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Monday, July 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hydroplane Racing: Theoret cruises to Gold Cup

Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — It was 38 years ago that a young boat driver named Billy Schumacher won the Gold Cup unlimited hydroplane race on the Detroit River. On Sunday, beaming boat owner Schumacher watched driver Jean Theoret pilot the Miss Beacon Plumbing to victory in the 2006 Chrysler Jeep Gold Cup, becoming the third non-American to win.

"I believe in miracles, and I believe in this team," Theoret said, shrugging off suggestions that the Miss Beacon's mechanics had somehow found new speed before he won the fourth qualifying heat and the Gold Cup final.

"We'd been hurt so much in the heats before, I guess the confidence goes away. And when the confidence goes away, you start to make mistakes, and you don't drive as well."

Theoret, the 2005 rookie of the year from Maple Grove, Quebec, won at an average speed of 142.441 mph.

Jimmy King of Memphis, Mich., finished second in the Miss Chrysler Jeep, the only piston-powered boat in the 11-hydro fleet. Steve David of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was third in the Oh Boy! Oberto.

Theoret was the next-to-lowest points accumulator in qualifying for the five-boat final. He got penalties in all three of his qualifying heats, the four infractions ranging from destroying turn buoys to jumping the starting gun.

"I thought I had jumped the start and was going to be penalized again, but I guess I didn't," said Theoret, who ran most of the race minus the big engine cowling and rear stabilizer wing, which were blown off in the second lap.

"I was coming down the back straight, and I saw this cowling in the water. I thought, 'Hey, that's mine. It's red and yellow.' But the boat just drove beautifully."

That won hearty congratulations from runner-up King, who said, "I know whenever I've driven without a wing, it was really ugly. My hat's off to those guys. They put it together, and as disappointed as I am, I think they deserved it."

Schumacher, who drove the Miss Bardahl to victory on the Detroit River in 1968 and Seattle the previous year, said, "I think Jean did a fantastic job of driving. He earned this race. No one had seen this boat run the way we knew it could until today."

FormulaBoats.com, driven by Mike Weber, this year's points leader going into the Gold Cup, had a disastrous weekend. He was over early at the start in one heat Sunday and had to run an extra penalty lap.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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