Kip Brown seeks Seafair victory in new Spirit of Qatar
Area driver Kip Brown placed third at last week’s Columbia Cup in the new No. 96 Spirit of Qatar. He hopes to pilot the boat to victory this weekend on Lake Washington.
Seattle Times staff reporter
From a broken leg to a broken boat, Kip Brown and the Spirit of Qatar are a match made in comeback heaven.
After a year of repair work, the No. 96 Spirit of Qatar is back on the water at Seafair’s Albert Lee Cup, with Brown behind the wheel. The boat didn’t race for the entire 2013 season because of damage sustained at the 2012 Oryx Cup in Doha, Qatar.
And before that, Brown missed a large part of the 2012 season because of his leg injury. During the Columbia Cup in 2012, a steering cable got loose, causing his boat to hook and come down too hard. A wing pedal came back and snapped Brown’s bone, putting him out of racing for six weeks.
“The little ball on the inside of my ankle broke off,” he said.
Although Brown tried to return for a race in San Diego after the requisite six-week resting period, doctors decided to do surgery to put screws in the leg. That surgery sidelined him even longer.
“I hated not driving and I hated being all hobbly so I couldn’t help out as much,” said Brown, who helps out with the boat’s repair and maintenance work.
But last season, Brown got back on the water to the tune of a Gold Cup victory – the No. 17 Our Gang Racing boat took on the Spirit of Qatar sponsorship while the original 96 was being repaired, with Brown driving.
And once those repairs concluded, the 96 took Brown on as its full-time driver.
“It was incredibly exciting to get into a piece that is this nice and be chosen as the driver,” he said. “I helped in the construction and it was almost a shame to put decks on it, it was so pretty inside.”
The 96 Spirit of Qatar debuted at last week’s Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities, and finished third. It was a respectable debut for the boat that had missed plenty of valuable time on the water.
And it missed even more time during Friday’s Albert Lee Cup qualifying sessions, thanks to a weather delay. High winds made the water too choppy, so qualifiers were pushed back more than an hour.
But it was worth the wait for Brown and his team, who are looking to improve on their Tri-Cities showing. The 96 Spirit of Qatar finished with a 148.883 mph average in its qualifying laps and was fourth fastest.
“Our finishing position was better than our boat last week,” Brown said. “However, it looks like with the way we’re starting out this weekend, we may actually earn one this week.”
For Brown, everything is earned, not given, including the chance to compete in his hometown event. A native of Issaquah (now living in Black Diamond with his family), Brown has grown up around Seattle and the Seafair events.
He is a manager at Morgan Motors in Issaquah, and customers are constantly coming in to ask for updates on his races. Brown hopes the next update he can give them is one of a hometown win.
“This is a cool deal to be a part of where I came from,” he said. “To be able to be part of this is a dream come true.”
• Dave Villwock did not record a qualifying time on Friday, after two attempts. He was hit with both an N2 violation and a fuel violation during qualifiers. According to H1 Unlimited officials, Villwock will have to set a qualifying time during Saturday’s test events.
• The No. 6 Oberto, driven by Jimmy Shane had the fastest qualifying time Friday, with a 156.243 mph average, which was 4.024 mph faster than the second-place qualifier (152.219), the U-9 Les Schwab Tires-Team RedDOT driven by Jon Zimmerman. The U-1 Graham Trucking rounded out the top three, with J. Michael Kelly driving the boat to a 149.756 mph average.