A deck-to-deck finish rare for an unlimited hydroplane race was decided Sunday by penalty when the Oh Boy! Oberto boat, driven by national points leader Jimmy Shane, was assessed an extra minute for bumping the Graham Trucking I boat driven by J. Michael Kelly, giving Kelly the Albert Lee Appliance Seafair Cup for the second year in a row.
The boats were close throughout the five-lap finale on Lake Washington, but Graham Trucking lost its spoiler on the fourth lap while in the lead. Oberto closed in and appeared to drift into Kelly. Both pilots kept control.
Coming out of the final-lap exit buoy, Oberto overtook the damaged Graham boat and crossed the finish line first, but course judges ruled Oberto encroached. The penalty dropped Oberto to sixth in the seven-boat final field.
“I left him a lane and a half,” Shane told KIRO-TV after the race. “I don’t see how I could get an encroachment penalty.”
For a second year in a row, the Seafair final came down to controversy between Oberto and Graham Trucking boat. A year ago, it appeared Kelly jumped the start for a one-minute penalty, but Kelly was declared the winner without official explanation.
The race apparently marked the final appearance of the Oberto franchise, which after 40 years is pulling its sponsorship.