wont let 2005 crash
keep him from drivers seat
and partner buy Unlimited
U-21 boat to compete in 2006
(June 2006) Freedom, the name of Kevin Aylesworths
new Unlimited hydroplane race team, is fitting considering that a mere
nine months ago, he was lying in a hospital bed connected to a life
support system after surviving one of the sports most violent
and partner Jeffrey Johnson.
The 37-year-old from San Diego had flipped his Unlimited
Light race boat in dramatic style while charging for the lead against
Greg Hopp on the backstretch of the first lap of the seasons final
race event at the San Diego Thunderboat Regatta on Sept. 18, 2005. As
he neared the turn, his left sponson lifted into the air, flipping the
boat upside down. Aylesworth would have to fight his way out of the
cockpit while submerged under water.
But the force of the impact had crushed the air vent in the front of
the boat and blasted water into the cockpit. Breathing little air and
mostly salt water he took one last gasp, pushed open the
capsule and managed to free himself from the cockpit just before blacking
The rescue team arrived quickly to pull Aylesworth, then floating face
down, out of the water and airlift him to a nearby hospital, where he
spent the next four days recovering on a ventilator. Most of his injury
occurred from heart trauma and from inhaling Mission Bay salt water
into his lungs. The day he was released from the hospital, he had only
20 percent use of his lungs and heart. It took him four weeks of bed
rest and six months to fully recover.
It was a long, six-month recovery, and Im
glad to finally get it behind me, Aylesworth said in a June 16
telephone interview. He received his doctors clearance to race
on May 1 and recently participated in capsule training in Washington
state. He said he is not tentative about getting into the cockpit after
his crash but admitted that the capsule training brought back the memories
of that fateful day.
Im not tentative at all about racing; Im ready to
go, he said.
The accident obviously did not deter Aylesworth from boat racing because
in September 2005, he and friend Jeffrey Johnson bought the former U-25
Ron Jones Sr.-designed boat from owner-driver Ken Muscatel and spent
the offseason completely overhauling the hull. They sent the two motors
to Montana to be overhauled by the same engine experts who built engines
for the 2005 series champion U-1 Miss Elam Plus.
Now Aylesworth is among a newly reorganized group of Unlimited drivers
and owners taking to the water this year in the American Boat Racing
Associations second season as the Unlimited series sanctioning
organization. Several teams have sold their older boats to buy newer
ones, including four former Budweiser boats that will be racing under
new names. In all, 11 Unlimited teams are headed to Madison for the
55th Madison Regatta, July 1-2.
Its interesting that if youre ever going to be a rookie
coming onto this tour, this is the season to do it. We will have probably
the 10 best drivers and 11 of the fastest boats to ever compete on the
tour, Aylesworth said.
And although hes never before been to Madison, Ive
seen the movie several times. Its a great inspiration for
Aylesworth grew up with engine oil in his veins, after having grown
up around the sport in San Diego, where his father, Richard Aylesworth,
helped organize the Thunderboat Regatta in 1975. Kevin began his racing
career at age 12 and was inspired later in life when International Hall
of Fame Unlimited hydroplane champion Bill Muncey gave him his first
race boat, a bathtub equipped with a 7.5 horsepower Evinrude outboard.
Muncey was a friend of his fathers, so Aylesworth was able to
learn much from the veteran racer, who was killed in 1981 at age 52
in his third career boat racing crash. Muncey, still the sports
winningest driver with 62 career victories, served as Aylesworths
mentor in those early days and encouraged him to follow his dreams.
I studied how Bill (Muncey) drove and how he nailed his starts,
and I listened to his articulate media interviews, Aylesworth
He told great stories that made kids like me dream of becoming
a boat racer. Now Im living the dream, and its my turn to
pass it on.
Aylesworth worked his way up from 1-liter hydros to the Unlimited Lights
class, where he accumulated an impressive 15 top-five finishes and the
2004 World Championship in Quebec.
So after a successful career in the Unlimited Lights, Aylesworth this
year enters the sports premier level of hydroplane racing, fielding
the U-21 Freedom racing team. The Unlimited team is donating money to
a local charitable group in each race city it visits this year. In Evansville,
it will contribute to the local Boys Club; in Madison, it is giving
to the Make A Wish Foundation.
We dont just want to go boat racing, we want to have a drastic
impact on the longterm future of boat racing, Aylesworth said.
Thats part of what Bill Muncey taught me about giving back
to the communities that support this sport.
ABRA Unlimited historian Fred Farley said, Kevin Aylesworth had
a very successful career in the Lights, so this was the next logical
step for him. I expect to see him do well in the Unlimiteds.
Aylesworth is backed by a solid team that includes owner Johnson and
his father. Johnson, his partner, said of him: Kevin might be
new to this class of racing, but hes passionate, hard-working
and backed by a crew with experience on the water and on
Aylesworth said there is a huge difference in driving the Unlimiteds
versus the Lights. The biggest difference is the amount of boat
youre bringing. The Lights go about 150 mph and are agile, while
the Unlimiteds can top 200 mph. Thats a lot of boat on the water
and a lot of speed.
The team also is exploring the possibility of fielding a piston-fired
boat in future seasons. The only piston-powered boat still on the Unlimited
circuit today is Ed Coopers U-3 Master Tire, based in Evansville.
Aylesworth said fans miss the noise from those early years when Muncey
was winning races in a piston boat. The team has aspirations of using
a Griffon-power plant that would in theory generate more noise and speed.
The only obstacle to pursuing this course is sponsorship money, Aylesworth
If we find a sponsor willing to partner with us in this adventurous
endeavor, San Diego will find itself once again home to an Unlimited
thunderboat race team, Aylesworth said.
Aylesworth, who is single, and his two 13-year-old sons reside in San
Diego, where he operates an equipment rental company. He says his boys
remind him of when he was growing up around the sport.
The cornerstone of our team is, Wherever we race, children
win, he said. We want to be an inspiration to everyone
to succeed in life.
Judging from the comeback he has personally made from his crash last
year, Aylesworth wont have any trouble inspiring others while
touring the country this year.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner
of RoundAbout Madison. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: info@RoundAboutMadison.com.
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