By Bob Condotta ...
Seattle Times staff reporter ...
KENNEWICK — With a boat that needed some significant repairs just to hit the water for the winner-take-all final heat, Steve David was hoping mostly he could guide the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto across the finish line in one piece.
Survival, however, proved to be a winning strategy as two contenders — including the Miss Elam Plus — were effectively eliminated for rules violations, while another, the Miss Beacon Plumbing, broke down on the fourth lap with victory well in hand.
The carnage allowed David to escape with the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup on the Columbia River Sunday, while the U-50 Miss Albert Lee, driven by Brian Perkins, finished second.
"I've gotten a lot of seconds here," said David, who finally won it in his 19th attempt. "This one is sweet."
The race also continues the U-6's ascendancy in unlimited hydroplane racing. Since building a new boat before the 2007 season, the Oberto has three wins — including last year's Seafair race — and five second-place finishes. It also is the current leader in the national points standings.
Still, the Oberto hadn't won this year. And when the final heat began Sunday, most observers expected it to be a battle between the Elam, driven by Dave Villwock, and the Beacon Plumbing, driven by Jean Theoret.
Theoret had outdueled Villwock in Heat 3A in the most thrilling of the early action.
As the boats jockeyed for the critical inside lane as the starting gun neared, Theoret broke away from the pack — some of which decided to cut through the infield — to race around the course and grab the inside spot. Villwock was on the outside, and when the boats cutting the infield came back to the course with about a minute to go before the gun, Villwock was called for encroaching for not moving over.
Villwock, who had won this event four straight times, said he thought he had the right of way and that "there were too many people trying to come from the infield and fit into too many lanes."
He was assessed a one-lap penalty, learning of it during the first lap, then slowing down considerably and finishing fifth.
Another boat, the U-10 driven by David Bryant, then hit the starting line too early and was assessed a penalty.
That left it a two-boat battle between Theoret in Lane 1 and David in Lane 2. It was close for a lap before the Oberto hit a wave, momentarily coming out of the water, allowing Theoret to jump ahead.
"He had me covered," said David. "He would have won the race."
David then played for second with a boat that had to replace its cowling and canard when it was washed down in Heat 3B by the rooster tail of the U-5, driven by Jeff Barnard, which was given a one-lap penalty as a result.
Theoret, meanwhile, looked to be cruising to the win when his boat suddenly came to a stop nearing the end of the fourth lap of the five-lap final. Theoret said later one of the blades of the propeller came off, causing damage to the back end of the boat in the process. U-37 crew members were left stumped, saying it was a relatively new propeller.
"This race was ours," said a dejected Theoret. "It was running really good."
It was an equally glum finish for the Elam, which made its first appearance of the year after skipping the Eastern swing to save resources for efforts to bring unlimited hydroplane races to foreign sites. Villwock said the Elam also had some electrical issues, and he was unsure if he could have caught Theoret.
David, meanwhile, celebrated his eighth career victory, remembering that he had once been fired after a race here in 1999 (the sponsor claimed he wasn't racing hard enough) and looking toward Seafair next week.
"We've never known about returning [to Seattle] as defending champion," he said. "Now we go in with some momentum."
• Rookie Kip Brown ran his first heats this weekend in the U-17 Our Gang Racing and hopes to be allowed to run on the front line next week in Seattle. A problem with the throttle cable, however, ended the U-17's day early. Brown is the nephew of team manager Nate Brown, a longtime driver on the tour.
• Also out early was the piston-powered U-3 Hoss Mortgage Investors Too. The U-3 was in fourth place with 1,080 points but decided not to run in the final after burning a piston. Owner Ed Cooper Jr. said the boat could have been fixed, but there was a chance it couldn't be, as well.
• The U-48 Miss Albert Lee withdrew after a scary incident in Heat 2C. Entering the final corner of the last lap, the boat lost its rudder and spun around, going from 160 mph to a dead stop in a couple of seconds. Driver David Williams, who was unhurt, said, "It's very violent. It's pretty intense."
• Greg Hopp won the limited lights final in the UL-15 Happy Go Lucky presents Pump Tech of Moses Lake.
FINAL HEAT ...
1. U-6 (142.362)
2. U-50 (128.928)
3. U-5 (126.653)
4. U-7 ( 118.735)
5. U-1 (Penalty)
6. U-10 (Penalty)
HEAT 3A ...
1. U-37 (151.289)
2. U-1 (149.527)
3. U-13 (138.212)
4. U-50 ( 131.588)
5. U-100 ( 128.239)
6. U-7 (119.482)
HEAT 3B ...
1. U-10 (147.861)
2. U-3 (131.993)
3. U-6 ( 127.271)
4. U-17 (126.714)
5. U-5 (Penalty)
HEAT 2A ...
1. U-1 ( 150.722)
2. U-3 (149.925)
3. U-5 (141.788)
4. U-50 (129.933)
HEAT 2B ...
1. U-6 (153.713)
2. U-37 (150.578)
3. U-13 (149.064)
HEAT 2C ...
1. U10 (145.594)
2. U100 (128.773)
HEAT 1A ...
1. U-1 (150.402)
2. U-5 (138.575)
3. U-50 (125.581)
4. U48 (123.080)
1. U3 (153.993)
2. U37 (150.731)
3. U100 (127.984)
1. U6 (149.138)
2. U10 (146.377)
3. U17 (119.334)
DASH FOR CASH ...
Final Qualifying Speeds ...
U-1 MISS ELAM (Dave Villwock) ... 162.722
U-3 COOPER RACING (Jimmy King) ... 162.074
U-6 OH BOY! OBERTO (Steve David) ... 161.492
U-10 HOSS MTG INV (David Bryant) ... 160.054
U-37 MISS BEACON PLUMBING (Jean Theoret) ... 159.145
U-13 SPIRIT OF DETROIT (JM Kelly) ... 158.699
U-5 FORMULABOATS.COM (Jeff Bernard) ... 157.172
U-17 OUR GANG (Kip Brown) ... 151.604
U-50 ALBERT LEE NAVY (Brain Perkins) ... 147.545
U48 LAKERIDGE PAVING ... (David Williams) ... 143.586
U100 MIRAGE BOATS ... (Greg Hopp) ... 139.853
U-7 FORMULABOATS.COM (Jinny Shane) ... DNQ
U-25 SUPERIOR RACING (Ken Muscatel) ... DNQ
2008 Tri-City Photos
Fly Navy Button