We had the chance to sit down with the owner of our H1 Racing team, Debbie Gregory, to hear about what it’s like to be a part of the action. As owner, all the liabilities and responsibilities lie on her shoulders. Check out what Debbie has to say as she shares her experiences.
So you’re the boss of the operation?
I am the boss of this whole operation.
What exactly does that entail? Can you tell me a little about your responsibilities?
Well, I’m the owner of the team, and all the liability and responsibilities lie on my shoulders even though the boys are taking care of, you know… Matt’s the competition director, Adam’s basically the CFO of the company and taking care of the financial end of it, but ultimately the responsibility is on my shoulders and I am the bottom line; everything goes through me.
You’ve got your first race of the season coming up in July. Are you excited? Are you nervous? What sort of expectations do you have for the upcoming year?
For us, this is sort of a coming out party. This was my husband’s passion, and it’ll be 4 years in September since his passing. So, we’re pretty much carrying on his legacy. The boys talked to me, said, “mom, dad would really like this. Let’s go out and do this again in his memory.” So, basically that’s what we’re doing. We were always a family team, and still I’d like to keep it a family team, but with Unilever now, we’re so excited to be representing them, that I want to have the ultimate professionalism brought to these races as far as we’re concerned.
How long have you been in the boat racing game?
Well, we started in the mid ’80s in flat-bottom racing, with K Racing Runabout. Then we moved into Unlimited Lights and Grand Prix hydros. Then when Steve Woomer’s estate became available in, I believe 1989, we bought that race team. Then, from there, we purchased the T3 from Budweiser, and now here we are! I guess we’ve been hydroplane racing since 1989.
Is it the speed? Is it the water? Is it the roar of the engines? What is it that you love about racing hydroplanes?
Like I said, this was my husband’s passion and he loved everything that went fast. He had fast cars, fast boats, fast everything. And the adrenaline rush for these hydroplanes is absolutely amazing. It’s a hurry-up-and-wait mentality. I mean, you hurry up, and then you get on the water, and it goes by so quickly, and there’s so much work involved. I have to tell you, these crews work so hard. They work 16 hour days, and it’s amazing what they have to go through to keep these boats running and in good order, and I’m very, very proud of my crew. They’re all very capable and very hard-working, and especially with my boys onboard, it gives me a great sense of pride to show how much they care about this.
Say the race is on, and I see you on the shore. Are you biting your fingernails? What’s going through your head while the boat is on the water?
You’re gonna look at me and think I’m a nervous nelly. Most people don’t want to be next to me during the race because I never stand still; I pace, I worry; I watch the boat go out, and I peek as it’s going around, and then I’m out there as it comes back.
You watch the whole thing? You’re not closing your eyes or anything like that?
Bits and pieces I do. I get very, very nervous.
Do you get adrenaline in any other ways? Anything else you think compares to H1 racing? I know you do this for your husband, and your boys, but maybe there’s something in the DNA of the Gregory family that you guys just can’t shake. Would you say that’s true?
All three of my children were athletes, so we’re very, very, very competitive. I think maybe that’s the key to it. We’re all very competitive. We all like to win. We all like to do well. We all like to be at the top of the heap at all times. And, maybe that sums it up. We have a saying, “Whoever comes in second, nobody remembers.” We want to be remembered.
Be sure to check out our other interviews with the rest of the H1 team:
o USA Racing H1 Interview With Scott Liddycoat - Driver
o USA Racing H1 Interview With Matt Gregory – Crew Chief
o USA Racing H1 Interview With Adam Gregory - Director of Operations