A Gold Cup of firsts on the Detroit River

Today marks the beginning of the 96th Detroit APBA Gold Cup boat races in Detroit and the oldest trophy in professional motor sports.  Still, with that storied history, this year features two firsts. 

When Bianca Bonocini hops in the pilot seat Friday, it will be her first time piloting an unlimited hydroplane in competition.  Hydroplane racing is in her blood. Her dad retired from the sport in 2004 and she has long had a dream of being an unlimited class driver herself.  Technical difficulties kept her from reaching that dream last weekend, giving her a chance to make her inaugural trip in a race that she has fond memories of.

“The gold cup is the longest lasting cup in racing history. It’s such a historic place for this sport ,” she said.  “Growing up this was one of my favorite races to come to and I’m so happy to be back here and be part of this great event.”

This is also the first year of the Powerboat P1 series coming to the Gold Cup races after refining their series in the United Kingdom for the last eight years.  Their Panther series boats are v-hulled, instead of hydroplanes.  Each driver has the same boat style and engine, so the difference between winning and losing comes down to driver skill and ability.

“Its not about the money or the size of the check that wins you the race.  It’s the racer that makes the difference and that adds professionalism to the sport,” said Jordan Smith, public relations assistant for Powerboat P1.  “You’re going to see a lot of our races coming right down to the final lap.”

He also noted that the cost per boat is under $100,000, making it easier for people to get involved in the racing series compared to hydroplanes.  And the boats still race at speeds in excess of 75 miles per hour.

Smith noted that participating in this years Gold Cup races is critical to the Powerboat P1 series catching on in the United States, due in part to the rich history of the race.

“We’re honored to be a part of the event.  To be here for our second event in our first year, we couldn’t be happier about being here in Detroit for the Gold Cup,” he said.

Friday is qualifying for the Gold Cup, while Saturday and Sunday are race days.  To find out more, or purchase tickets visit

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