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Originally published Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Retired Chip Hanauer has the fastest lap in hydroplane qualifying on Lake Washington.

Chip Hanauer retired as an unlimited hydroplane driver in 1999, but it was the renowned Seattle driver who had the fastest lap around the Lake Washington course Friday.

Special to The Seattle Times

Today

Chevrolet Cup at Seafair, at South Lake Washington, Stan Sayres Pits, 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; heats at 2:45 p.m. and 3:05 p.m.

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Chip Hanauer retired as an unlimited hydroplane driver in 1999, but it was the renowned Seattle driver who had the fastest lap around the Lake Washington course Friday.

Hanauer, whose age of 61 matches the number of unlimited victories he claimed in his Hall of Fame career, ran a lap of 153.691 mph in the U-787 Boeing hydroplane that runs on biofuel oil extracted from the camelina plant.

While Hanauer was the fastest qualifier, and he said he believed the boat was completely legal to race, he is now fighting the urge to try to persuade Boeing to actually race the boat.

"Today is the only day that there was any twinge of thinking, 'Maybe I still could do this,' " Hanauer said. "I never would, but that feeling came back. That lap today was the first time that it felt really natural. I wasn't driving with my head and thinking; this time I was driving like I used to drive, by nature."

Although others questioned whether the boat would meet the fuel restrictions to be legal, Hanauer believes the sheer speed of the Boeing boat proves that biofuel can work without sacrificing performance.

"The biofuel has been really positive and racing needs to show the way that the performance is there," Hanauer said. "There was talk about having one of the Blue Angels fly using biofuel. With this biofuel you sacrifice nothing, it's all a gain. It's all sustainable, it's all a nonfood source and it's every bit as good."

Among unlimited drivers who do plan to race, defending champion Dave Villwock led the way with a lap of 152.484 mph. National points leader Steve David was second at 152.322 mph with 10 of the 12 boats qualifying. Another session is scheduled today beginning at 9:30 a.m. with Heat 1A scheduled to go at 2:45 p m.

Hanauer, who is a special-education teacher, said he doesn't want to get back into the racing mentality.

"At least for me there are two aspects to my personality," Hanauer said. "One is competitive, and that's the racer, and I don't even like that person all that much. I had to nurture that person for a long time. And then there is this other side, the special-education teacher, and I'm more comfortable being that guy."

In fact, Hanauer said he came up with a saying to describe the split in his personality.

"Being a warrior is really good for your ego, but it's really hard on your soul," Hanauer said. "Now I'm all about feeding my soul and not so much my ego. My family likes me a lot better. I have so much respect for the craft of driving that I would never do it again unless it was 100 percent."

Hanauer is only one win away from the late Bill Muncey's record of 62.

"People give me too much credit thinking I wanted to race forever and stopped because of Muncey's record," Hanauer said. "It was definitely a variable. I think life gives you road signs and that was a really good road sign. I had had enough."

Hanauer said the Boeing boat could go even faster.

"Boeing does not want that boat going upside down and so it's really set up very conservatively," Hanauer said. "It did it effortlessly."

Said David with a laugh: "We got beat by a plant. That was really an impressive run. Being the top qualifier is more important than ever because it gives you lane choice and that can set the tone for your entire weekend. So it's definitely something you want to get if you can."

For Heats 1A and 1B this afternoon, the top qualifier gets first choice for lane assignment. Heats 2A and 2B are reverse order of the first heat. Heats 3A, 3B, the provisional and final heat give the points leader from the previous heats lane choice.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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