Hovercraft Club of America’s
1st Annual North American Hovercraft Championship
Du Quoin, Illinois
October 14th & 15th 2000
Friday the 13th… Perfect!
Chowder Head! Ultramaroon! Idjiot!... Feel free to insert any "Looneytoon" insult that comes to mind I would have gladly accepted it, because I knew better.
On the previous weekend I had attended the Hovercraft Club of America’s "Big Spring" Hover-in, and had to leave a little earlier than expected because of some jetting problems on my Rotax 532 powered Scat. I spent the first part of the week recovering from driving 1600+ miles to Big Spring, Tennessee and back. I also tried to find "Jets" for my "Bing" carburetors (Dual carbs on the 532) locally. It was Wednesday, and "Crunch" time. I needed parts and no one had them. In my "Ultimate Wisdom" I decided, after the really nice sugar coated letter of apology for prior order goof ups, to once again order from Leading Edge Airfoils (LEAF). OK… It wasn’t just the letter… I’m cheap!… At really stupid times. I had called California Power Systems first, had given them my order- which consisted of a fuel filter, 4 jets, and a rebuild kit for my fuel pump. The total for the parts was $43.00. No big deal. I told them I wanted it by Friday... in other words "2nd Day Air". The total including shipping came to $98.00!!! Now wait a second! What’s up with that? $45.00 for shipping parts that probably weighs less than a pound? No Way! Hence the order with LEAF- same order, same shipping, no gouging!
I have a job that allows me quite a bit of freedom. I arranged my schedule around the incoming package. I spent the morning working from home until my 21-year-old daughter came home from her classes at the college. She took over my "Package watch" vigil while I did the necessary work away from home. I finally returned home at about 2:00 PM… still no package. Like the song says… "Should I go or should I stay?" I stayed- hopeing that by some miracle the UPS driver was running late. Nothing. Nada. No package. Today is October 31st and my "2nd Day Air" package arrived at 11:00 AM. I sent it back! I WILL NEVER USE LEAF AGAIN!!!!!
I had everything packed and ready to go on Thursday night. I could have left at 2:00pm… I was finally on the road at 5:30pm- I was in really good humor. Du Quoin is about 5 hours from the Chicago suburbs and I arrived at the Du Quoin Campground at 11:30pm. I drove around the campground looking for Hovercrafts, but all I saw was motorhomes, dog crates and "Harleys". The AMA was holding it’s National "Flat Track" race over on the 1 mile clay oval next to the campground, and there was a "Benched" AKC dog show going on too… This was going to be one busy place! I finally saw Cecil Scalf’s trailer and his Neoteric Questrek was parked next to it. I set up camp across the road from Cecil and next to a lake. Nice view over the lake and zzzzzzz……. MUCH warmer then Big Spring!
I awoke early… like always, and walked around the camp. I looked across the lake and there were a few hovercraft parked on the other side. Most looked like UH10’s. My "Neighbors" were up too, and they were checking out my craft. They were a nice older couple who, along with their 10-year-old grandson, had come to Du Quoin for the motorcycle races. I’ve been involved with motorcycles and motorcycle racing for over 30 years and just recently quit- COLD TURKEY. Talking motorcycles with my neighbors was one of life’s little tests, and I managed to pass. Motorcycles are in my past now, and I’m still around to talk about it (how’s that for cryptic?- Look at the rest of the articles on this web page- read far enough and it won’t be cryptic at all!).
I saw Kent Gano, Chris Barczynski, and Chris Junior on the other side of the lake inspecting the "transition" areas of the racecourse. They looked a little steep from my perspective. Cecil was walking around and shouted across to Kent and Chris asking about what they thought about the transitions… they only shrugged.
Over night a few more Hovercraft had arrived. Parked next to Cecil was Billy Zang- of Universal Hovercraft fame- and family. Billy and I live pretty close to each other, but had never met. We now have each other’s "numbers" for some at home cruising. Kent and Chris came to our side of the lake, and after a while everyone drove to the "Race" side of the lake.
When I left home I really didn’t know if I would actually race, or not. My Scat is pretty large and heavy, and sometimes ill handling (aka… PLOW IN!). With the 532 Rotax (522cc) I would have to race in the Formula 1 category. I didn’t relish the idea of a faster craft smoking up on me with a 30mph closing speed, but I was still game at this point. I followed Kent to the far transition where a couple of cruiser type craft were parked. I met Michael Murphy and Steve Wilkins. I drove my craft off the trailer and parked my Jeep and trailer away from the track. I geared up, started my Scat, and then flew down the transition on to the course. The transitions ARE steep, and man is it windy! I decide that since I was "Bonking" on every transition, and fighting to keep the Scat from "plowing"(even at non racing speeds) on the downwind leg that I’d simply be a spectator.
I parked the Scat over near my trailer and then drove my Jeep and trailer over to where the race craft were parked. The gentleman I parked next to was hard at work installing a new radiator in his Formula 2 Craft. I introduced myself to Graham Spencer! The world cup video that Kent showed at Big Spring showed Graham WINNING Formula 25 by a 10 second lead with his unique homebuilt craft… amazing! Graham sold his craft after the World Cup Race in Europe. I gave him a hand anchoring his new prototype radiator, and wished him good luck… Told him he owed me .05% of the purse if he won- for the parts I gave him… Hehehehe!
I walked back down towards my Scat which was about a half mile away. Michael Murphy and family were driving by and offered me a ride, which I gladly excepted.
There were no bathrooms on our side of the lake so I cruised on over to the boat ramp by the campground. I just zipped out of the water and up the ramp. A quick 180° turn then I set it down on some soft grass near the ramp, pulled the kill tether and walked over to the bathroom. I came back and there were at least 10 people surrounding the Scat- just "Checkin it out". I stood and answered all their questions, and explained the general principles. I finally flew back to the "pits" about a half hour later. Once there Cecil asked if I would mind "Flagging" one of the corners. I figured I could get some good digital pictures so "Why not?" I chose the far end transition where I could get some good shots of water to land, land to water, the incoming a straight, and the outgoing straight. I think the pictures where well worth it.
Gary Jensen and his wife Terry pulled in with Gary’s Aerocruiser. Gary and I cruise together quite a bit at home, and this was the first time I had met Terry. Gary had "For Sale" signs on his craft. I hadn’t seen his craft since he had the engine rebuilt a month earlier. Bob Windt and the "Kids" were there too- one of them was racing in the UH10 class.
The Drivers meeting commenced, and shortly after the racing started. I don’t have all the "stats", but Kent easily won everything that involved "Kent’s Rocket". Chris Barczynski Gave him a pretty good run for a while, but he was still working some bugs out of his craft. Graham Spencer went up in a puff of steam "Just as I was starting to have fun" was the way he described it! Chris Barczynski Junior lost a belt which was quickly eaten by his prop, and front of Billy Zang’s bag skirt came off a few times.
Kent Gano Vs. Billy Zang
Kent setting up for a "Transition"
Graham... Doin it sideways!
Chris Barczynski Sr.
After the races we cruised around a little and Bob Windt got some "Wig" action going. I talked to Graham for a while. He was all packed up and debating on whether to go to the awards dinner or to just drive back home. I found out later that he drove home. I missed the dinner too. My Scat is the dirtiest ride on earth- both it and I were covered in grime. I threw it on the trailer and took it back to the camp. I was still worried about my jetting so I took off the cowling and yanked the plugs. The warmer weather did the trick! They looked good. Unfortunately I lost track of time messing around with my craft and it got too late for me to attend the awards dinner. I went to "Sonic" and had a quick bite to eat. While on the way back I saw a car wash, went back to camp and hitched up my trailer, and then dragged the mud & grass covered Hovercraft to the wash. $5.00 later it was pretty clean… Hehehehe… it was worth the $5.00 to see the faces of the other people at the wash… Not one person asked a question or said anything… Not even the usual "How fast is it" or "How much does it cost"- They just stared! Heheheheh- Close Encounters! Early to bed for me… The motorcyclists had a big party going on which made me happy to have a loud 2 stroke for a change... Yeah... Yeah... Earplugs! Thats the ticket!!!!
The Sunday After
Sunday morning looked like rain so I disassembled my camp while everything was dry. I let Ronald McDonald do the cooking. After breakfast I talked to Kent for a while. Turns out he is working on a Scat 12 that his father used to own. I guess it’s almost ready to go. Cecil came over and joined the discussion. Cecil and Kent talked about future World Cup races while I talked to a bunch of people who came around asking questions and looking at the Scat. Cecil offered up a few copies of "Hovernews" to the most interested people.
Kent was out of gas, and said that if he left right then (around 9:00 AM) that he still wouldn’t get home until 8:30 PM- so he wouldn’t be running his Rocket today. I drove over to the ex race pits and off loaded my craft. Gary and Terry were there too. I did a little cruising to see how far the lake actually went. I flew all the way to the end, turned around and started back. Mr. Curmudgeon was about half way back waving me over so I flew over and killed the Rotax near his dock. He looked at me and started pointing his finger at me and then started his tirade… " I hate to wreck your fun BUT THIS IS A NO WAKE ZONE!"
I told him that I didn’t make a wake, and that "No Wake" zones are usually posted as such. I also told him I’d stay out of his domain anyway- No sense riling the locals. Back in the launch area there were a lot of spectators and every time you came back to shore there were many questions to answer. The most bizarre was from a high school aged kid that pointed towards my craft and asked,
He: " Is that Red one over there yours?"
He: "Mind if I take it for a spin?"
He: "Do you mind if I take it for a spin?"
Me: "I’m sorry… NO!"
I’d never seen this guy before in my life… Hehehehe… Maybe I should try that with Kent?? Hehehehehe!
Meanwhile Gary was in the launch area having starting problems with his newly rebuilt Rotax 582. This was kinda weird because he had been flying it the night before with no problems. It would start and run for a few seconds and then die. Acted like fuel starvation. We pulled the filter and bypassed it. Still no go. I lent him 4 new plugs (Dual Ignition!) and that didn’t work either. I went cruising for a while and when I came back I found the entire decking removed from his craft exposing the whole engine. Terry was talking with Chris Fitzgerald’s wife when Gary discovered the problem. Gary has a single "Marine" carburetor and he had disassembled it the night before. I walked up to Terry and said " Terry? I don’t know how to tell you this, But Gary had his diaphragm in backwards!" There was a huge roar of laughter as I played the "straight man". 15 minutes later Gary was up and running. I talked with Chris Fitzgerald for a while and then One of the spectators pointed out one of Bob Windt’s kids in a UH10 that was stranded in the middle of the lake. I flew out and pushed him back in. Bob saw what was going on and came to the shoreline to receive the DOA Craft. Bob had been asked to do a "Demo" over at the motorcycle race with his Wig and was getting things ready.
I finally flew up to my trailer just as it started to rain. I loaded up and as it started absolutely pouring I drove over and said goodbye to every one. As I drove out of the launch area there was a truck load of AMA officials from the Motorcycle race who flagged me down. They asked if I was part of the demo at their race. I told them no. They said that they wanted more hovercrafts to participate, and they wanted us to help dry out the track… Remembering that the Scat is the dirtiest ride on earth I declined. I would have looked like "Gumby" by the time I had done one lap! I’m not sure what the rest of the people did, but I was doing my best to do 5 hrs worth of driving in 3… Hehehehehe… SpeedJunkie… Thank you Mike Valentine!! (Valentine One- worth EVERY penny!)
This was a very well thought out event. The organizers did a very good job. The site and course were excellent also. I really enjoyed the weekend!
My 2 cents worth on racing (don’t hate me!)
We (an organizational "we" perhaps?) need to have some "real" competition especially if we are going to be competing at "World" class races. Kent running away with everything doesn’t do anyone any good and knowing Kent, what little I do, I think he would enjoy having some close competition to push and improve his abilities too.
How do we do this? Better craft? Access to them? Enough people willing to race them maybe? Right now Kent is the only person with a truly "World Class" craft- the rest of us couldn’t even get one if we wanted one- we seem to be really hurting in our ability to acquire really competitive craft.
Maybe I’m just a myopic "newbie" to Hovercraft Racing, but I HAVE been around a lot of motorcycle road racing and MX. The classes that are most popular have equipment that is available to EVERYONE, and you actually get better by pushing and being pushed by the others in the class. There are many cases where the "Grass Roots" teams are actually beating the "Factory" teams.
As I see it nobody’s getting pushed here. So how about getting some import action going on here? Maybe get some people with the right "connections" to import enough high tech "parts" to build some competitive craft for racing? How about some North American designs? Graham did it in Formula 25!
More Race Pictures!