Silenced by the pandemic in 2020, the roar of jet-powered sprint boats returns for faithful racing fans Saturday at Port Angeles’ Extreme Sports Park.
Two-person sprint boat teams from around the Pacific Northwest will zip through Extreme Sports Park’s water-filled channels in the first of two American Sprint Boat (ASB) racing events of the summer, the other set for Sept. 11.
And motor sports fans from around the North Olympic Peninsula and beyond can sit back and enjoy the scene, complete with the usual spills and thrills.
Gates open at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with qualification heats starting at 10 a.m. at the Extreme Sports Park, 2917 W. Edgewood Drive.
Three classes will compete: modified, which have engines up to 350 cubic inches; 400s and unlimited, the biggest and baddest of the boats.
Cut-down heats and finals for each class will be held in the afternoon and the day of racing usually wraps between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.
There will be food vendors, race team merchandise for sale and a beer garden on site as well.
Drivers and navigators travel through a “rotation,” or series of around 30 twists and turns around the track’s maze of islands, reaching speeds well in excess of 90 mph.
“If you want more G-forces in a motorsport, buy an aircraft,” Port Angeles-based Wicked Racing No. 10 driver Dan Morrison said. “It’s like a roller coaster with a throttle on steroids, only way more intense. The first time I raced I felt like my eyeballs vacated from the side left of my head.”
Another area team is the Live Wire 02, piloted by Vaughn Trapp of Port Angeles with his son Matt Denson as navigator. Trapp was the longtime crew chief for the boat when it was driven as the TNT Live Wire 02 by Sequim’s Paul Gahr.
Longtime race teams such as Bandit Racing, two boats piloted by the brotherly duo of Darrin and Brian Swindahl, also will race.
Mere hours to learn
What makes sprint boat racing unique is drivers and navigators have just hours to memorize the track’s layout of twisting turns and never get a chance to practice on the course.
The course rotation will be released at the free Sprint Boat Show and Shine event today from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Lower Elwha Food and Fuel, along U.S. Highway 101 at 4773 S. Dry Creek Road.
Sprint boat teams will have their boats checked out to ensure they meet technical and safety requirements and fans are welcome to take pictures and talk racing with drivers and navigators as well as 92.9 KISM radio personalities Brad and John.
Miss a turn and boats earn a dreaded DNF, or “Do Not Finish,” placing each sprint boat team’s emphasis on first memorizing, and then communicating the track layout via a series of hand signals.
Crashes are common, some of them spectacular rollovers, but drivers and navigators typically walk away unharmed thanks to reinforced roll-bars and other standard safety features.
The pressure is on sprint boat teams, to qualify, and to win, from the opening second of Saturday’s races.
Race-day announcer Bill London will return to walk spectators through the day’s action.
Tickets are $30 for those age 16 years and older, $25 for seniors older than 55 and military members with ID, $25 for children 12 and younger.
The ticket price includes parking.
Camping also is available for $25 per night, or $50 for the weekend.
Tickets can be bought at online at tickets.extremesportspark.net or at the gate on race day.
The race also will be shown live at facebook.com/EspPortAngeles and on YouTube at tinyurl.com/PDN-SprintBoats21.