2007 Lamb Weston Columbia Cup

And the Orange Boat Rolls On (or timing is everything)

By Barb and Duane Dahlum

Fourteen boats were expected to compete in the Western swing of the unlimiteds.

Two were brand new: U-21 Meyers' Auto Tech and U-17 Red Dot. Red Dot looked as if it was only a shell. However, according to Brown, he just had one more steering bracket in the cockpit to finish. In looking at it though, there was no engine, the windshield wouldn't seal and it seemed as if no electrical was installed. But the time in the pits gave the team a chance to work in a race-type atmosphere and to see how the other teams dealt with problems.

Meyers' Auto Tech was christened in a ceremony with two bottles of champagne and first touched the water on a race course on its "born on" date of 07/27/07. Not only is the boat "young" but the rookie driver, Brian Perkins, is the youngest driver on the circuit.

Testing and Qualifying

The fastest speeds came right at the outset Friday morning. Oh Boy! Oberto was the first boat out. Steve David has been "amazed" with the speed and the way the boat handles. "We get better each time we go out." They met their goal with their qualifying time of 160.599 mph. He was happy with the 160 mph speeds, but is "tired of looking at the tail of Ellstrom."

Ellstrom was out next and immediately set a new course record. Dave Villwock ended up as the fastest qualifier of that day and the weekend at 165.687, which was a new record for the 2½ mile course since the advent of the fuel flow restrictions.

Others ran into problems; U-3 Hoss Mortgage Investors II had the fuel pump housing come loose and died; the maiden voyage of Meyers' Auto Tech was cut short because of a loose oil line; U-13 Spirit of Detroit suffered an N2 violation, and Lakeridge Paving lost their time due to a lack of a black box, which was later rectified.

In the afternoon qualifying session. Miss Beacon Plumbing was the first boat on the course. The crew had been working hard to fix the gearbox problems that had plagued them in Detroit and they appeared to be successful. However, during the test fire in the morning, a fuel leak was discovered. With that finally fixed, Jean Theoret qualified at 158.559 mph.

After a slow-speed inaugural run, rookie Brian Perkins in Meyer's Auto Tech qualified at 137.186 mph.

According to Mike Weber, team manager of the two Formula boats (U-1 and U-5), have had a "brutal" season. Since U-1 was damaged so badly in Detroit, the old U-19 Fendler hull (#9299) was pulled off the "backup" dock and the team spent Saturday getting it race ready. It had not raced for two years. Another rookie, Jimmy Shane, was brought in to take over for Mike Allen, who had further injured a broken thumb in the flip in Detroit.

Vintage Racing

The Lamb Weston Columbia Cup also hosted the vintage boats this year. The roar of the engines came as Oh Boy! Oberto (1975), Miss Burien (1960), Miss Thriftway (1956 replica), and Miss Bardahl (1962) hit the water for several exhibitions. Thriftway was aided by the Hawaii Ka'i III (replica), which did not touch the water as a backup hull, but still donated a carburetor. Even then Thriftway had to pull off after the first turn in the Sunday morning exhibition. Bardahl and Burien put on a good back and forth show with Oberto trailing by a roostertail. Former owner Bill Wurster, watching from the official barge, was asked how it felt to be only aspectator. "I hate it!" he said emphatically. "I'd rather be in the pits doing something." He also thought it would be fun to rebuild his old U-21 Valu-Mart and "go run with these kids."

Dash for Cash

The Dash for Cash was a four-boat field with Chris Bertram in Conover Insurance, Steve David in Oh Boy! Oberto, David Williams in Lakeridge Paving, and J. Michael Kelly in Spirit of Detroit. A fifth entry, Jimmy King in Hoss Mortgage Investors II, was a milling-period victim of a thrown rod. The "racing" was for the purpose of local-TV audience enjoyment as three of the boats were within a boat length of each other for the entire four laps. Oberto "won" the race by about a roostertail.

Heat 1A

Jeff Bernard and U-5 Formula cut the infield and picked up lane 1 at the exit pin of turn 1 and held it to the start, forcing David in Oberto to take lane 2. U-1 Formula II with Jimmy Shane as a rookie starter was the required boat lengths back. Going into the first turn there were four boats abreast: Oberto, Formula, Hoss Mortgage, and Spirit of Detroit. In lane 2, David ended up coming out first with Bryant in second place as they went up the backstretch. Oberto stretched out the lead from less than a roostertail to a full roostertail by the time he reached turn 2. On the backstretch it was announced that both Formula and Oberto had reached the start line a full second early and were penalized a lap The young guns Bryant, J. Michael Kelly, and Jimmy Shane finished in first, second and third respectively with David fourth and Bernard coming in fifth.

Heat 1B

Greg Hopp in Mirageboats cut across the infield and settled down into lane 1 ahead of Wihwock's Ellstrom. Muscatel in Superior Racing took over lane 2, pushing Ellstrom to the outside. Brian Perkins and Meyers' Auto Tech stayed at the dock until after the one minute gun then took up the position of trailer. The three lead boats went into the turn together. Mirageboats hooked and forced Superior Racing into Ellstrom's wash. Superior Racing went dead in the first turn. Muscatel was able to get it restarted after being passed by Meyers' Auto Tech and continued to race. Out of the first turn Villwock started to pull away from the rest of the field. Hopp was found to have jumped the gun and was penalized an extra lap. The parade to the line went Ellstrom, Auto Tech, Superior and Mirageboats. Auto Tech expelled smoke at every turn, but seemed unhindered by the problem.

Heat 1C

Four boats were supposed to start, but David Williams was unable to get the fire lit in Lakeridge Paving. Theoret in Beacon Plumbing took lane 1 early and at the one-minute gun was almost off plane. Chris Bertram's Conover Insurance was set up in lane 2 and Jimmy King in Hoss Mortgage II setup on the outside. Hoss Mortgage II was first to cross the start line and head into the first turn with Beacon and Conover charging after. Coming out of the first turn, a part flew off of Hoss Mortgage II and splashed into the river about 35 feet behind. The boat went dead in the water outside the course just past the first turn. Theoret and Bertram cruised from there to finish 1-2.

When Jimmy King got towed back to the pits he found that the short shaft and propeller had broken cleanly off the U-3. The only other damage was to a hose that was sheared off.

Heat 2A

During the "pre-race" for position, Villwock and Ellstrom came out of the pits fast, circled around and cut across the infield in front of the others, then slowed almost off plane to pick up lane 1. Beacon Plumbing passed him on the outside and picked up lane 2. Conover Insurance took lane 3, while Lakeridge Paving settled into lane 4. Rookie Jimmy Shane in Formula II started in the trailing position again.

First to cross the start was Beacon Plumbing, but going into the first turn it was Ellstrom. Villwock pulled out of turn 1 a good boat length ahead and from then on led the parade. Bertram lost control and Conover hit a buoy at the apex of the first turn on lap 2. He was penalized a lap.

Coming out of the last turn to the finish, Shane in Formula II heard a pop and felt a vibration, so he shut off the engine at about roostertail away from the finish. He drifted slowly across the line ahead of Conover Insurance but, as he was not under power or up on plane, and received a DNF. It turned out he blew the top bearing out of the gearbox.

Heat 2B

Jeff Bernard in Formula led from start to finish and set the lap speed of the day at 151.143 mph. Bryant in Hoss Mortgage, Muscatel in Superior Racing, and Perkins in Meyers' Auto Tech followed in that order.

Heat 2C

David Oberto took lane 1 early and crawled along the backstretch. Hopp in Mirageboats was pushed to the outside, as was Kelly in Spirit of Detroit. King in Hoss Mortgage II kept his speed up and followed the pack on the outside. At the start line Hoss Mortgage II nosed across first, but Oberto hit turn 1 just ahead. Those two were only a boat length apart in the first lap. On the second lap, Hoss Mortgage II went dead in the water with smoke billowing out. The rest was a parade. Hoss Mortgage II had thrown a rod. That was two engines down for the weekend for Ed Cooper, Jr., who decided to cut his losses and get ready for Seattle. The order of finish was: Oberto, Spirit, and Mirageboats, with Hoss Mortgage II DNF.

Heat 3A

This heat provided the best racing of the day. The boats to race were Formula, Oberto, Hoss Mortgage Investors, and Superior Racing.

Steve David in Oberto once again was the first boat onto the course. Bernard in Formula cut across the infield and took over lane 1. Bryant in Hoss Mortgage moved to the outside as they approached the starting turn. Bernard took the lead at the start by about a boat length and was first into and out of the corner. David charged hard after him with Bryant and Muscatel following. For three laps the race between the two front-runners was heated. Bryant continued to force David wider and wider at each turn until David decided to accept second place.

Order of finish was: Formula, Oberto, Hoss Mortgage, and Superior Racing.

Heat 3B

Just before the heat started, a breeze came up, but the 81 degree weather was very comfortable. This race was supposed to have a four-boat field; however, Ed Cooper announced the U-3's withdrawal. That left Beacon Plumbing, Conover Insurance, and Spirit of Detroit.

Along the backstretch to the start Beacon Plumbing, on the inside, and Spirit of Detroit were side by side with Conover Insurance well back. Bertram in Conover saw a lane and cut between them as they entered the turn to the start. Kelly evidently did not see him coming and Spirit collided with Conover. A one-lap penalty was assessed to Kelly. Theoret was able to nail the start in Beacon. He never looked back and led the parade. Spirit went dead at the apex of turn 2 and slowly drifted onto the course. Beacon Plumbing received points for first; Conover pulled in second, while Spirit of Detroit earned a DNF.

Heat 3C

Perkins could not get Meyers' Auto Tech igniter to fire at first. Four of the crew jumped on the deck to help and just as they did, it fired up. They jumped off fast! It was a good start with Perkins crossing the line first with Villwock right behind. Villwock got to the corner first and began to pull away from the field. The parade around to the finish found the boats separated by about three roostertails. Behind Villwock were Hopp, Williams and Perkins.

Provisional

Three boats answered the gun. At the start, Perkins in Meyers' Auto Tech was first across the line, but jumped the gun. This allowed Kelly in Spirit of Detroit to lead the parade of three. Perkins decided to save equipment and did not take the required penalty lap, thus receiving a DNF. David Williams in Lakeridge finished a distant second.

Spirit of Detroit had blown an engine in 3B. The crew took twelve minutes to change it, which made it possible to win the provisional and make the final heat.

Final

Theoret in Beacon Plumbing was the first to slow into lane 1 as they came onto the backstretch before the start. Steve David settled Oberto in next to him with Dave Villwock in Ellstrom on the outside. However, Bernard in Formula was not quite ready to give up, and cut the infield to take lane 1 away and push everyone out. Conover Insurance settled in next to Villwock in lane 5, Bryant in Hoss Mortgage in 6. Kelly in Spirit of Detroit trailed the field by five seconds.

It was a drag race start with Steve David crossing just ahead of Bryant, and Villwock a close third. Four boats wide, Beacon, Oberto, Ellstrom and Formula continued into the first turn. As they came out of the corner, David had a slim lead over Villwock with Theoret close behind. Bryant held on to fourth with Formula slightly behind them.

Coming to the second turn, David and Villwock continued tight and were almost side-by-side until Ellstrom went wide and began to pull away from Oberto toward the end of lap 1. It was announced that going into turn 1 on lap 2, Beacon Plumbing had encroached on Formula by not having a full ten-boat length lead before moving into his lane. (Theoret later claimed that the person responsible was Steve David, who had forced him to the inside.) With the one-lap penalty, Theoret pulled back and seemed to just hold his position while Formula lost position to both Hoss Mortgage and Spirit of Detroit.

David then settled for second and the parade again was formed. The final order had Villwock's Ellstrom in first, then David, Bryant, Kelly, Bernard, Bertram, and Theoret. After Villwock's victory, next most impressive was J. Michael Kelly, who drove through some very sloppy water and moved from the trailer position (seventhplace and five seconds back) up to fourth place.

The field moved on to Seattle. We'll see if the orange boat rolls on.

(Unlimited NewsJournal, September 2007)