1999 Budweiser Mohave Unlimited Hydrofest

A Tale of Two Rookies

Hanauer Wins Havasu, While Greg Hopp Nabs Third Place

by Barb and Duane Dahlum

Yes, Chip Hanauer is back after three years. Driving Miss PICO, he won the '99 opener at Lake Havasu City, Arizona. But the other big story of the Mohave Unlimited Thunderfest is that rookie driver Greg Hopp won two heats and ran with the fastest boats to take third place in the final.

Testing and Qualifying

The race season got under way at 10 am on Friday, May 21. In the first qualifying session that afternoon, only three teams met the 130-mph turbine minimum. Dave Villwock qualified both Miss Budweisers, with T5 '97 the fastest at 152.413. Well behind was the PICO team. Chip Hanauer tried both '98 hulls, virtual lookalikes. (Timers called the slower one "U-101.") Mitch Evans just did qualify Appian Jeronimo. Mark Weber, in YORK, dubbed Miss Havasu for this event, missed at 128 mph.

Two all-white boats, the Jones family's U-9 (Mike Hanson), 127.811, and the Hopp family's U-15 (Greg Hopp), 128.457, also fell short. 'Way down there was the Cooper family's red-and-silver-painted U-3 (Mike Weber) at 106.952; as a piston boat it faced a 120 minimum. Miss E-Lam Plus (Jimmy King) suffered sponson damage. U-2 did not arrive.

Both Friday and Saturday the wind on the exposed southwest end of the course - turn 1 — caused several drivers to declare the water "horrible." Bo Schide, of the UL Alamo, said it was "the worst I've been in in 15 years." Hanauer said it was "almost unbearable. " Then the late-aftenoon glare on the water made it difficult for drivers to see the dock.

On Satuday, Bud again was fast qualifier. E-Lam barely beat PICO's time, while Miss Havasu clocked only a shade behind Jeronimo. Prospects looked good for some close match-ups.

U-15 got a name, Miss Commercial Sealants, and after two engine changes, a decent 135-mph lap. U-3, U-9, and U-2 remained unqualified. Speaking of U-2, Jim Harvey's boat arrived in the pits about 9:15 am. It was not put together completely, much less tested. All electrical and plumbing connections had to be made. Driver Steve David estimated that it would take 10 people working 10 hours each to finish the job.

The unqualified teams exercised their Commission Options and were included in the draw. According to rules, if a driver has not raced for two years, he must start two heats on the outside. Chip, and everyone else, got a big chuckle out of this announcement at the drivers' meeting. PICO chose its '98 PICO U-100 hull, and Budweiser chose to race T3 '95.

Heat 1

Saturday afternoon, Heat 1A found four boats jockeying for position. (U-2 was still on the trailer.) Miss Havasu approached the line first, but Mark Weber misjudged the marker and had to slow almost off plane. Villwock made a great start and took a big lead, which he held over the three laps. Weber chased Bud for a bit for second.

Heat 2B proved very interesting. All the boats came down to the line fast and almost even, U-3 slightly behind. As it turned out, Mike Weber was in first place. All the others jumped. PICO passed Jeronimo on lap 2, and Jeronimo missed a buoy. With less than a quarter lap to go, U-3 Master Tire stalled. Weber could not re-start. One boat after another passed him.

The U-2 crew worked most of the night and well into Sunday to put the parts together.

Heat 2

On Sunday, the cloud cover cooled things down a little, and the wind was not as much a factor.

The five fastest qualifiers faced each other in 2A. Hanauer had to start on the outside again. Although the racing was tight, nobody changed place from the start. The drivers held a fine line between flying and hydroplaning. At one point, in the first turn, Budweiser, the leader, almost crossed that line.

In 2B, Hopp nailed the start. It looked for a moment that he would be too early. Hanson came over the line in second place; then U-9 hit a roller at the third turn and almost flipped. The impact broke an electrical connection, and Hanson could not re-start. The race ended up as a two-boat show. Commercial Sealants first and Master Tire second. U-2 still was not ready.

Heat 3

About 30 minutes before the start of 3A, U-2 Freddie's Club trailer-fired. David chose to start on the outside. Master Tire withdrew; in 2B, nine feet of laminate ripped off the bottom. Cooper considered himself lucky, because "Usually when that happens, the pressure can blow the whole deck."

When the boats crossed the start line, Bud led, followed by E-Lam, Jeronimo, and Freddie's Club. After one lap, 3A was a parade.

The U-2 crew, hoisting out, noticed another case of bottom damage. Three or four feet of laminate was missing along with some honeycomb. Harvey withdrew. There would be no provisional heat.

Heat 3B again had some excitement. For the first time Chip could choose his lane. He and the others — Mark Weber, Hanson, and Hopp — all tried to get the inside lane. As they came around the last turn before the start, Havasu, on the pole, and PICO appeared to touch. (Chip got a $100 fine for encroachment.) PICO was washed down. Miss Havasu had her nose over the line first, with Commercial Sealants and U-9 right there, too. Chip sat at the approach to the straightaway trying to fire his turbine. By the time the boats came out of the far turn, he was successful. Now there were two races. Up front,it was between Miss Havasu and Commercial Sealants. Hopp moved into first place on lap 1. In the other race, Chip caught and passed Hanson on lap 2.

Final Heat

The wind picked up a bit, and before the final the officials showed some concern. The drivers felt they could handle it and wanted to race.

Six boats were set for the 2:45 start. (U-9, the trailer, withdrew.) Hopp, Hanauer, and Villwock diced. Hopp took the pole. It looked as if Bud, lane 3, and PICO, lane 2, were going to be nose to nose at the line. Villwock accelerated off the pin too fast and lifted his foot.

Hanauer hit the clock perfectly. PICO took the lead, followed by Miss Havasu, which fell steadily down the ladder. Villwock passed Weber and pulled himself back into the fray. Commercial Sealants passed Miss Havasu for third place, then fought a first-lap battle, deck to deck, with E-Lam, which started behind but quickly moved up (passing Miss Havasu). Jeronimo gained only one position; in the fourth lap, it passed Miss Havasu. The boats separated into two packs. Chip led all five laps, with Villwock and Hopp right behind.

Chip said he won (career #59) because crew chief Ken Dryden, on the radio, kept hollering in his ear, "Don't let up! If you let up, you'll lose! " That's how close Budweiser was. Dave said he made a choice at the start. He let up, because he thought he could catch PICO. He did try, but he red-lined the engine and had to ease off so he wouldn't draw a penalty for too many revs. Bernie Little says the season has just begun and, "We'll win the championship. You can take that to the bank."

New Town

Fora first-time race, the Mohave Unlimited Hydrofest was a doozy. From the organization of the two venues (one a state park; the other a privately owned campground) to die show itself, the event was one promoter Rob Brondell and Jim Kidrick and the volunteers have a right to be proud of.

The population of the city is 41,000, and there were 32,000 paid admissions by the end of the weekend. Here is where the famous London Bridge, which was falling down in its hometown, was rebuilt brick by brick and rededicated in 1971. Lake Havasu City is not a retirement community. It has a community college, a northern campus of Arizona State University, a large tourist industry - and tons and tons of boats, all shapes and sizes.

The city sits on the eastern shore of Lake Havasu.

The lake is formed by Parker Dam on the Colorado River at the convergence of the Mohave and Sonoran deserts. Being desert, it is hot and dry, and the temperatures were close to 100 degrees on Friday and Saturday. Also, being desert, it is plagued by afternoon winds, which made for some very rough water. On Sunday, there were no wind delays.

Spectators saw the race from a distance and at unusual angles. Windsor Beach, on the Arizona mainland, faced the shape-up turn. Crazy Horse, on the island that lies in a southwesterly direction, abutted part of the backstretch. Inshore, the turn measured 1,200 feet across. The opposite (first) turn measured 1,500.

Budweiser Mohave Unlimited Hydrofest ’99
Lake Havasu City Arizona May 22-23, 1999 2-mile course on Lake Havasu


U-1 Miss Budweiser (1997) Dave Villwock 152.413 W/D
U-1 Miss Budweiser (1995) Dave Villwock 151.515  
U-16 Miss E-Lam Plus Jimmy King 140.611  
U-100 Miss PICO (#9801) Chip Hanauer 139.481  
U-100 Miss PICO (#9899) Chip Hanauer 136.630 W/D
U-15 Miss Commercial Sealants Greg Hopp 135.542  
U-20 Appian Jeronimo Mitch Evans 131.483  
U-10 Miss Havasu Mark Weber 130.714  
U-2 Freddie's Club Steve David DNQ Commission Option-not prepared
U-3 Master Tire Mike Weber DNQ Commission Option
U-9 (no name) Mike Hanson DNQ Commission Option


Heat 1A
1) Budweiser 115.601  
2) Miss Havasu 109.587  
3) Commercial Sealants 102.245  
4) U-9 92.991  
  Freddie's Club DNS late arrival not ready to race
Fast lap (2) U-9 126.276  
Heat 1B
1) PICO 90.527 penalized one lap for jumping the gun
2) E-Lam Plus 75.075 penalized one lap for jumping the gun
3) Appian Jeronimo 70.334 penalized one lap for jumping the gun and one lap for missing a buoy
  Master Tire DNF  
Fast lap (2) PICO 128.926  
Heat 2A
1) Budweiser 134.740  
2) E-Lam Plus 129.945  
3) PICO 127.119  
4) Appian Jeronimo 122.810  
5) Miss Havasu 120.235  
Fast lap (1) Budweiser 140.580  
Heat 2B
1) Commercial Sealants 122.185  
2) Master Tire 104.778  
  U-9 DNF hopped in 2nd turn broken electrical connection
  Freddie's Club DNS electrical problem
Fast lap (1) Commercial Sealants 123.788  
Heat 3A
1) Budweiser 132.439  
2) E-Lam Plus 127.316  
3) Appian Jeronimo 122.293  
4) Freddie's Club 113.110  
  Master Tire W/D bottom of the hull delaminated
Fast lap (1) Budweiser 140.250  
Heat 3B
1) Commercial Sealants 130.162  
2) Miss Havasu 125.137  
3) PICO 106.596  
4) U-9 96.441.  
Fast lap (2) Commercial Sealants 133.139  
1) Miss PICO 134.714  
2) Miss Budweiser 132.754  
3) Miss Commercial Sealants 129.625  
4) Miss E-Lam Plus 123.170  
5) Appian Jeronimo 121.609  
6) Miss Havasu 120.787  
Fast lap (2) Miss Budweiser 139.833  


(Unlimited NewsJournal, June 1999, compiled by Allen Stiles)