1999 JN Chevrolet Hydrofest

Running on fumes

Villwock Gets First Honolulu Win, But Was It Hanauer' s Last Race?

by Bob & Karin Senior with Chris Tracy

Before the race in Honolulu, Dave Villwock and Miss Budweiser had already locked in both driver and boat national championships. But with Chip Hanauer only one win away from tying Bill Muncey's win record, many mainlanders joined Hawaiians in attending the JN Chevrolet Hydrofest at historic Pearl Harbor. Villwock would be forced by current rules to start in lane 5, so many thought this race might have Chip's name on it.

This was the tenth Honolulu race and again represented a merger of talent between the U.S. Navy, the corporate community (especially JN Chevrolet and Outrigger Hotels), and civilians. While these groups worked well together to put on the event, the two top race teams didn't see eye to eye.

Testing and Qualifying

Often the trade winds blew hard, and the water was, at times, rough. All eight boats qualified. U-9 ran with the longest name, "Miss Starrow Enterprises/Eagle Hardware/Home Container Supplies." U-8 extended its name as "Outrigger Presents LLumar Window Film." While U-14 was called "Miss Northwest Unlimited" by announcers, no name appeared on the race boat.

Miss Budweiser (T5) led the qualifiers at 166.469, but Miss PICO (98-1) and defending winner YORK also qualified at over 160. In testing, Miss PICO turned a lap of 169-plus.

The "Hawaii Ka'i III" replica was back on the water. Jerry Hopp and Ken Muscatel gave rides to several people on Saturday and Sunday. The pink boat made the TV news and again served as good publicity for Hydrofest.

Heat 1

At the start in 1A, YORK (Mark Weber) led the pack from the inside lane with PICO (Hanauer) in lane 2, U-14 (Muscatel) in lane 3, and Budweiser (Villwock) out in lane 5. U-14 went dead in the first turn and DNF. Up the backstretch, Bud took the lead with YORK second and PICO third. At the end of lap 1, Bud led, and PICO trailed second-place YORK by eight seconds. At the end of lap 2, Bud led YORK by four seconds, and in the final turn of lap 3, YORK moved up to challenge Bud by taking a great turn. Bud won by two boat lengths. PICO finished third, with reported fuel-control problems. Some believe PICO may have sandbagged this heat. The U-14 crew said that bushings in the shaft log failed and caused vibrations, which popped seals and salted their only engine.

They withdrew, dooming the scattered spectators to three- and four-boat competition.

In 1B, LLumar (Jimmy King) had the inside, with Miss Starrow (Mike Hanson) in lane 2, Freddie's Club (Mark Tate) in lane 3, and The Waikiki Trolley in lane 4. Starrow led across the line and was first up the backstretch with LLumar second but still in die inside lane. At the end of lap 1, there were three boats abreast, as Starrow seemed to accelerate into the lead. But in lap 2, Tate poked Freddie's Club into the lead, with LLumar tight on his heals. Freddie's Club won, LLumar second, Starrow third, and never a factor was Waikiki Trolley in fourth.

Heat 2

In the milling before 2A, it was PICO in lane 1, LLumar in 2, Waikiki Trolley in 3, and Budweiser in 5, but then Hanson went wide into lane 6. In the first turn, both LLumar and PICO went dead and DNF.

Bud turned a slow 133 in lap 1. Bud and Waikiki Trolley ran a "Fred and Ginger" on laps 2 and 3. (In lap 2, Waikiki Trolley actually ran the fastest lap of this heat.) Budweiser won in a "photo finish." Later it was reported the PICO lost the hot end of the engine, and LLumar had compressor stall, the engine going to "ground idle."

In 2B, Weber positioned the YORK early in lane 1. Tate charged hard and led at the start. YORK took the lead up the backstretch of lap 1 and led the rest of the race, by six seconds at the end. Although Freddie's Club finished second physically, it was awarded third-place points because of a DMZ penalty, so Starrow took second-place points.

Heat 3

Heat 3A might have been the weirdest heat of the season. A minute before the start, LLumar had lane 1 abreast with Starrow, Waikiki Trolley, and Budweiser. Waikiki Trolley went to the outside on the run to the starting line. At the end of lap 1, LLumar led by four seconds over Starrow, with Budweiser third and Waikiki Trolley trailing. At the end of lap 2, it was U-8 with a five-second lead over U-9. On the final lap Budweiser s-l-o-w-e-d and ran the widest course possible in about lane 7, allowing The Trolley to pass and take third place. Budweiser finished dead last. This finish mathematically made it impossible for PICO to be anything but a trailer boat in the final.

[Villwock smiled at the awards ceremony after the race and said, "We had fuel-control problems in 3A." Many fans agree with Mark Weber as quoted in the Honolulu Advertiser. "I don't believe that for one minute. I think they wanted to put Chip Hanauer not in the final, and that's disappointing. I would have liked to have seen everyone race everyone heads up. It's not illegal, but I'm not impressed." Mark Tate was less critical. He told the Advertiser "Everyone plays different strategies on the race course. What Dave did, in my opinion, he did to win the boat race. Who am I to comment on that?"]

Heat 3B might qualify as the second-weirdest heat of the season. Leland and Hanauer were so upset with the "strategy" employed by Budweiser that they withdrew PICO from the heat and the race. It was reported to UNJ that both Bill Wurster and Jim Harvey offered to withdraw their boats to give Hanauer a chance to start on the front line, but Leland declined. Another source claimed that PICO was out of "good" engines, anyway, which may have prompted the withdrawal.

Weber planted YORK in his usual lane-1 position, and the only other boat in 3B was Freddie's Club.

YORK led wire to wire.

Final Heat

At the drivers' meeting Saturday, Referee Mike Noonan said the top six boats on points would run on the front line, and the boat with seventh-most points would be the trailer. No provisional heat was held.

The final heat was anticlimactic; PICO was not in the show. Before the start, fork settled into lane 1, and LLumar earned lane 2. Freddie's Club was in lane 3, with Starrow in 4, Budweiser in 5, and Waikiki Trolley in 6. Villwock made a perfect start and turned the first lap at 155. He was never challenged. YORK ran a strong second all five laps. LLumar and Freddie's Club had a dandy battle for third. At the end of lap 2, Freddie's was inside and in third place. LLumar then took over third place, but on a later front stretch. King rose and soared LLumar. Freddie's Club briefly took third again. King floored it, went into the first turn of the last lap, and charged ahead of Freddie's Club.

Villwock was excited about his first Honolulu win. He remarked to the Honolulu Star that " I just wanted to win here. I have never won here, and it starts to become like Dale Earnhardt trying to win Daytona. It was a big race for us. "

After the 1999 Hydrofest was over, a group of us had a chance to talk briefly with Chip Hanauer, who was non-committal about next year. He said, "I don't know; it's just not fun any more. When I started driving unlimiteds it was against the likes of Bill Muncey and Dean Chenoweth. Now it's a lot different." Mainland and Hawaiian fans attending this race couldn't help but believe that this race was a bit different, too. Now we will have to wait and see if Chip will be back next year to attempt to tie or beat Muncey ' s victory total.

(Unlimited NewsJournal)