By Paul Danzer, February 5, 2013, The Columbian
Nelson Holmberg has been fascinated with hydroplane racing since he first set eyes on the Miss Budweiser boat when he was 12 years old.
And that explains why the Vancouver resident is calling the 15-hour flight to Doha, Qatar a trip of a lifetime.
Holmberg recently accepted an invitation to work on the pit crew for the Graham Trucking boat at the H1 Unlimited world championship event. Racing begins on Friday and concludes on Feb. 12 for the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship.
The executive director for the Port of Woodland, Holmberg worked in the pits as a fill-in crew member for Graham Trucking during last summer’s SeaFair races in Seattle. But being asked to travel halfway around the world as part of a team racing for a world championship was a nice surprise.
“I am very excited about this trip,” Holmberg said.
As part of the crew supporting driver Jimmy Shane, Holmberg said he will work mainly on the boat’s rear wings, which stabilize the rear of the boat. Filling in for a crew member who could not make the trip to Doha, Holmberg will provide ground support, making sure other crew members have proper tools and parts.
The crew will spend about seven hours on Thursday setting up the pit. Friday will include the first two of eight heat races, during which the boats make five laps around a 2.5-mile oval course in the Doha Bay.
Holmberg said conditions should be sunny and warm, but he was told the water can be choppy.
Four heats will be raced on Saturday, when Holmberg expects to be busy from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
After a couple of days off, the event culminates on Feb. 12 — Qatar’s National Sports Day — with final qualifying heats and the championship race.
Last summer, Holmberg did the same job on a fill-in basis during the SeaFair hydroplane races on Lake Washington in Seattle, where Jimmy Shane drove to second place in the finals. He said he was told after that event that they would welcome his help in the future.
Just three weeks ago, Shane drove to victory in Doha at the race that culminated the 2012 Air National Guard H1 Unlimited Series. Shane finished second in the 2012 points standings. In a change from the past five seasons, the Doha event kicks off the 2013 season.
The Graham Trucking boat is based Decatur, Ind. Holmberg said he became friends with some members of the team in 2003 and 2004 while doing marketing work for the Silver Dollar Casinos team.
He has become friends with Graham Trucking team owner Ted Porter. And, Holmberg gets a small taste of driving the 30-foot racing boats by racing a 1/10-scale version.
Since 1999, Holmberg has participated in the Electric Radio Controlled Unlimiteds, a remote-controlled hydroplane racing league in Washington and Oregon. He was a champion driver on that circuit in 2012.