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Racer remembered for putting others first

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PROVO — Lance Faulkner may have always sensed he would die racing a boat.

Long before the 32-year-old Provo boat racer died in November, he designed his funeral program and casket to include the canary-yellow color of his boat.

In Faulkner's last season as a boat racer, he not only won the season championship in his class, he won every race he entered. Last weekend, boat racers from across the country gathered in Las Vegas to honor him.

Faulkner won't be remembered simply because he won, however.

Since his death, his mother, Marlene, has received more than 900 sympathy cards. Most say the same thing: Lance always put others first. And he died in an act that showed what kind of a man he was.

Instead of preparing his boat for a race the next day, Faulkner spent Nov. 22 working on a friend's boat. As he test-drove the boat in the Colorado River at speeds exceeding 100 mph, the propeller broke, flipping it and killing Faulkner on impact.

Two days later at the same event, another boat racer, Mike Hoban, died in a similar accident. Ironically, Hoban had examined Faulkner's boat after the accident days before.

The fatal accidents shocked the American boat racing world — and may cause sweeping changes to make the sport more safe.

The American Power Boat Association, which governs the sport, will discuss the issue in two weeks in Seattle at its annual meeting.

"It was a tremendous loss, personally, and to the sport," said Mark Weber, the APBA's Inboard Racing competition director.

"If someone asked me who were the two most influential people in boat racing in the Southwest, I would have said Lance Faulkner and Mike Hoban."

Faulkner created a points system in his Super Stock racing class to determine the season's champion. Hoban served as chairman of another class at the time of his death.

Both racers were thrown from their boats, and Weber and others say a protective capsule over the seat could have saved their lives.

Lance's mother agrees, but she says her son was opposed to the capsules because they sometimes trap drivers.

Weber estimates 90 percent of drivers get out of the capsule in an accident and says manufacturers are working to find ways to make exiting easier.

Of the 14 classes of inboard racing Weber supervises, most require protective capsules or cockpits. Weber, who races a hydroplane boat, must drive with a capsule.

Making the capsule or a cockpit a requirement for "flatbottom" boats like the kind Faulkner raced will be discussed at the APBA's Seattle meeting.

"There are very few classes left in the APBA where the driver is not being protected (by a capsule or cockpit)," Weber said. "I think at some point it will be a requirement for everyone."

Weber would not say how common accidents are in boat racing but did concede it's a dangerous sport. Marlene Faulkner, the widow of a man who walked away from six boat crashes, calls it the most dangerous sport in the world.

The accident that killed Lance Faulkner in Parker, Ariz., was his first. His impact on boat racing was so significant that race fans from Idaho who had never met him came to the funeral. Four private jets carrying boat racers flew into Provo for the funeral, which featured 150 floral arrangements.

While Faulkner's death was difficult for boat racers, it was obviously more painful to his family, which included his young bride, Melanie, and their 1-year-old daughter, Rylee.

It comforts his mother to know he died doing what she believes he was born to do. Marlene Faulkner remembers being pregnant with Lance, watching his father race.

"When the starting gun went off," she said. "Lance kicked as if he couldn't wait to get out and race."

E-MAIL: jhyde@desnews.com