SEPTEMBER 19-21, 2003
Heat Results ...
1st ... U-3 Llumar Window Film, Mitch Evans > 146.775
2nd ... U-1 Miss Budweiser, Dave Villwock > 144.412
3rd ... U-2 Miss Trendwest, Terry Troxell > 136.494
4th ... U-10 Miss EMCOR, Mike Weber > 132.404
5th ... U-9 Sun Harbor Mortgage, Mike Hanson > no speed
6th ... U-100 Vons presents American Pride, JW Myers > DNF
HEAT 1A ------ HEAT 1B
U-3 144.146 -- U-1 147.111
U-9 141.180 --- U-10 135.899
U-1 125.441 --- U-2 126.033
U-100 88.554 --- U-100 penalty
HEAT 2A ------ HEAT 2B
U-9 148.702 ---- U-9 149.328
U-3 145.437 --- U-10 142.493
U-2 140.804 ---- U-100 DNF
U-10 135.531 ---- U-1 DSQ
HEAT 3A ------ HEAT 3B
U-10 139.313 ---- U-9 147.611
U-2 122.123 --- U-100 145.665
U-1 Penalty ---- U-3 139.557
U-3 Penalty ---- U-2 135.470
Final Results from Qualifying ...
U-100 Vons American Pride - JW Myers 159.458
U-3 Llumar Window Film - Mitch Evans 159.232
U-9 Sun Harbor Mortgage - Mike Hanson 158.895
U-1 Miss Budweiser - Dave Villwock 156.268
U-8* Llumar Window Film - Nate Brown 155.110
U-10 Miss EMCOR - Mike Weber 152.529
U-6* Oh Boy! Oberto - Steve David 147.933
U-25* Mister Home Loans - Ken Muscatel 145.327
U-2 Trendwest - Terry Troxell 145.327
* Withdrew from race because of damage in qualifying
By Bill Center, San Diego Union-Tribune ...
Pistons power a throwback win ...
It was when things were looking the worst for Mitch Evans yesterday – and truthfully, he couldn't see a thing – that the driver of the last piston-powered Unlimited Hydroplane felt the most confident.
Coming out of the northern turn of the Bill Muncey Cup finale on east Mission Bay, Evans was hit by a wall of water from the roostertails of the two boats clearly in front of him and the one alongside him.
"I couldn't see a thing," Evans said. "I just kept the boat pointed toward what I thought was an open spot, listened and checked the gauges."
What Evans was looking for were the telltale signs that the water had drowned out the engine. Had he been in one of those new-fangled turbines that have dominated the sport for two decades, that certainly would have been the case – as the favored Mike Hanson can attest.
But on this day, the 12-cylinder Allison powerplant – whose cousins once powered World War II fighter planes – kept running ... and running strong.
"It was when I was coming out of the water that I not only knew the engine wasn't going to quit, but that it was strong," said Evans.
Strong enough to run down the two boats ahead of him and then hold off Dave Villwock's fast-closing Miss Budweiser over the final 1½ laps of the five-lap championship heat of the Washington Mutual Thunderboat Regatta to win before an estimated 50,000 lining the 2½-mile course.
Because of salt water's effect on turbine engines, Mission Bay was among the last of the Unlimited circuits to yield wins to the Vietnam-era helicopter engines.
But yesterday's triumph for the boat owned by Indiana schoolteacher Ed Cooper was the first for a piston-powered boat in San Diego since George Wood drove Oh! Boy Oberto to victory in 1988.
Wood, who returned to racing this season after a near-crippling blow-over accident a decade ago, was on hand to see the revenge of the pistons. He had finished second to another Unlimited veteran, Jerry Hopp, in the finale of the automotive-powered Unlimited Lites heat.
Although he had a good feeling while viewing the early-race waterfall from the inside of his canopy-enclosed cockpit, Evans still had the matter of overtaking the two boats ahead of him before he could cele brate his second straight win and third this season for the boat that was the sentimental favorite.
Come-from-behind wins are uncommon in Unlimited Racing. But Evans – who decided to use the ample power of the Allison and follow the longer path while staying in the outside lanes rather than risking the rougher water on the inside of the course – made quick work of Mike Weber and then Terry Troxell on the third lap.
"I steered as wide a course as I could to keep the speed up. It took me about a lap to settle everything down," said Evans, whose brother Mark was seriously injured in an accident at the historic Gold Cup won by Mitch in Detroit last month. "It was lumpy. We had to find a path from the outside (lane). And I didn't really know where the competition was."
The main competition was Hanson, the defending Muncey Cup champion and winner of all three preliminary heats he ran yesterday. But Hanson's boat was soaked by Villwock's Miss Budweiser just after the start and spent most of the race coughing and sputtering in a futile attempt to regain power.
That opened the door for Evans, whose team had to redraft its strategy Saturday afternoon when each of the boats was asked to compete in four prelim heats rather than the traditional three (because of the short field left by the withdrawal of a third of the nine entrants).
No problem for the turbine machines that run flawlessly as long as they are fed fuel and protected from salt water. Not so simple for capricious, 60-year-old engines driven by thousands of moving parts.
"Since everyone was heading to the finals and the driver (Villwock) and boat (Miss Budweiser) titles had been clinched, we made the decision to take it easier and not try to win the heats and save the best engine for the finals," said Evans.
Despite winning half of the season's six races, Evans and his boat only finished third in the final standings.
"We had a roller-coaster season," he said. "We had great weekends and terrible weekends. But you couldn't write a movie script like this."