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Advance United Impresses on the Vintage Circuit

 

GP 111 Advance United at Mahogany & Merlot in Chelan, Washington, 2022.
Craig Fjarlie photo

By Craig Fjarlie

In the late 1970s, GP-111 Advance United was a top contender on the Grand Prix hydroplane circuit. The boat was built by Henry Lauterbach. The owner was Fred Wines and the heavy foot in the driver’s seat belonged to Kent MacPhail. Everything came to a dramatic end in March 1979.

Wines wanted to break the kilometer straightaway record, a mark that was held by George Babcock. Wines sent the boat to Lake Sammamish, just east of Seattle. On the first run through the traps, MacPhail averaged 167.311. On the return trip, he hit 172.734, for a two-way average of 170.024. Advance United had the record.

The team decided to make another run through the kilo in an attempt to raise the record. MacPhail had his foot to the floor when the boat blew over. He was rescued and survived to race another day, but the boat was heavily damaged.

Lauterbach built a new boat for Wines, but his life took a different turn when he became involved in a messy divorce. The boat never ran. “I don’t think he even painted it,” recalls Larry Lauterbach. Wines died in 1992, and the boat was acquired by Roger Mahan. He campaigned it as Pleasure Seeker with Jimmy King driving.

Jimmy King, GP-2 “Pleasure Seeker”, Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada, 1994.
© F.Peirce Williams

Pleasure Seeker was the National High Point Champion in the Grand Prix class in 1995 and ‘96. It also was the Canadian High Point Champion in 1995, and won the U.S. National Championship in 1996.


The GP-2 Pleasure Seeker running in Detroit, 1996, with Jimmy King driving.
© F.Peirce Williams

The current owner of the boat is Jimmy LaBrie of Brewster, Washington. He is the son of Ray LaBrie, who previously raced in the Pacific Northwest. When Mahan concluded his years of racing, the boat sat for some time in the Detroit area until Tom Borisch and Carl Wilson began restoring it. Before the work was finished, Wilson was diagnosed with cancer, so Tom Bertolini stepped in and helped complete the project.


July 13, 2008 APBA Gold Cup. Here’s Tom Bertolini driving the GP-111 Advance United Grand Prix that he helped restore.
©2008 F.Peirce Williams.

Borisch advertised the boat on line, but initially there were no takers. LaBrie was working on the crew of an Unlimited owned by Fred Leland. During the race in Detroit, he saw the boat and immediately wanted it. After returning home, he told his father about the boat. Ray LaBrie agreed they should try to buy it. “I take care of dad and his finances,” Jimmy LaBrie explains. “I pulled money out of dad’s account, considered it to be my inheritance. I spent some of my inheritance and bought this thing.” Initially, LaBrie didn’t tell his father what he had done. “Just about killed him not knowing, because he would tell me at night, ‘I’m having dreams, you’ve got to check.’ I was saying, ‘I know the people that bought it.’ I told Dad, ‘Let’s load up — we’ll go to Detroit for the boat races.’ Kip Brown loaned me his truck, took my dad, and we went back. Dad still didn’t know until we picked up the boat. He was excited as can be. Then Mark Weber helped us park it down in front of the Chevrolet display right behind the grandstand. Did a road trip home with Dad, and have been running the boat ever since.”


GP 111 Advance United at Mahogany & Merlot in Chelan, Washington, 2022.
Craig Fjarlie photo

LaBrie usually drives the boat, but occasionally Kip Brown takes a turn behind the wheel. “I’ve always had the running joke that Tiffany Troxell Brown is the back-up driver of the GP-111,” LaBrie laughs. “We always have a reason she can’t drive. It’s either not a record course, or the rose petals aren’t right on the dock, or the essential oils aren’t right.”


Jim LaBrie, driving his GP-111 Advance United 1980 Grand Prix class Lauterbach hydroplane at Wheeling, West Virginia in 2019.
© F.Peirce Williams

LaBrie usually runs the boat at Mahogany and Merlot on Lake Chelan, but he has taken it as far as Wheeling, West Virginia. “That was really neat, with all of them back there,” he remembers. LaBrie has a history of racing, and one of his favorite experiences was driving a C Stock Runabout that was owned by J.W. Myers. “I raced on Silver Lake in Everett,” he says. “I was in a kicker boat and I took timing marks all day. First time out, it’s J. Michael Kelly, Mike Perman, and Kyle Bahl. They all have their National Champ stuff on their sleeves. I come down and hit my time well. Everybody else is checking out. I come in and everybody’s applauding on the beach. It’s like, you got second, something like that. All those guys jumped, so you were one of the first legal boats.”

Jim LaBrie at Mahogany & Merlot 2022. Craig Fjarlie photo

In addition to racing, LaBrie is an expert painter. He has painted a number of vintage boats for the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum, as well as active Unlimiteds. “I painted the Pay ‘N Pak, the Atlas Van Lines, did the HomeStreet boats, the Goodman boat, and Scott Raney’s U-11.”

The vintage Advance United is nearly identical to the original boat. “Just a couple subtle changes to the paint scheme,” La Brie says. “The original paint scheme had checkerboards all the way over the cowling.” The boat is powered with a 427 Chev that has an 8-71 blower and two 850 carburetors. “It runs on Sunoco 110 race fuel,” La Brie notes.

Although LaBrie’s Advance United has a link to the original boat, it never raced with that name. In a few months, we hope to have a more complete history of the Advance United team and its many accomplishments. Meanwhile, anyone who has an opportunity to see LaBrie in action on the vintage circuit is certain to be impressed when he starts the engine and makes an exhibition run.

Take a look at more historic Advance United photos at
https://www.vintagehydroplanes.com/boats/advance_united/advance_united.html

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