Local motor notes: Area resident powering hydroplane revival

Published: Friday, May. 31, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 8C
Last Modified: Friday, May. 31, 2013 - 5:13 pm

Sam Cole loves the Sacramento region so much he relocated the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Association global headquarters from Pasco, Wash., to Granite Bay in April.

And Cole and the association are bringing speed boat racing back to Folsom Lake with this weekend's BigWake Weekend, a three-day water sports festival starting today that features jet-powered boats capable of going more than 200 mph.

"We're moving and expanding the sport, and a big part of that plan is to build a following with a race here in the Sacramento area," said Cole, the association's chairman of the board and a 1971 graduate of El Camino High School. "We hope that Sacramento will become the premier race in the United States."

Cole, an Elk Grove resident, is expanding the sport internationally. The hydroplanes have raced in Qatar, and Cole said he is in talks with the Chinese government to hold a race off that country's coast in 2014.

Cole, vice president of a Sacramento-area health care company when not jetting around the globe hyping H1, said it took his team three years to persuade state parks officials to allow H1 racing at Folsom Lake after a 46-year absence.

BigWake officials expect more than 30,000 fans this weekend to watch several classes of boats race on the two-mile course, listen to live music and take part in a three-day picnic and party along the banks of the lake on the Granite Bay side.

"This event will expose thousands to the lake and to the sport," said Cole, who helped rescue the sport from near-extinction in 2004 after it changed hands three times in a six-month period.

It's now owned by an association formed by the controlling interests of four race sites, a rotating group of four race team owners who serve one-year terms and the board headed by Cole.

Cole's father, Phil Cole, was the Sacramento Cup race director for the races at Folsom Lake in 1966 and 1967. Phil Cole, who passed away in 2006, was a vice president at Harrah's Casino and Resort in the 1960s and brought the hydroplanes to Lake Tahoe from 1963 to 1965, Sam Cole said.

The biggest reason the race hasn't returned in nearly 50 years, Cole said, was scheduling. The Sacramento Cup was in September each year when the water levels are so low that the boats had to be pushed far out into the middle of the lake, making it difficult for spectators to see.

That won't be the case this weekend as state and federal officials have made sure Folsom Lake has enough water for great race conditions and spectator viewing.

"State Parks and the Bureau of Reclamation have been really cooperative, and the lake level is perfect," Cole said. "If it was any higher, we'd lose a lot of parking. As it is now, we have 600 more parking spaces that we didn't count on."

For more information, go to bigwakeweekend.com.

Et cetera

• NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Clint Bowyer will compete against Auburn resident Dennis Kurrell in a race through a Save Mart Supermarket (5600 Folsom Blvd.) on Monday at 12:30 p.m. to gather the basic supplies needed for a weekend at the Sonoma Raceway for the 25th annual NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350 on June 23. Kurrell was randomly selected to compete against Bowyer, the defending Toyota/Save Mart 350 champion.

• The second round of the AMA EnduroCross series will be June 8 at Sleep Train Arena. Riders will include FMF KTM's Mike Brown, who won the opening round May 3 in Las Vegas. Northern California riders Colton Haaker (Gilroy) and Cody Webb (Watsonville) will try to get their first victories of the year. For more information, go to www.endurocross.com.

Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at editorwriter@att.net.

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