1997 Budweiser Indiana Governor's Cup
Miss Budweiser is Hydro to Beat in Madison Race
By Jim Terhune
MADISON, Ind. -- Mad scientists from 11 unlimited hydroplane teams have tinkered frantically with engines and propellers this week, trying to reduce the massive gap between Miss Budweiser and the rest of the pack.
Twelve teams and 14 boats are expected for this weekend's Madison Regatta on the Ohio River. Testing and qualifying for the Indiana Governor's Cup race will take place today and tomorrow. Sunday's program will include seven heats and a 5:10 p.m. (EDT) final.
All but two of the hydros barely have been able to keep Miss Bud's roostertail in sight. Dave Villwock qualified a new hull called T-5 11½ seconds faster than any other boat last week at Evansville, then cruised to victory in three heats and the final.
The Bud now has won four straight regattas, two this season. It was fastest in an April exhibition in Phoenix, fastest until high winds forced cancellation of heats at Norfolk, Va., in late May and then won a crash-marred Gold Cup at Detroit a week later.
"If you don't know what direction you're going, it's pretty tough," Bud owner Bernie Little said. "We're back to where we ought to be."
"They've got the jump on everybody, and we've got to spend the Madison week trying to catch up," said Mike Hanson, driver of the Madison community-owned DeWALT Tools. "But we'll get 'em."
The getting will take some doing. Villwock was crew chief on the Circus Circus boat driven to national titles by Chip Hanauer in 1989-90. Villwock later turned to driving and won the 1996 crown in PICO American Dream. Little hired him away in October.
A device called the N2 limiter has been placed on propeller shafts to cut speeds this year, but Villwock joined longtime Bud crew chief Ron Brown in the boat shop to give the team tons of expertise. The result was a 163.934 mph qualifying lap at Evansville, only 2 mph off the all-time two-mile course record despite the restrictor.
Can he also dominate at Madison, where the 2½-mile course's turns have been widened but still are tight?
"We haven't done any testing on a course that's long and has that narrow of a corner," Villwock said. "We're going to have to go and work hard again. But we hadn't tested on a course like (Evansville's) either, then made some good guesses."
The fleet from Evansville is expected to be joined by one other potentially competitive craft -- Appian Jeronimo. It ran well in Detroit before passing last week's event in favor of some computer system testing and other motor modifications.
(Reprinted from the Louisville Courier-Journal, Friday, July 4, 1997)