|Bianca Bononcini Q&A|
One of the big story lines for the 2011 H1 Unlimited season has been the Bianca Bononcini. She is hoping to become only the 2nd female driver in modern history to compete in an Unlimited hydroplane race. Bianca, 24 years old, comes from a boat racing family in Sammamish, WA., and has had success in the limited ranks. She won the Lighter Than Light series title in 2008 and 2009, and 3 race wins in her 1 litre hydroplane in 2009. She continued her success in the 1 litre class last season with more race victories.
In 2011, she was selected to be the first driver for Ted Porter's New Driver Development Program. The goal is to become a certified driver in the Unlimited class. Her mentor in the U-57 Formulaboats.com is veteran driver Mark Evans. Like her teacher, Bianca always has a smile on her face and is a great addition to the H1 pits.
HN.... You are four races into the 2011 season and the pilot "Racing New Driver Development Program". From your perspective as a new Unlimited driver, has it been all you thought it would be and why?
Bianca.... It has been beyond what I could have imagined. I was really intimidated going into Madison, not knowing how I was going to be treated or received. Everyone- fans, drivers, owners, officials, have all been so supportive and encouraging. I was pretty overwhelmed in Madison because although I have been to many unlimited races it was my firsttime with a team and I did not really know what to expect. My whole team (5, 7,& 57) is so amazing, it is a real blessing to be in the situation I am in with this group of people.
HN.... Take us through the events of how you landed in this new program Ted Porter put together.
Bianca.... I owe everything to Jeff Bernard, who is a good friend of mine, when he found out Ted was trying to put something together such as the NDDP he called me and we talked about my aspirations and goals in terms of racing and he really helped get my name into Ted’s ear. Then I put together a resume and sent it to Ted, with lists of my accomplishments, my interest in the opportunity and what I thought I could bring to the team. A few days later I got a call from Ted and the rest is history!
HN.... We all know Mark Evans is your mentor and a big influence on driving in the Unlimited class. Who else has helped you in your efforts to become a qualified driver and why?
Bianca.... Obviously Ted Porter, for giving me the opportunity and giving so many people the opportunity that he does. I really value and look up to Jeff Bernard and Kip Brown, both are great guys with good heads on their shoulders, AMAZING drivers, and so I take any piece of advice they have to heart. It has been also really beneficial to have scott on the team this year, since he is a rookie he has never been out on these courses either so especially on tricky courses such as Detroit, it is nice to hear first hand from someone who just went out there for the first time as well, and get his input! My dad, who although never drove unlimiteds, drove hydroplanes for a good amount of time and he helps me and encourages me a ton too. Plus my whole team in general, just with every aspect of this new position they have been so great and supportive! It would be really hard to stay motivated and eye on the prize all the time if I did not have such a great group backing me and there for me through all the good bad and the ugly! : )
HN.... What has been the one single thing, while driving the big boats, that you didn't expect prior to stepping into the cockpit of the U-57?
Bianca.... I was surprised how much you can really feel the weight of the boat through the turns. Everyone warned me about it but it’s not so much going into the turn but coming out of the turn I have to really use force to bring her back!
HN.... You've driven on 3 of the 4 courses now, except for Madison. Tell us a little about each and what you've experienced while driving on them.
Bianca.... Detroit was tough, those long straight-a-ways and tiny roostertail turn are really intimidating, but its actually a fun course, however, I can imagine with 5 other boats out there, that turn gets less and less fun! Tri-Cities was a great course, it gets really choppy at the entrance of turn one and that was hard to decipher from the shore and so you do not realize it until you are out there. Seattle was my favorite course, It was the roughest of the three I have been on, but I guess the nostalgia of it being seafair made it my favorite.
HN.... How soon after you become certified and can compete in heat racing will this happen?
Bianca.... A driver needs 10 laps over 130, 5 laps at any speed, and then you have to run two heats starting on the outside and back. The season is coming to an end soon so let’s hope we can get this all knocked out!
HN.... Mark Evans. Is he full of life and always smiling as he appears to the fans on the shoreline? Tell us about your relationship with him as the teacher and you as the student.
Bianca.... Mark is one of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I have known him most my life casually in passing and through my father, but to get to work with him on this level all the time has been great. He always cheers me up and is my biggest supporter and encourager. He pushes me to do better all the time and he works so hard at all of this. We have a really great, strong, and fun relationship. He is someone who I truly admire and aspire to be more like. We have so much fun, he is a kick in the pants and he has some of the most outrageous stories I have ever heard. I love you, Mark!
HN.... Does the team have plans on getting you more seat time in San Diego? Will the salt water and adding the air
scoop over the cockpit have any affect on the boat ride?
Bianca.... Yes, the plan is to get me some more seat time in San Diego. I have really enjoyed getting the opportunity to get time at all these different courses throughout this season. I am getting more and more comfortable with the boat and what not but it is a big machine and so it is always a crazy ride in my mind : ). CRAZY FUN, of course!
HN.... You drive and have driven in other classes, who do you see as potential candidates for this program?
Bianca.... It is hard to say, you know my main exposure is out here in Region 10 and there are SO many fantastic drivers all over the country in the other regions. On top of that, not that it necessarily needs to be another female but there are a lot more female inboard drivers out there than get credit. They are all fantastic ladies and phenomenal drivers! There are a lot of really great young guys out in region 10 too that I would love to see have an opportunity like this. I would be happy for anyone that wants to and gets the opportunity to advance in their racing career.
HN.... It looks like it takes a lot of strength to drive one of these things. How do you prepare yourself physically before each race weekend and even in the off season?
Bianca.... I went to the gym a lot, lots of endurance building exercises and weights. I also did Bikram yoga, which is 26 yoga postures in a 105+ degree room for 90 minutes. I know no one believes me but that is where most of my strength came from! These boats are heavy! They are just as tough getting them out of the turn as they are going in!
HN..... The song they play when you go out on the course is Van Halen's "Runnin' with the Devil". Why this song and do they play it loud enough for you to hear while in the cockpit? Kip Brown complains he can't hear his selection while driving! LOL
Bianca.... I love Van Halen, I have been to two Van Halen shows, even though I was not born until 1986, so I saw the watered down version of both Van Haggar and Van Halen. But I love the song and the title seemed fitting. As for not hearing it, that Kip Brown, must he ALWAYS be complaining about SOMETHING? There is just no pleasing that guy, I tell ya!