Darwin Would Be Proud: Inside a 3000-HP, 230-MPH Hydroplane

Article by Rick Jensen (Turboguy). Video courtesy of GoPro.

Of all the Darwin Award-winning shortcomings in our DNA, the "I’m a great driver” gene is the most hilarious. Nature, in all its wisdom, realized that once humans discovered penicillin, it’d need another effective way to control overpopulation. It came in the form of internal combustion engines, short attention spans and extreme overconfidence. (Smartphones and Snapchat don’t help either). Nature, it seems, has a great sense of humor.

But any trained driver who’s touched 130 mph—especially on a public road—knows that kind of speed needs to be respected. Things happen much faster than our ability to react, and the slightest bump or curve can turn King Speed Racer into a Live at 5 cautionary tale.

Now imagine driving 230 mph and doing it on the liquid equivalent of a golf ball’s pockmarked surface. A surface that changes altitude in a never-ending series of troughs and waves. And doing it with a 3,000-hp Lycoming jet engine strapped to your ass. Wrap your head around that one and you’ll understand the floating insanity of H1 Unlimited Hydroplanes.

This GoPro vid not only gives a great look at these gonzo Unlimited boats, it also showcases the unlimited angles and mediums available with these now-ubiquitous cameras. But once the drivers are sealed into their cabins/coffins and the jets are powered up, this piece turns into a stomach-churning adrenaline ride.

Hydroplane speeds seem way faster than road speeds, so the boats’ left-right dancing will instantly fray your nerves. These things run really close together, so seeing a collision, and then a blinding spray of water gives you a holy-crap, brace-for-impact scare. And when the left-right skipping finally turns it sideways, the ominous hard left turn before rolling into what very well could be a watery grave is effing terrifying.

As this piece wraps up take a look at the pilot’s face. That combo of shell shock, relief and strong desire to spend a weekend in an easy chair perfectly describes the stones needed to pilot these rockets. Those of us on terra firma like to brag about hitting Ludicrous Speed, but I think we’ve just found the actual definition!

Between a 230-mph racecar driver and a 230-mph hydroplane pilot, which one has the hardest time going through security due to his titanium attachments? Nut up and tell us in the comments below.


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Rick Jensen (Turboguy)

Rick's a Turbo Buick and EFI GM nut who was born in Nebraska, then reborn on the mean streets of Queens, NYC. Spent high school and college wrenching and racing before moving to NYC and spending 13 years as the editor-in-chief, editor, and writer for some of America's best automotive magazines, websites, and ad agencies. Favorite moments include running low 10s in my Turbo Buick, Exposing GM's weak-assed early CTS-V drivetrains, road racing Corvettes and Camaros, and doing high-boost launches to make my kid laugh.
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