The two hour fastest qualifier window worked well, as per the new rule change. There were a number of N2 violations but that can be expected with the boats all running on a reconfigured course for the first time. As expected with the new course, the speeds were way down. Villwock's top time of 142 is twelve miles per hour slower than last year's top qualifying time (Steve David with a 154). Going further down the ladder, the dropoff in speed is even more dramatic, It was fun to watch the game of oneupsmanship as the qualifying session, and I'm sure this will only get more intense at other race sites as the season progresses.
Who's feeling good tonight
The U-1 and the U-96 Another offseason of planning and other teams improving and these two rivals still find themselves at the top. Neither team can feel bad about their performance today and they have shown that any boat wanting to win is going to have to get by both of them.
U-17 Our Gang Racing Kip Brown and the U-17 find themselves third on the qualifying ladder, only four mph slower than the pace set by Villwock. This team saw their qualifying times improve as last season progressed and today is another step forward. Now comes the true test: How will the U-17 compete in heat action?
U-7 and Scott Liddycoat The Black and white Valken Sports boat was flying today. Scott Liddycoat was able to get in nine of the required fifteen laps to qualify as a driver and the U-7 team has to be feeling good about their spot on the qualifying ladder.
U-11 Peters & May JW Myers was only able to take the boat out once during the qualifying session, but nonetheless laid down a very hot qualifying time. The U-11 has shown that they mean business. JW Myers has voiced his support of the return to fighting for lanes perhaps more than any other driver. If Friday is any indication, the U-11 is in a good place to make an impact on the heat racing on Saturday.
Who's feeling not so good tonight
U-21 Lakeridge Paving On Thursday the U-21 team won the annual "race to the pits" as they were the first team to find their way downtown and put their boat in its spot in the pits. On Friday the team was left scratching their heads. The U-21's first two qualifying attempts were wiped out by N2 violations, on runs where the boat wasn't that fast anyway. They finally got qualified legally in a run where Brian Perkins was clearly taking it easy just so the team could get qualifying points and the team qualified 7th, or second to last of the teams who laid down a time. Something with the setup of the U-21 clearly isn't meshing with the new Madison course, so it will probably be a late night and/or an early morning for the U-21 team to find a setup that works.
U-5 and Jeff Bernard Many people, myself included, are expecting Jeff Bernard and the U-5 to contend for the championship this season. After one day of qualifying the U-5 sees itself in the middle of the pack. While not a terrible time, it is a team that can clearly do better. I expect to see them early Saturday morning looking for more speed out of their boat.
U-22 Many people, myself included, were excided about seeing the return of the former Miss Madison hull and expected the U-22 to show a vast improvement in their performance with the hull. After Friday's debut, there is some work to do. The U-22 left the docks but the boat went dead in the water soon thereafter. This is a hardworking team and will have the boat running by the end of the weekend, but this debut with the 1988-06 shows that they have nowhere to go but up.
We still haven't heard from....
The U-25 and U-100 both came into the pits as qualifying was going on but didn't make an appearance in the water. The U-88 hadn't reached Madison as of Friday night although they are expected to be ready by the time heat competition rolls around Saturday afternoon. Although they didn't record qualifying times, with the new fighting for lanes format and the deprciated value of qualifying points (top qualifier now only gets 40 points, as opposed to last year when they got 100) it doesn't make a lot of difference. They're just a day behind in race setup.
After qualifying was over for the Unlimiteds, boats from the P1 series did some testing. There appears to be two classes: The P1 superstock class and larger offshore boats. For whatever reason there was little coverage of the P1 boats in action on the PA so the fans were left in the dark.The larger boats are loud but are anything but nimble through the turns. The smaller stock boats use outboard engines and are so quiet that even four or five of them running together doen't make much noise. I'm looking forward to seeing these guys in heat action and one of the P1 boats has already found its way to my heart: it's white and yellow with "Miss Madison" painted on the side in the classic mahogany cursive.
So that was Friday at this year's Madison Regatta. Of course there was the annual regatta/fourth of July parade where all of the drivers, two H1 boats(the current and former Miss Madison), and a large number of P1 boats were featured. All in all a great day. The wireless internet is being hit and miss tonight so I'm not going to try to post any pictures. I'll try to write another recap on Saturday night. Stay tuned.