Photos: Kathleen Galligan / Detroit Free Press

Mike Brudenell:
For Jimmy Shane, the future in hydroplanes is unlimited

Published by Detroit Free Press, July 16, 2012

By Mike Brudenell, Detroit Free Press Sports Writer

It's a brave new world for Jimmy Shane, one of the nicest young men you'll meet in one of the most dangerous activities in the world other than base jumping in bat suits.

Shane, 26, is emerging as a star in unlimited hydroplane racing, a sport dominated by brave old men in their 40s and 50s -- even guys such as Dave Villwock and Steve David, who are approaching 60.

Over the weekend, Shane won three APBA Gold Cup heats on the Detroit River. He finished sixth in Sunday's final of the race, one of the most prestigious in all of motor sports, after jumping the start and being penalized. Perhaps it was the fault of his youthful exuberance.

He witnessed three blow-over Gold Cup heat accidents -- the equivalent of crashing upside down at Daytona or Talladega in NASCAR.

"It's fantastic. It's always been a dream of mine to do this," said Shane after a heat win Sunday morning. "To be in this position in the Gold Cup, it's just unbelievable (to win three heats), and I would never have dreamed it."

Despite his youth, Shane has been around power-boat racing for a long time. He is a multitime champion of American Power Boat Association classes and has run a handful of Gold Cup races during an apprenticeship in the big boats that has lasted five years.

This season, Shane is piloting the U-5 Graham Trucking boat for Precision Performance Engineering, with associated sponsorship from formulaboats.com.

Jimmy Shane: "It's fantastic."

He is making a splash with his driving ability and refreshing approach and personality.

Whereas Villwock and David are fine wine, Shane is a young vintage with years left to get better.

"The crew worked their butts off this weekend and over the winter," said Shane, who is from Havre de Grace, Md. "It makes it really confident for me to hop in there and run it (the boat) hard. You can see the results reflect all that hard work."

Shane is a welcome new face in unlimited hydroplane racing. He's smart, polite and aggressive and has the look of a winner.

And he is respectful of his elders, too.

"We know Villwock and David are fast," Shane said. "They've run the fastest laps I've ever seen. But we run them hard and give them everything we've got."

Is it time for young chargers like him to roll over the vets?

"No, it's actually nice to have those guys there, because you get so much advice and so much experience from just talking to those guys," Shane said. "Just to have them around is really, really good."

Spoken like a future champion of the fastest series on water.

Contact Mike Brudenell: 313-222-2115 or mbrudenell@freepress.com .