Sports

Hanson, Oh Boy! Oberto finally win Seafair

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Federal Way High School graduate Mike Hanson had quite a homecoming Sunday on the water at Lake Washington.

Hanson works as the crew chief for the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto hydroplane which won the annual Chevrolet Cup at Seafair in dramatic fashion. It was the first victory on Lake Washington by the Oh Boy! Oberto boat since Art Oberto started sponsoring a hydroplane back in 1975. The win also came on Oberto's 80th birthday and ended a streak of four straight wins by Auburn resident Dave Villwock in the Miss Ellstrom Elam Plus.

The Oberto is currently second in the national point standings behind Villwock and the Miss Ellstrom Elam Plus. There is one race remaining on the circuit, Sept. 17 in San Diego.

Oh Boy! Oberto is the second oldest corporate sponsor of unlimited hydroplane racing. The closest the team has come was in 1987 when driver George Woods, also of Auburn, earned the Oh Boy! Oberto a third-place trophy.

According to Hanson, the entire team has been looking to the Lake Washington race all year long.

"All season has been spent with the idea of winning in Seattle," Hanson said. "It has been our focus."

There were many reasons why the Oh Boy! Oberto team wanted to take the checkered flag in Seattle. The sponsor's headquarters are located in nearby Kent, and Hanson said that the choppy water of Lake Washington plays to the strong suits of the U-6. Not to mention Oberto's 80th birthday.

"He's supported this team for a lot of years and I can't think of anything better than getting the win for him," Hanson said.

Hanson stepped into the crew chief position with the Miss Oh Boy! Oberto following the 2003 season after 23 years piloting a hydroplane. Now, instead of rolling across the water at 200 mph, Hanson sets up the boat and tunes the turbine engine to produce the most horsepower possible.

“I grew up with boat racing in my blood from the ‘50s and ‘60s,” Hanson said on the American Power Boat Association’s Web site.

Hanson got into the hydroplane business as a youngster when his family would make their way over to the Columbia River in the Tri-Cities to watch the Atomic Cup race. But it wasn’t until his junior year at Federal Way that Hanson took his love of the boats to another level. That’s when he purchased a junior, small-class limited hydroplane and started working for renowned boat builder Ron Jones after his class made a field trip to Jones’ shop.

Hanson’s driving career included four wins on the national unlimited hydroplane circuit. The biggest of those victories came in 2001 on the Detroit River when Hanson won the prestigious Gold Cup — a title most drivers will say is the most important race of the season.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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