I had dreamed about going to Valleyfield since I was 10 years old. It is without doubt, the holy grail of hydroplane racing. I grew up in a boat racing family with my father driving a rescue boat. Built my 1st model with electric outboard at age 4 out of balsawood.
There were many model hydroplanes that followed. All inspired by the legend and my childhood idol, Peter Knight.
Left school at age 16 to become a boat builder and built my 1st race boat out of composites at the same age. This was a 25 hp outboard powered veebottom. At 20 I worked on building the Jamie Auld designed GP hydro for Peter Knight, called Boss Mobil 1.
In 1996 I built the sister ship of Boss Mobil 1, called Thunder Pumper for Tom Baker out of Queenstown – Maryland. The following year I fulfilled my dream of coming to Canada and attended Valleyfield for the 1st time. It was the most amazing experience of my life. Was so lucky to attend 5 regattas in North America in 1997 with Bert Henderson and Jamie Auld. The following year I crewed again for Bert Henderson who had teamed with Patrick Haworth in 2.5 stock to win the North American Hi–Points. Assisted Tom Baker and his GP team with Thunder Pumper, the eventual GP Hi Points Champion. 1999 was a great year as I was able to attend Valleyfield for the 3rd time along with 4 other regattas. Thanks Francois and Bob.
Over the years, I was lucky enough to meet some very good people, among them were Francois Campeau and Marc Perrier. Marc has to be the most passionate Hydroplane supporter I have ever seen and Francois is one of the most dedicated drivers. Francois made the trip down to New Zealand for 3 weeks in 2000 for the GP World Champs when Jean Theoret won the title, we both helped Jean there. I had hoped for Francois to drive Greg Oranges older Lauterbach GP but engine dramas put an end to that idea. During Francois stay, he helped lay up the right sponson with Greg and I on the GP hydro-Warlord.
This was my 1st GP of my own design and has won every championship in the southern hemisphere.
In 2001/2002 I built the 1st carbon fibre F1 in NZ with Malcolm Jamieson and we Formed KRB Racing, short for Kiwi Race Boat Racing. We sponsored the boat to Andy Elliott in England and did the whole 2002 UIM F1 World Championship. We had mixed success, results were good despite having no sponsors apart from ourselves.
In 2003 I joined the Harrison Racing team in Australia with GP101 and started Rebuilding a Jones 2 wing hull into a single wing for Bob Fisher, called The Wasp.
Warlord was sold to Ron Burton and later taken over by Paul Burton, Ron’s son.
2004 I started the new hydro for Keith Harrison to replace the Jones 3 wing hull- Spellbound. This was almost completed when in April 2005 Grant Harrison had a massive crash in GP101 and work stopped on the new hydro for over 2 ½ years. Late 2007 I was able to resume work on the GP.
Testing at Lake Glenmaggie Nov ’08
Unfortunately we lost a good friend in February this year. Paul Burton, owner and driver of WARLORD lost his battle with a brain tumour. He had always wanted to get to Valleyfield and last year he almost did. Sadly his illness prevented him from getting there. It makes you think about what you want out of life and for me, Valleyfield is the closest thing to heaven. I had made my mind up to return, it was an easy decision.
In June this year I made the 20 hour flight back to Canada . I stayed with Francois Campeau and his lovely partner, Joanne just out of Ottawa . I very much appreciated their hospitality. We travelled to Brockville the day after I arrived for my 1st race in ‘08. It was great to catch up with some of my old friends, Tom Baker, Jamie Auld, Bert Henderson, Derek Anderson, Pierre Maheu, Patrick and Warren Haworth. The racing was great and I think I took over 600 photos. The weekend went by too fast, before you new it, we were on our way home.
Valleyfield was the next race and I spent a few days prior to the race with Patrick Haworth. I had a great time catching up with friends and racers across Valleyfield . I had trouble with the French language. I had forgotten all that I had learned 10 years earlier. Simple things like ordering breakfast became a challenge, but I soon sorted that out.
It was a bit daunting driving Tom Bakers and Huey Newports GP-777 The Crush into the pits, narrow streets, Ford F450 Dually truck with the steering on the wrong side. I was nervously checking the mirrors while I followed Patrick into the pits with his 5 litre. Well I made it into registration unscathed and passed the keys on. Thanks to the ladies at registration. Wow, what a day. I had so many people to see in the pits. Caught up with Grant Harrison and we checked the boats out. The racing right across the weekend was superb, great to see the Grand Prix back as the premier class. Thanks to Denis Bourbonnais for getting Grant H and myself into the tower. Had a great time in the Canadian Tire stand, clocked up many kms running back and fourth to the pits and camp ground. Shot another 600 photos. I sunk many Molson Canadians. Friday, Sat and Sun nights were spectacular.
I don’t even remember getting back to the tent Friday night, but a security officer filled me in the next morning. Apparently, it was rather funny, say no more. Sat night I had the pleasure to meet Kelly & Jimmy Shane and friends, we dined in the streets on Subway, the only food available at the time prior to heading for the stage, bands and fireworks and more beer. Wow Valleyfield sure puts on a great weekend. The racing, the girls, the beer. In that order. I remember 10 years ago at midnight mass, xmas eve, in Valleyfield , I was asked “what religion was I?” and I responded ‘HYDROPLANE’
Thanks to everyone that contributed to a great 6 weeks break, special thanks to Francois Campeau and Joanne Dumais.
Cheers Grant Rollason