After a 49-year absence, the world’s fastest race boats, H1 Unlimited hydroplanes, are back racing on Guntersville Lake this weekend. Alabama’s own Wiggins Racing couldn’t be more excited about racing in what the team calls their “backyard.”
When the H1 Unlimited hydroplanes last raced on Guntersville Lake gas was 35 cents a gallon, Joe Namath was the Super Bowl MVP, Richard Nixon was sworn in as the 37th President, and a Toyota Corona cost $1,950. That same year, an estimated 40,000 people lined the shore of Guntersville Lake to watch the Dixie Cup boat race.
Fast forward to June 22-24. Wiggins Racing, led by father-son duo of Milton of Gadsden and Charley Wiggins of Birmingham will enter their Rainbow City-based turbine-powered U-27 Greater Gadsden presents Chase Building Group in the HydroFest Southern Cup. Their 30 foot, 170 mph plus H1 Unlimited hydroplane will compete with seven other teams from around the country.
“I’m very excited to introduce Alabama to H1 Unlimited hydroplane racing and we hope to develop new fans,” Charley Wiggins said. “The South is filled with race fans and when they see these massive boats skimming across the lake at close to 200 mph, tossing their roostertails 30 feet in the air, they are going to be hooked.”
Wiggins got hooked on powerboat racing as a youth when his dad competed. Both Milton and Charley raced smaller style hydroplanes on Guntersville Lake in the mid-1980s.
Charley followed in his father’s footsteps and made it through the boat racing ranks, rising to the pinnacle when became an H1 Unlimited driver in 2000. After injuries from a couple crashes, Wiggins retired from driving. The team hired Cal Phipps of Avon Lake, Ohio, who for the past three years has driven for the team.
In 2015, the father-son duo purchased the U-27 Greater Gadsden presents Chase Building Group race boat.
Wiggins said he doesn’t have a national sponsor but the business community in the area has contributed so that Wiggins can make his dream come true –winning in his home state of Alabama.
“We hope to generate a full-time sponsor so we can compete on the national circuit,” Wiggins said. “We will be a contender and with the local fans cheering us on, there would be nothing better than to win on Guntersville Lake,” Wiggins said.
As the local favorite in the race for the Southern Cup, Wiggins would also like to generate some interest from the technical talent in the Huntsville area to fill out his team’s roster.
“Right now we have five crew from Alabama and we would like to add to our team’s depth of talent," he said.
The team’s best season was 2015 after placing third in the national high points championship, and reaching the podium at two races. The Wiggins family also received the H1 Unlimited owners of the year in 2015.
In 2016, the team suffered a setback when battling for first place at the Indiana Governor’s Cup. The boat suffered a spectacular 360-degree blow-over accident. As a result, the team was forced to withdraw from racing for the season.
In addition to the U-27 boat, Wiggins Racing will enter a second race boat in the Grand Prix World support class hydroplanes that run with automotive power. Cal Phipps will also drive the Grand Prix World hydroplane.
On Saturday. June 23, H1 Unlimited testing begins at 8:45 a.m. Preliminary heat racing will take place from 2:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m.
On Sunday, June 24, gates open at 8 a.m., racing takes place throughout the day with the Southern Cup championship final scheduled for 5 p.m.
About H1 Unlimited
H1 Unlimited hydroplanes are the fastest racing boats in the world and their races are sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association.
With a rich history, the 115-year-old sport’s hydroplanes are powered by turbine and piston engines that produce 3,000 horsepower, allowing the boats to reach speeds of nearly 200 mph.
These majestic hydroplanes race in front of shorelines packed with fans on bodies of water throughout the United States.
For additional information on the 2018 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series, visit the Series web site at www.H1Unlimited.com or visit on social media on Facebook’s ‘H1Unlimited’ and Twitter ‘H1Hydroplanes.’