2007 Indiana Governor's Cup

Madison Regatta

Oberto Impresses: Ellstrom Wins

By Craig Fjarlie

The new Oh Boy! Oberto looks like a boat with great potential. Steve David captured three heat wins and amassed the most points during the 2007 Madison Regatta. When the checkered flag flew, however, it was for Dave Villwock and Ellstrom, as a day of set-up changes paid off in the winner-take-all final.

Testing and Qualifying

The first obvious change at Madison was enhanced security at entrance points. A year ago, a car came through the crowd and injured a number of spectators. This year, there were fewer entrances and Jersey barriers were in place to prevent unwanted vehicles from passing checkpoints.

In recent years, Madison has frequently been a two-day affair. This year, the course was open for testing and qualifying on Friday. A series of incidents resulted in limited course time, however. On Friday, Oh Boy! Oberto made the first run. When it came back to the pits, Ellstrom entered the course. The Oberto crew hooked their sling to the crane. The operator pulled the sling tight and the crew jumped off the boat. When the crew signaled the operator to put the boat back on the trailer, the crane wouldn't budge. For the next three hours, the boat was held at the dock by an unresponsive crane. When it became obvious the crane was out of commission, officials closed the course while they pondered where to place a new crane in the pits, and how to move boats so everyone could have access. Eventually the Oberto crew was able to borrow a sling from another team and use a different crane to get the boat back on its trailer.

At mid-afternoon, movement was complete and the course was reopened. At about 4:00, U-1 Formula II arrived in the pits. Hull repairs were complete from the Evansville flip, but the crew still had hours of work to do to attach wing mounts and the front canard. One of the boats that had to move because of the crane problem was U-100 Mirageboats. The crew spent the afternoon working on the boat and it never left its trailer.

Dave Villwock posted the top qualifying time, 158.027. Next was Jean Theoret aboard Miss Beacon Plumbing at 154.416. Steve David was a notch back with a speed of 150.436. When time trials closed, eight boats were in the race. Because of the crane problem, a dash for cash was postponed until Saturday.

Saturday dawned with highclouds, wind, and a river choked with debris. A refrigerator was spotted floating by the pits early in the morning. Qualifying was put on hold. Ultimately, not a single boat ran. The dash for cash was scrubbed; sponsor Bob Hughes saidhe would donate the prize money to the city. A drivers' meeting was held Saturday morning. The Hughes Plan was in effect for the race, meaning boats were going to be seeded into elimination heats based on qualifying speed. Fred Leland asked what would happen if Mirageboats couldn't qualify because of the crane problem and debris in the river. Hughes explained boats would be seeded based on results from Evansville.

Officials made a thorough sweep of the course on Sunday morning.

Water level was lower and the worst of the debris had passed. The course opened for testing. The closest thing to an incident happened when J. Michael Kelly came down the front straightaway in Spirit of Detroit. The boat suddenly got loose, fish-tailed, and went side-to-side, but Kelly regained control. Mike Allen, nursing a broken left thumb, took Formula II for a test run at moderate speed.

Heat 1

The line-up for the first round of elimination heats had U-16 Ellstrom, U-6 Oberto, and the two Formula boats, U-1 and U-5, in heat 1A. Heat 1B would feature U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing, Spirit of Detroit, and U-100 Mirageboats, 1C would have U-10 Ahern Rentals, U-3 Miss Chrysler Jeep, and U-25 (dubbed Superior Racing, but there was no name on the boat).

The first hint that the new Oberto was a boat to be reckoned with came in the first turn of 1A. Steve David started in lane 1 and had the lead as the field came around the first turn. Jeff Bernard in Formula was right behind in lane two and kept the pressure on as they went up the backstretch.

Ellstrom was back at the start and never challenged the leaders. Formula II trailed all the way. Positions held to the finish.

Heat 1B had a fine duel between Beacon Plumbing and Spirit of Detroit. At the end of the first lap, officials announced Spirit had jumped the gun. Kelly's radio wasn't working, so he kept the pressure on until Beacon received the checkered flag. Kelly then slowed and made his extra lap at reduced speed. Mirageboats trailed badly throughout but received second place points because of the penalty on Spirit.

Miss Chrysler Jeep took the lead at the start of 1C, with Ahern Rentals close behind. U-25 had gone dead in the water before the start. Ken Muscatel restarted the engine, but the boat went dead again in the first turn. Muscatel restarted once more, but was running at reduced speed and trailed the leaders by a wide margin. Chrysler Jeep held a narrow lead over Ahern going into lap 3. As they reached the entrance buoy to turn 1, there was an audible "thunk" and Ahern went dead in the water, leaving the piston packer to take an easy victory. Following the heat, U-25 was called for a flagrant N2 violation, but it was later rescinded.

Ahern Rentals may have struck debris. A prop blade was missing, the shaft was bent, the stuffing box split, the gearbox broke, and there were two hole in the bottom. For the second year in a row, the Ohio River had inflicted serious damage on Kim Gregory's boat.

Heat 2

Oh Boy! Oberto took charge of 2A going into turn 1. Chrysler Jeep was half a roostertail back in lane 2. Formula II faded throughout. Oberto held the lead to the finish. Following the heat, the Chrysler Jeep team asked to speak to the drivers' rep.

Beacon Plumbing led the field into turn one of 2B. Unfortunately, Theoret had jumped the gun. Ellstrom challenged Beacon, but when the gun jump was announced Villwock slowed. Spirit of Detroit pressed Ellstrom briefly, and then settled into position. Although Beacon physically led, the penalty lap dropped it to third place.

Mirageboats left the pits for 2C. Formula was unable to start. The same fate nearly befell U-25, but at the last moment Muscatel got the engine running. Mirageboats ran the heat three-quarters of a lap ahead of U-25.

Heat 3

Heat 3A was another impressive performance by Oberto. David led King into the first turn and had a roostertail lead up the backstretch. U-25 trailed in third. Chrysler Jeep tried to challenge Oberto but to no avail.

It was an easy win for Villwock in 3B. Formula was again unable to start, and Mirageboats was no match for Ellstrom. Villwock extended his lead throughout the heat for the victory.

Beacon Plumbing had to win 3C to secure a place in the front line for the final. Spirit of Detroit led into the first turn, but was overtaken by Beacon as they went up the backstretch. Formula II then put pressure on Spirit of Detroit for the duration of the heat.

Beacon lengthened its lead, but the race for second was close. Kelly edged Allen by three boat lengths.

The final heat field would consist of Oberto with 1,200 points,

Ellstrom and Beacon each with 1,025, and Chrysler Jeep with 1,000, on the front line. The trailers in the second row would be Mirageboats with 1,000 and Spirit of Detroit with 825.

Final

There was significant anticipation in the crowd as the boats left the pit area. The new Oberto had three impressive heat wins, while Ellstrom seemed to be struggling all day. Beacon Plumbing, also, appeared off the pace, and Chrysler Jeep was a long shot. Could the new hometown hydro come through for a win?

Approaching the shape-up turn, King dove to the inside. The field was early as they started down the front straightaway to the starting fine. Boats in the second row had to backpedal to avoid getting too close to roostertails of the boats the front row.

In turn 1, Ellstrom's orange nose appeared first. The distinctive roar of Miss Chrysler Jeep stopped as a minor electrical clip broke. King coasted to the infield. Up the backstretch, Ellstrom led the way, with Oberto in hot pursuit. It was all in vain for David. Ellstrom slowly pulled away and was a roostertail ahead as they rounded turn 2. Beacon Plumbing was running at reduced speed and Spirit of Detroit took over third place. Mirageboats went dead in the water during lap 2. Villwock drove away from the fleet to a comfortable victory. Oberto finished second, followed by Spirit of Detroit and Beacon Plumbing. The latter was well off the pace. Following the heat, the Beacon team alleged Theoret had been cut off in the shape up turn, but officials ruled he had been unable to hold his lane and slid onto another boat's roostertail. There was no infraction and there was no joy in the Beacon camp.

Villwock was humble in victory. "I think we had to race for it," he said. "Jimmy King moved to the inside and I knew that was my opportunity. Theoret was back with me." Villwock praised his crew for a day of hard work. "We changed rudders twice today and skid fins twice today," he said. "We changed engines three times this weekend and gearboxes three times today." The combination for the final worked, and Villwock owned the Ohio for the third year in a row. In the hearts and minds of the home town fans, however, the second place performance by their new boat overshadowed everything else. There's a new boat in the fleet, with shark's teeth on the cockpit, and everyone believes it's poised toeat its rivals in the very near future.

This was Dave Villwock's second Governor's Cup win driving Ellstrom. He won five more driving Miss Budweiser. This was the Ellstroms third victory at Madison.

(Unlimited NewsJournal, July 2007)