Unlimited Hydroplane racing returns to its Pacific Northwest roots with the first of two stops on the 2009 schedule. This weekend's Columbia Cup event continues a rich tradition of hydroplane racing on the banks of the river known for tremendous deck to deck action and amazing finishes.
Courtesy: ABRA Media Relations
After the first two events of the 2009 ABRA unlimited hydroplane racing season, the 2007 and 2008 national high point champions find themselves atop the driver and team standings as the race teams prepare for the Lamb-Weston Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities of South Central Washington, July 24-26.
After posting victories in the first two events of the season, 2007 champion Dave Villwock (Auburn, Wash.), and the U-16 Ellstrom’s Miss Elam Plus are in first place in driver and team points, with 2008 champion Steve David (Lighthouse Pt. Fla.) and the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto a close second.
“I have certainly had great days and bad ones on the Columbia,” said Villwock, “but it’s a great race course and race site for us. Besides being close to home, conditions on the course are generally very good, and the shape of the course makes it our version of a super speedway.”
Besides being the 2008 National High Point Champion, Steve David is also the defending Columbia Cup Champion, having scored his only victory of 2008 in the Tri-Cities. In the final heat of that race, Villwock, who only ran a partial season in 2008, was assessed a penalty before the start of the final heat, and was never a factor.
“The race committee in the Tri-Cities has done a great job of staging this event for many years,” said David. “The quality of the course and the pit area, the interest and support we get from the fans and community, and the fact that so many of the Oberto family and friends are on hand definitely make it one of the premier weekends of our season.”
“Winning close to home for the Oberto family, like we did last year, is always very special,” he continued. “We’ll do everything we can to repeat that performance for them and our fans.”
Eleven teams are expected to be in the Neil F. Lampson pit area by Thursday afternoon, with testing and qualifying scheduled for Friday, and racing starting with Heat 1-A at 2:00pm (PDT) Saturday. The winner take all final heat is scheduled for 5:05pm (PDT) on Sunday.
Both drivers said they are glad the event will be run using the ABRA’s 2009 rule book, including lanes assigned according to qualifying, which were not used at the APBA Gold Cup.
“I like it, I think it’s fair to everyone,” said Villwock. “It eliminates a lot of the problems we had last year before the start, and makes it possible for the officials to keep things orderly. And, it doesn’t matter if you are top qualifier or at the bottom of the ladder. In one of your first two heats , you’ll get a chance to run your boat in a lane that’s best for you. Then, the average of your performance in the first two races determines where you are the rest of the day.”
David agreed, saying, “With the 5 and 6 boat heats we’ll have in the Tri-Cities, watching the winners of 1-A and 1-B start on the outside should produce some of the best racing the fans will have seen this season. Combined with the parity we have in the top 5 or 6 race teams, it should make for a very exciting Columbia Cup.”
Boat and driver updates:
U-17 owner Nate Brown will do some of the driving at the Columbia Cup, but not because he is unhappy with the progress nephew Kip Brown is making as an unlimited driver. Uncle Nate will do enough driving in testing, qualifying and the first heat to keep his unlimited driver’s license current.
U-22 Owner/Driver Mike Webster plans to drive his new boat this weekend, as the finger he injured when the canopy closed on it in Detroit is healing well.
U-25 Owner/Driver Dr. Ken Muscatel plans to have his newly renovated boat ready and in the pits by Thursday evening. But the team plans to bring along the boat they ran in the East, rented from Fred Leland, just in case.
U-37 owner Billy Schumacher says he has asked JW Myers to drive at least one more race, subbing for regular driver Jean Theoret. Theoret continues to recover from injuries received in a blow over accident in Madison. “Jean is very close, and I think he’ll be ready for Seattle,” said Schumacher. “We don’t want to rush him, and we were very happy with the job JW did for us in Detroit. We did not have a great weekend, but we had some issues with the boat, after the accident, that we didn’t see until it got pounded a little by the Detroit River.”
Tri Cities Restricted Turbine Speed Records:
2.5 Mile Qualifying Lap
Dave Villwock, Miss Elam Plus
2.5 Mile Competition Lap
Jean Theoret, Miss Beacon Plumbing
7.5 Mile Heat Average Speed
Jimmy King, Cooper Racing
12.5 Mile Race Average Speed
Dave Villwock, Miss Elam Plus
Compiled by Fred Farley - ABRA Unlimited Historian