Evening Magazine Features American Challenge

Seattle's NBC affiliate KING 5 television featured Russ Wicks on their "Evening Magazine" program on Monday, May 12th, at 7 pm.  Evening Magazine is the highest-rated locally-produced show in the country.

Putting the pedal to the metal

By JIM DEVER / Evening Magazine

If fulfilling a lifelong dream meant risking your life, would you do it?  A guy named Russ Wicks would.  In fact, he wants to try something that a lot of people say will kill him.

Russ Wicks was determined to go where no human has gone before - or die trying.

"I guess it could be classified as the most dangerous sport in the world," he said.

The survival rate for what this Bellevue man is trying to attempt on water is just one out of five.

Russ plans to push man and machine beyond their current limits - he wants to make history on water.

But Russ grew up in the landlocked world of auto racing and Motocross.  He started racing professionally at age 9.

"I took this path of motorcycle racing and auto racing, and I always thought it'd be fun to race an unlimited hydroplane," he said.

So a few years ago, the entrepreneur got high-tech investors to back his shot at an elusive world record.

On June 15, 2000, Russ took the "Miss Free-I" to 205 mph on Lake Washington - the fastest any propeller-driven craft has ever traveled.

"I had never even driven in any sort of competitive race boat until I drove the unlimited hydroplane two weeks before we broke the record," he said.

A new guy who comes into their sport and never even raced a boat before most likely irritated some of the drivers.

"I think that there was some animosity toward me, probably," said Russ.

Now, with the propeller-craft record in hand, the stage is set for the ultimate showdown.

"The last time an American broke the record was 1967," he said.

The current, absolute water speed record of more than 317 mph was set by Australian Ken Warby in a jet boat a quarter century ago.

To bring that record back to America, Russ reinvented boating from the keel up.

Analytical Methods of Redmond helped create the "American Challenge" craft - a jet-powered vehicle that would have to contend with the ever-shifting forces of air and water while approaching speeds of 500 mph.

Critics of the design, including current record-holder Warby, contend Russ is headed for disaster. In fact, in a national magazine article, Warby predicts Russ won't survive his attempt.

Warby built a new boat of his own - largely out of plywood - to try and up his old record.

But Russ Wicks believes in his technologically advanced approach and he believes in himself.

Russ eats fear for breakfast and he is hard at work building the perfect pilot training with Todd Pratt, who already revived and extended the careers of plenty of top athletes, including players for the Seattle Seahawks.

If all goes according to plan for Russ Wicks, he'll soon be blasting past one of history's ultimate milestones.

He's betting his life on it.

For more information on Evening Magazine visit: www.king5.com