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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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|
|Freddie's Club||DNS||late arrival not ready to race|
|Fast lap (2)||U-9||126.276|
|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|
|Fast lap (2)||PICO||128.926|
|Fast lap (1)||Budweiser||140.580|
|U-9||DNF||hopped in 2nd turn broken electrical connection|
|Freddie's Club||DNS||electrical problem|
|Fast lap (1)||Commercial Sealants||123.788|
|Master Tire||W/D||bottom of the hull delaminated|
|Fast lap (1)||Budweiser||140.250|
|Fast lap (2)||Commercial Sealants||133.139|
|3)||Miss Commercial Sealants||129.625|
|4)||Miss E-Lam Plus||123.170|
|Fast lap (2)||Miss Budweiser||139.833|
(Unlimited NewsJournal, June 1999, compiled by Allen Stiles)