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The Fastest Barefooters in the World

Scott Pellaton comes out of retirement to train Teresa Wallace  to break the 22 year old Women's World Speed Record

Scott turns 50 and celebrates by coming out of retirement to foot behind a drag boat again proving age is only a state of mind.

by Tim Pellaton

A trip to Chandler Arizona, where the World IHBA (International Hot Boat Association) Drag Boat Finals at Firebird
International Raceway would take place and a trip that would test the skills of two Speed Barefooters, one Rookie and one Veteran. This trip was made in an effort to start a speed barefooting career for one person and end one for another.

Letís start with the new career. Teresa Wallace, who in the past, has participated in three event barefooting along with Marathon speed Skiing and circle speed ski racing, is now the New Holder of the Womenís Barefoot speed record. In a practice run on Thursday, Nov. 16 at Firebird Raceway, Teresa went out skiing behind the boat she had been practicing with for the last 3 months and set a new World Barefoot ľ mile Speed Record of 89mph eclipsing the old mark of 74mph by 15mph. Her Boat driver, Pete Shutts of Pleasanton California, driving his 1966 shovel nose Sanger Hydro powered by a Chevrolet 540 cubic inch, 1054 horsepower, 125mph boat, drove perfectly for her allowing her to set the record with ease. That run set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Teresa was not to ski again until Saturday in front of almost 20,000 spectators which she has never done before. Between Thursday and Saturday we realized that the Sanger boat she had skied behind had developed some handling problems and we had to go to plan B, find another boat and driver. As a result of years of attending drag boat races with Scott Pellaton, we used some of our old relationships and found one of the best Blown Alcohol Flat drivers in the World. Tony Scarlata of Fairfield, California. Tony was racing two boats at this event. One was a Blown Alcohol Flat bottom race boat capable of about 170mph and a circle boat capable of about 130mph. The slower of the two would be good for us. So, on to Saturday. As some of the qualifying boats ran through the liquid quarter mile and just before the Blown Fuel Hydro class, the fastest of all drag boats, meaning they go through the ľ mile in about 5 seconds traveling around 235mph, that is where Teresa would fit in her attempt to now break her own record and try to be the first women barefoot skier to go over 100mph. The time came, the Head race official, Charlie Fegan, would rely on my opinion of the water conditions as they settle from the last set of boats that went through the quarter mile before he would green light the course for Teresa to go through being towed by Tony and his 130mph circle boat. After about 10 minutes, I gave Charlie the Ok to Green light the course and let Teresa come through. The starting lights would start flashing yellow and then go to a solid amber, meaning the boat driver would fire his engine and go on the green light. Tony started off just as instructed but started too late in order to trigger the timing lights. Well here they came into the course, Teresa had just stepped off her ski and was entering the ľ mile course. Tony started one of the smoothest accelerations I had ever seen a boat driver give a barefoot skier. As they made their way through the ľ mile gaining more speed and getting closer to the end, you could hear to boat really start to pick up speed to what sounded like a 100 mph pass. Teresa never faltered, she skied like a statue holding her position perfectly as she was trained to do by Scott Pellaton.

As Teresa passes the finish line, we knew it was a good run, she let go of the handles and safely slid to a very nice butt slide stop. And of course the announcer gave all the bad news, the clock was not tripped by the late start they got and there was no speed. But then we got word from Tony that his GP system had them at 104mph as they passed through the finish line. Everyone went wild in the stands knowing that Teresa was then the first woman in the history of the sport to break through the 100mph mark, even though it was an unofficial speed. Teresa and all of us were elated. Now, Charlie Fegan wanted her to go back to the starting line and do it again. This guy was going to hold the most exciting boat class of the event to run Teresa again. He wanted her to get that record. It was unbelievable that he would do something like this. With 20,000 spectators all standing and waiting for the blown fuel hydros to come out, they all also wanted to see Teresa get that record. Unfortunately when the boat was back in place and Teresa ready to go, Tony had trouble firing the engine and we had to scrap the run until later.

Charlie Fegan was committed to get her back on the water. He told us to have her ready for the end of the day. He was going to put her back out there so she could brake that 100mph mark. Then we ran into another challenge. Tony had to drive the boat that pulled Teresa in a circle event and ended up crashing. Fortunately he was not hurt but the boat was sunk in about 15 feet of water and they donít take the time to pull them out of the water until the end of the day. They do pull the boat out of harms way but then leave it in the water. Now what do we do?

We all started scrambling to find another boat. After about two hours we found one of Tonyís competitors that said he would pull Teresa and try to get her to the 100mph mark. As the day went on the program got farther and farther behind. We did not think we would get back on the water with Teresa. But low and behold to, Charlie was. In an effort to give the crowd the show they came to see, meaning the Blown Fuel hydro class, he scrapped some classes from running on Saturday and gave them all a chance to run Sunday morning. This gave us a window of opportunity to run Teresa just before the sun went down. The Top Fuel Hydros ran and got everyoneís adrenalin going. It was now Teresaís turn. With everyone in place and the water perfectly calm and a new boat and driver, Teresa started her pass like the others. The boat being driven by Dave Rankin started accelerating as smoothly as Tony had driven, we couldnít believe we got two drivers in a row to drive so well. As they approached the finish line we could see that Teresa was as solid as the other two runs and she makes it through the lights and slides safely again to a stop. Now we all have our eyes glued to the time board on the other side of the lake. Simultaneously the Board and announcer shared with us that Teresa had just broken her own record of 89mph and tripped the timing lights at 96mph, 7mph faster. Everyone including the fans were ecstatic and making a lot of noise. As Teresa was brought back to the photo pad where she would get interviewed about her new record, I couldnít but help recall this same feeling when my brother Scott broke his own record back in 1989 and would now go out in the morning and attempt to go over 110mph at the ripe age of 50 years old. The celebration continued through the night at dinner with her very proud dad and brother and the rest of our support group.

And now for the career that would be ending. Scott Pellaton has been the fastest skier in the World on his feet since the mid 80ís. He crushed his own record of 123mph in 1989 by going 135.74mph at the same site, Firebird International Raceway. He would now attempt to go 110mph on the weekend. Scott, all through the late 70ís and all of the 80ís made more speed runs on his feet than probably all the rest of the barefoot speed skiers combined, back in the day. His last official run after the 135.74 record, was breaking the tandem barefoot record with his good friend and buddy, Mike Temby in 1990 when they went out and skied together behind the same boat at the same time and tripped the timing lights at 99.66 mph.

Since then, Scott has simply spent the last 17 years aging, staying in great shape and working his business until he realized he was turning 50 years old. For whatever reason athletes at different ages start to feel their athletic mortality and sometimes want to get just one more adrenalin rush with something that they were the best at over anyone else in the World. Well, Scott decided he wanted to go out at the age of 50 and break the first record he broke back in the 80ís and break that record again showing the world that even at 50 years young, he is still the fastest skier on his feet, in the world. The 110mph record at the time in the 80ís was owned by Lee Kirk out of Long Beach, California. Scott felt that with the proper training and the drive to train another young female athlete (Teresa), that he could, without too much trouble brake the 110mph barrier again.

As with Teresa, they both had practice runs scheduled on Thursday, so the media could get some pictures for the weekend news channels. Teresa would run in the morning and Scott would run in the afternoon. When Scotts time came up, all things were put into place, the course was set with absolutely smooth water. The boat was ready and here they came. Scott stepped off his ski and readied himself for the 110 plus mph acceleration. The boat looked good, Scott looked totally in control and then the unexpected occurred. The Sanger boat pulling Scott, driven by Pete Shutts got out of control and Pete had no other choice but to shut in down just as the boat was coming into the timing light. This action put Scott on his butt. Being the seasoned veteran of these kinds of circumstances, he stayed sitting and sliding and released the handles and slid to a safe stop with his parachutes aiding in the slowing down process.

Naturally disappointed, Scott, Charlie and the rest of our crew wanted to find out what was wrong with the boat. As Scotts run was late in the day on Thursday we went to one of our very good Friends and Top Fuel Hydro owner and Driver, Greg Tedesco. We asked Greg if he would take the Sanger out on the water and make a run to see if he could figure out what the problem was. Greg, with a broken arm and all agreed to help us out. Charlie got Greg on the water. As Greg got the boat to that 90mph speed very close to the end of the course, the boat did the same thing and got out of control causing Greg to get out of the throttle and safely slow the boat down. When Greg got back, he said to get the boat to his pit and he would put his most valuable pit crew to work on the boat to see if they could fix the problem. We got the services of one of the best boat and engine specialist in the Industry. A guy by the name of Dago. When I was doing barefoot speed runs back in the 70ís, I remembered the name Dago. He was one of the most known race boat and engine specialists back in those days and here he was working on the crew of one of the Top Fuel Hydros in the World. I guess he still has his stuff.

Dago worked for about three hours on the bottom of the boat grinding and cutting some fins that were on the bottom that needed some attention. The boat was ready but Greg could not go out and drive again because his broken arm was hurting from the last test drive. So Greg did the next best thing and that was to get another great driver to test the boat and that was how we got to meet and know Tony Scarlata. Tony took the boat, went out, made a pass and to no avail, came back with the same opinion that Greg had. Put the boat on the trailer before someone gets wet. That was good enough for us. Tony then offered up his circle boat to pull both Teresa and Scott.

Well Saturday came and we have already discussed what went on with Teresa. When we left the Firebird raceway on Saturday, Tony had confirmed that he would borrow a 120mph flat bottom that should get Scott to 110mph and Charlie would put Scott and Tony on the water as soon as he could on Sunday morning. As Sunday rolled around, we got to the race site around 8am for some radio and TV interviews and started the ball rolling with Charlie. Charlie was excited that we would be able to get Scott on the water. He gave us a time and we started to get everything ready. The time was here, Tony had the boat at the launch ramp, Scott was at the end of the lake getting ready and they would go right after the River Racer class of boats. As usual, when the last River Racer went, Scott and Tony were ready.

Charlie again would rely of me standing at the finish line observing the water settling. As it finally got glass smooth, I gave Charlie the ok. The lights started flashing for Tony and they would quickly be coming down the course. I could see the boat coming from the end of the lake. Tony was getting Scott up to step off speed and then the acceleration would start. As they crossed under the holding rope for the other boats, Tony started to accelerate as smoothly as he did for Teresa but just a little faster. As they approached half track mark you could hear the increased roar of the boat engine really starting to pick up speed, faster and faster. Scott looked solid and in total control as if he had been doing this for the last 17 years and then they passed through the timing lights. The time came up on the board and Scott at the age of 50 years young, with the help of his Driver Tony Scarlata had come only 1 mile per hour from reaching their goal of 110mph. Scott went through the lights at 109mph. Not bad driving. Any time you can ask a guy to get you to a certain race speed without a speedometer and he gets you within 1mph, it just doesnít get any better. Scott was very happy with his run, the crowd was happy with his run and we, his support crew were very pleased with all the we accomplished on this weekend. Scott came to the photographers pad and talked about how he felt he could have gone another 10mph. Thatís how good he felt about his run.
So, we start one speed barefooting career and looks like we ended another.

As I conclude this amazing weekend, I would like to thank everyone that helped make this trip possible. Pete and Kathy Shutts for bringing their Sanger Hydro all the way from California to Arizona and getting a piece of a World Record, Mike Ehlert, Scotts observer and long time friend helped Scott and Teresa get their equipment on, a tough place to be because you canít see anything from that end of the lake. Thanks Mike. Teresaís brother Robert helped with some of the filming, John Hill, a team member of Barefoot Centralís Racing Cup Series team did a lot of videoing, and of course all the Firebird Raceway people that helped make the whole 4 days go as smoothly as they could.  Chuck Gleason of Eagle Sports for sponsoring both Teresa and Scott with custom matching speed barefoot suits.  Anna Hacket, marketing, Rick and Gary the announcers, Johnny Love and his partner for the help on the water and at the holding rope, both rescue crews for their support picking Scott and Teresa up out of the water and Charlie Fegan Ė President of IHBA (International Hot Boat Association), you rolled out not the red carpet Charlie but you rolled out the Purple carpet, pure Royal treatment. You are amazing. And last, the drivers and their boats. The Loose Cannon crew along with their owners-Driver Greg and Lora Tedesco, Tony Scarlata, Dave Renkin and his team. A huge Thank You to All.

If you'd like to see 23 min video of Scott and Teresa's Quest for Speed

Tim Pellaton, Scott Pellaton, and NEW Women's World Barefoot Speed Record Holder - Teresa Wallace