara. Six elimination heats were as good as finals. The afore mentioned wide course allows three and four wide action and we saw plenty of it. Heat winners were Mike Monahan (GP-93) Renegade (2), Bert Henderson (GP-777) Crush (2), Pierre Maheu (GP-46) Adf Diesel (1) and Ken Brodie (GP-50) Intensity (1). Heat 2a was awesome as Jimmy Shane (GP-10) Charger painted the buoys holding off Bert (GP-777) and Pierre (GP-46) until losing power with the finish line in site. All the heats were manic and the final would have been stupendous. So let's use our imagination like Butters on Southpark's nuke the imagination episode........... And their away, eight monsters blasting into turn one. Bert leads up the backstretch with Tom Pakradooni (GP-88) Rolling Thunder just outside him. Through turn two and whoa, Mike (GP-93) is between them. It is a three way tie with Pierre (GP-46) lurking off the final corner. At the finish line we have......... a four way tie! In reality the final order by points saw
Bert (GP-777), Mike (GP-93) and Tom (GP-88) on the podium.
Well, that's the way we saw it and didn't see it at North Tonawanda for 2011. A tremendous field, an exceptionally well run event and lots of speed. Mother Nature won in the end but she couldn't rob us of some great racing this weekend. APBA, CBF and ACHA working together? What a cool concept going forward. See ya at Celina J and Fae