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Dave Villwock, Qatar win Governor’s Cup

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By DAVE TAYLOR and FRED FARLEY

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The competitive rivalry between drivers Dave Villwock and Steve David provided for a spirited weekend at the Madison Regatta. At the end of the event on Sunday it was Villwock in the U-1 Spirit of Qatar who had the best stuff out-dueling David and the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison to win the Lucas Oil Indiana Governor’s Cup Race. The win was Villwock’s ninth in Madison and win number 66 of his career as an Unlimited hydroplane driver.

Villwock and David have been the hotdogs to beat in H1 Unlimited hydroplane racing over the last several years. Defending champion David was in search of a “threepeat” in the Madison race this weekend. On Friday, David had posted the top qualifying speed at 148.548 miles per hour when Villwock took to the course and one-upped the Oberto on the final qualifying lap of the weekend at 148.837 mph.

“It’s kind of cool because this has been seven years now where it’s been a battle between the two of us,” David said. “It certainly rivals the Krop(feld)/Hanauer days. It’s really exciting to be part of that.”

David referenced the 1980s when Atlas Van Lines/Miller American/Miss Circus Circus driver Chip Hanauer and Miss Budweiser/Winston Eagle driver Jim Kropfeld staged some thrilling duels on the water.

Both the Qatar and Oberto won their respective heats in the first and third rounds of elimination heat competition. Oberto and Qatar squared off only once in the elimination rounds with the Oberto winning from the inside lane in Heat 2C.

In the battle for lanes prior to the start of the championship heat it was Steve David again grabbing lane one. At the start line, however, it was Villwock in lane two getting across the line first. Villwock hit a hole in the first turn and lost some speed, but managed to hold off David.

“We knew he (Villwock) was going to change gears (before the final), so I thought the only way I’m going to beat him is to be in lane one,” David said later. “As rough as it got in lane one my sponsons were hitting the water and I couldn’t get acceleration out of the turns. He had momentum and it was really over at the first turn. Once I knew Dave had me it was a matter of defending my position.”

At the end of lap one, Villwock had nearly a roostertail lead on David.  Meanwhile, Kip Brown’s U-17 Miss Red Dot died in the first turn, but managed to restart. Scott Liddycoat took over third at that point in the U-88 Degree Men. J.W. Myers was penalized a lap for hitting a buoy in the U-11 Miss Peters & May.

A five-lap final on a 2-mile course means some really rough water after a couple of times around the course and there was lots of bouncing, especially with the winds at the front of a second wave of bad weather on the horizon.

Villwock and the Qatar led wire to wire to win the Governor’s Cup with an average speed of 136.105 mph. The Qatar’s fastest lap of the final came on lap four with a speed of 138.626.

David and the Oberto took second place, U-88 Degree Men with Scott Liddycoat finished third, Kip Brown placed fourth in the U-17 Miss Red Dot and J.W. Myers was fifth in the U-11 Peters & May.

“I want to give a shout out to all the competitors under real tough conditions,” Villwock said following the race. “Everybody put up a real respectable show. It was hot. I know we burned out a couple of crew members. I want to thank all of the men and women of the armed services. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to be here to play with our toys.”

Liddycoat also had praise for the race spectators for their stamina in enduring the heat of the weekend: “I want to thank all the fans that have hung out here all weekend in this heat,” he said. “It’s been tough on us and it’s gotta be tough on you.”

The first section of elimination heats were contested on Saturday with two elimination sections on Sunday afternoon. Elimination heat results were as follows:

Heat 1-A
First place, U-17 Miss Red Dot driven by Kip Brown; second, U-11 Miss Peters & May, J.W. Myers; third, U-9 Holiday Inn Express Presents Bello’s Pizza, Jon Zimmerman; and U-13 Spirit of Detroit, Cal Phipps did not start.

Heat 1-B
First place, U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, Steve David; second, U-5 Graham Trucking, Jimmy Shane; third, U-88 Degree Men, Scott Liddycoat; fourth, U-57 Formulaboats.com, Mark Evans. Evans, who was married on Friday to his longtime girlfriend Cathy Howard-Cooper, was given a one-lap penalty after his hydro hit a course marker buoy.

“I was proud to get married in Madison,” the 1991 Governor’s Cup champ later said. “I love Madison. I got my first race win here.”

In winning the heat, David turned Saturday’s fastest competition lap speed at 140.402 mph on the second circuit of the Bill Cantrell Memorial Race Course. Oberto ran the weekend of competition with the snout normally used for filtering salt spray from the engine on saltwater courses installed.

 “It’s really for weight and balance and it’s working,” David said.

Heat 1-C
First place, U-1 Spirit of Qatar, Dave Willwock; second, U-100 Xtreme Precision Products, Greg Hopp; U-22 Great Scott!, Mike Webster, and U-37 Beacon Plumbing, J. Michael Kelly, both failed to hit the starting line.

Heat 2-A
First place, U-88, Liddycoat; second, U-11, Myers; third, U-100, Hopp; (both Myers and Hopp were forced to make an extra lap after jumping the starting gun); U-13, Phipps, did not start.

Heat 2-B
First place, U-37, Kelly; second, U-17, Brown; third, U-9, Zimmerman; fourth, U-5, Shane. Shane passed the score-up buoy too soon and was penalized an extra lap.

Heat 2-C
First place, U-6, David; second, U-1, Villwock; third, U-22, Webster; fourth, U-57, Evans.

This was the best race of the weekend to this point with David and Villwock sparring leading up to the start line. David managed to grab the lead at the start in lane one. Villwock in lane two closed the gap fast and seemed to pull ahead for just a brief second before David took it back. Steve pounded it out and started to take the corners wider, forcing Villwock to go out even further. It was a great race for about a lap and a half. When it was clear the U-6 was going to take it, Villwock backed off a bit and settled into second place.

 “I don’t think Qatar has shown us everything they have,” David said following the heat. “He obviously has tremendous top end (speed) on me. We’ll see who’s got the right setup for the final but the Oberto’s running great!”

Heat 3-A
First place, U-6, David; second, U-17, Brown; third, U-9, Zimmerman; fourth, U-5, Shane.
Brown grabbed lane one. David in lane three hit the start line just a hair after Brown did and took the lead coming out of the first turn with Brown just on his hip and raced to victory. Meanwhile, Shane got washed down on the first lap and had to settle for fourth.

The win automatically put David in the final with the most accumulated point during the weekend.

“The Qatar boat has got some top end on us and if he gets ahead of us it’s going to be a very, very difficult final,” David said. “I don’t think it’s just Qatar and us. I think maybe there’s a wild card in there somewhere. I’m not a betting man and I wouldn’t bet on this.”

Brown was pleased with the second-place finish:
“The fact is we don’t have the combination for running here with the two-mile course. We were all set to run the mile-and-two-thirds. We had a gear package for it. When we switched to a two-mile (course) we didn’t have time to gamble and build a gear. I don’t have any dreams of grandeur for this afternoon. The key is to put yourself in a position to win and in a situation like ours where we’ll be outclassed by a couple of boats we’ll hope for some negativity when it comes to those guys. It’s happened before. They watered each other up last year.”

Heat 3-B
First place, U-1, Villwock; second, U-100, Hopp; third, U-57, Evans; U-37, Kelly, DNS.

Unfortunately, the U-37 went dead just before the score-up buoy before the race and did not make the start. It was a clean run for Villwock, hitting the start line first and out front all the way to the finish line.

Heat 3-C
First place, U-88, Liddycoat; second, U-11, Myers; third, U-22, Webster; U-13 had earlier withdrawn for the weekend.

This heat was a close race the whole way with a spot in the finals on the line. Liddycoat and Myers hit the start line nearly side-by-side and it stayed that way with Myers taking the lead and then Liddycoat taking it back. Liddycoat won his second heat of the weekend and a spot in the finals. The heat was a strong run for Mike Webster. While finishing third and picking up 225 points, he was right with the front-runner the whole race.

“We’ve worked hard all weekend long,” Liddycoat said following the win. “The guys have busted their butt in this heat and I wanted to get it in the final for them. We’re not done yet.”

The Air National Guard H1 Unlimited Series continues this weekend at Detroit, Mich., where the American Power Boat Association’s prestigious Gold Cup Race will be contested on the Detroit River.