Seafair: Controversial waves splash Chevy Cup finish
August 5, 2008 · Updated 3:23 PM
For Auburn’s Dave Villwock, it was the right place, the right time – and the right speed.
For Kent’s Jeff Bernard, it was another trip to the finals, though not the results he enjoyed last month in Indiana. And for Brian Perkins of Kent, it just wasn’t the best of days on Lake Washington.
Right place, right time for Villwock ultimately meant the place he has grown accustomed to on the unlimited hydroplane circuit: the win column. And it happened in a race in which he wasn’t first across the starting line, or first across the finish line in Sunday’s Chevrolet Cup at Seafair.
But he was the first one to get across both lines legally. That made him the victor on a day splashed by sun and a bit of controversy, when the Miss Beacon Plumbing with driver Jean Theoret was hit with a one-minute penalty for being, ironically, not too fast to the start, but too slow, even though he was the first one to get there.
“I knew before the start of the race that Jean had been penalized one minute,“ said Villwock, driver of the Miss Ellstrom Elam Plus. “But I still had to complete the race and charge hard to hold off Steve David (driving the defending Seafair champion Oh Boy! Oberto).”
Villwock’s victory was No. 56 of his career, but his first since the 2007 Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities. Whether he gets to keep it will depend on the outcome of an appeal filed by the Beacon Plumbing team, which was still pending at press time on Monday.
If official, the victory will be Villwock’s ninth at Seafair, tying the late legendary Bill Muncey.
Villwock and the Ellstrom team decided to skip the three eastern U.S. races this season, in large part because they are working on a plan to bring the sport to Europe and the Middle East.
That opened the door for other drivers to grab some of the glory, which Kent’s Bernard did on July 6 when he won the Governor’s Cup in Madison, Ind.
Climbing a couple notches
The transplanted Michigander, who moved first to Gig Harbor, but now calls Kent home, was eyeing his first Pacific Northwest trophy, He had to settle for third place in his red U-5 Formulaboats.com craft, but in doing so, finally climbed off the fifth-place run on the Chevrolet Cup ladder, a spot he had occupied for three straight years, starting with his first unlimited race in 2005.
But what started off as a solid day took an unexpected twist. Bernard had been leading Heat 2A when the U-10 Hoss Mortgage blew over, leading to a restart. Seeking to grab Lane 1 in that restart, Bernard, who has been warned by officials that he had to speed up or risk a similar penalty that later hit the Beacon Plumbing, did speed up – but jumped the gun and was hit with a false-start penalty, resulting in a fourth-place finish.
Perkins, driving the U-50 Miss Albert Lee/Spirit of the Navy, had made it to three straight finals in the 12-year-old hull – the oldest in the field. But after completing all 18 heats in which it had run so far this season – including the first two at Seafair – the Maple Valley-based U-50 blew an engine on the second lap of Heat 3A.
That turned out to be the end of the day for Perkins, whose crew was trying to compete an engine change at the time of the provisional heat. So the boat never made it back into the water for one last run at the final.
No such problems for Villwock, who was the fastest qualifier for the weekend at 155.857 miles per hour on Friday, won his first heat on Saturday, won two more heats on Sunday – then won the title with a practically perfect drive.
Especially at the start.
“My strategy was to cut across (the infield) to Turn One to get the U-37 (Beacon Plumbing) and U-6 (Oh Boy! Oberto) to leapfrog me on the backstretch,” said Villwock, whose victory netted $50,000 for Ronald McDonald House, making good on a pledge by sponsor Hoss Mortgage Investors, who promised the donation if one of the three boats with its name on the hull won the Chevrolet Cup.
“I knew that at that point, from that position on the course, they would either be really early to the start, or have to be off plane to get a good start,” Villwock added. “Jean (Theoret in the Beacon) got a good start, but he had to go off plane to do that.”
Off-plane is when a boat is going so slow enough during the final minute before the start that it is pushing water over its sponsons. Typically, it’s the result of drivers jockeying for better lanes, particularly the coveted inside lane.
David, the defending champion in the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison, sponsored by the Kent-based sausage company, was in the mix all weekend. He won Saturday’s Heat 1A and Sunday’s Heat 2A, but the boat was second in 3B and third in the final, although it moved up to second with the penalty to Beacon Plumbing.
Material from www.abrahydroplanes.com is included in this report.
Villwock wins when top boat penalized; Bernard settles for third place