1996 Chrysler Jeep APBA Gold Cup

Villwock Breezes to Hydroplane Title

By Angelique S. Chengelis

Dave Villwock has made a habit of putting on a show when he should just be learning his lines.

Sure, the two leading men of unlimited hydroplane racing -- Chip Hanauer and Mark Tate -- were unable to make the APBA Gold Cup final. But Villwock had to contend with the Miss Budweiser boat, which has won 10 Gold Cups.

He handled the situation, including a six-hour delay because of high winds and choppy water, like an old pro. More important, Villwock handled the six-boat field with ease, taking the lead in Turn 1 of the first lap and holding it for good.

Villwock, who drove PICO American Dream to an average speed of 149.328 mph, earned his first Gold Cup victory in four attempts, beating Miss Budweiser replacement driver Mark Evans by a half-mile Sunday evening on the Detroit River. Mike Hanson, who drove DeWALT Tools, was third.

"It was a tough race, a tactical race like many of the races in Detroit," said Villwock, whose PICO sponsorship is based in Southfield. "We got the position we wanted. I hope no one gets my playbook, because I have a little route (for getting the inside lane), and it seems to be working."

Hanauer, the defending champion and 10-time Gold Cup winner, did not start because of a concussion sustained in an accident during a heat race Saturday. Hanauer barrel-rolled and hit Tate as he flipped over, causing substantial damage to both boats. Tate, a two-time Gold Cup winner from Canton, Mich., did not start because his crew was unable to repair the Smokin' Joe's boat in time.

Evans, who already had qualified the Miss Wellness Plan boat, replaced Hanauer; Ken Dryden replaced Evans.

It was clear from the start Villwock had the strongest boat and the advantage from the inside lane.

"I should have gotten the inside lane on Dave," Evans said. "I tried to chase him down, but Dave did a good job of using the whole course. PICO was really fast. I tried to get around him, but he wouldn't let me.

"It was rough out there. I knew Dave was going to push me wide toward the wall, and I just wanted to bring the boat back in one piece and a good second place."

Villwock, who had raced against Tate and Hanauer and knew their tendencies, was unfamiliar with Evans.

"Frankly, I didn't have as big a book on Evans," Villwock said. "It was a little more of a wild card not knowing what the Miss Budweiser would throw at us."

For Villwock, this was just another example of the kind of good fortune he has had in his brief racing career. He entered unlimited racing in 1992 and won the first race he entered. And now he has two victories in as many races this season with a team that is considered young and growing.

"Our trademark has been to show up and put the boat in the field," Villwock said. "When we're further in the hole is when we seem to come up the highest."

Villwock desperately wanted a win for crew chief Dan Walters, who is leaving the team.

"Danny is the guy who taught me how to race," Villwock said. "He feels what I should be feeling, and he can communicate that to me. This was the last chance I was going to have to give Danny the Gold Cup. This was the one."

(Reprinted from Detroit News, June 3, 1996)