2003 Budweiser Indiana Governor's Cup

Crashes Are The Order Of The Day As The Joe Little Era Begins

Miss Budweiser wins 2003 Madison Regatta

Ten Unlimited hydroplane teams set up camp on the banks of the Ohio River at Madison for the Budweiser Madison Regatta presented by Belterra Casino/Resort, the 53rd run for the Indiana Governor’s Cup. The ghosts of the past are always looking down on Madison come the 4th of July weekend: Wild Bill Cantrell, Bill Muncey, Jim McCormick, and now Bernie Little. These men and so many others left their marks on this community, and you can feel their presence all along the waterfront. What a great place to be. On Friday, defending champ Nate Brown put the Miss E-Lam Plus into the race with a 150.185 mph lap around the 2½ mile Bill Cantrell Memorial Race Course. Then, Dave Villwock took Joe Little’s Miss Budweiser T-5 hull to 151.253, but the big guns were coming out on Saturday.

On Saturday, July 5th, Villwock went 153.389 mph in the Bud T-6 hull. Brown countered with a 152.142, but Mark Evans came out in Bill Wurster’s LLumar Window Film and did 152.529 to take second spot. Michael Hanson in U-9 Miss Bello’s Pizza did 153.897 to top them all, but received a fuel violation, so it didn’t count. Shucks! Other qualifiers were Mitch Evans in the Master Tire at 147.887, Mike Weber in Miss EMCOR at 145.916, Oh Boy! Oberto with Steve David at 145.398, Terry Troxell in Trendwest at 144.557, and Ken Muscatel in Mister Home Loan at 130.987.

Greg Hopp had Fred Leland’s U-100 Maryann Travel Inn cooking along at a 145.586 mph clip when the boat flipped over in the first turn of her second lap, tearing open the left sponson and landing upside down. Due to a communications mix-up, it took the rescue boat seemingly forever to get to the scene, with no sign of Greg Hopp in the meantime. When they finally extricated him from the escape hatch, Hopp was unconscious, but was quickly revived, complaining of a sore knee. Aside from ingesting a lot of river water, the torn knee ligaments were all that was the matter with Greg. He returned to the pits on crutches after a trip to the hospital.

Needless to say, the U-100 was towed back to the pits a shattered mess and was withdrawn from the race.

The first set of heats on race day were divided into three boats each due to the narrowness of the course.

Heat 1-A had Miss Budweiser, Miss Bello’s Pizza and Oh Boy! Oberto. These three staged a parade that saw Villwock take the lead at the start and never relinquish it. Miss Bello’s Pizza held second and Oberto held third.

1-B had LLumar, Master Tire and Trendwest. Trendwest and Master Tire were both early at the start and jumped the starter’s gun. Mark Evans brought the LLumar out of the pits late and was off plane on the backstretch after cutting the course to catch up. He was penalized a lap for not being on plane. Terry Troxell and Mitch Evans were penalized for jumping the gun, so everybody had to do five laps. Mitch and the U-3 led all the way. Trendwest was second and LLumar third.

Prior to the start of Heat 1-C, all the boats were leaping badly on the backstretch and oldtimers on shore couldn’t figure out why. Mike Weber’s Miss EMCOR took the start by a mile over Miss E-Lam and Mister Home Loan. Another rough ride by all down the Kentucky backstretch, with the E-Lam almost stuffing its nose. EMCOR stayed way out in front in a slow heat. Nate Brown survived for second place and Ken Muscatel crawled around in third. Weber averaged 127.498 in the rough going.

The cranky Ohio River seemed to settle down after this, and Heat 2-A was run. In a flying start, Mitch Evans, on the outside, took the lead from EMCOR in the first turn. Budweiser trailed up the middle after slowing to avoid jumping the start. The piston boat led by a mile for three laps until stalling on the last turn. EMCOR took over with Bud hot on his tail. Villwock took over in the first turn by cutting to the inside lane, Weber gave chase but was no match. Master Tire did not finish.

Jockeying for position for Heat 2-B, Miss E-Lam Plus cut the course and grabbed lane #1 from Troxell in the Trendwest and Hanson in the Bello’s Pizza. Troxell’s newfangled hydro fell back, but caught up at the start and took the lead up the middle. Bello’s Pizza, on the outside, was second and E-Lam was third. Brown received a penalty for encroaching prior to the start. Troxell led Hanson all four laps and won at a respectable 139.784 mph clip. Steve David never left the dock for Heat 2-C. LLumar and Home Loan ran four laps together with Mark Evans pulling away for the win on the outside on the last lap.

Trendwest got drowned out by the Budweiser’s roostertail during the scoring up period. Villwock led over the line with E-Lam chasing, LLumar third and Trendwest restarting for fourth. The bright orange Miss E-Lam stalled on lap #3. At the finish it was Bud, LLumar and Trendwest in that order.

In 3-B, Oh Boy! Oberto stayed on her trailer. EMCOR ran a perfect heat, holding off Bello’s Pizza. On lap 1’s third turn, Hanson’s U-9 slowed, allowing EMCOR to get away. Mister Home Loan trailed. At the finish, Mike Weber got a white flag and Hanson got the checkered, but it didn’t matter. Weber was the winner. Home Loan got third and Oberto got a DNS.

The final heat front line was set. Miss Budweiser, Miss Bello’s Pizza, LLumar Window Film, and Miss EMCOR. The trailer boat would be Trendwest and a provisional heat would be run to determine the sixth starter.

As it happened, Ken Muscatel’s U-25 was the only boat that appeared on the course for the Provisional. So, he was automatically in.

As the boats poured over the starting line in the winner-take-all final heat, Miss EMCOR, in lane 2, suddenly lifted off the water and sailed high in the sky, doing a 360° backward flip, and landing right side up. The race was stopped immediately as the yellow and blue craft chugged slowly down the course, stopping in the first turn. Mike Weber climbed out as rescue boats arrived. He appeared surprisingly alert and said he’d like to drive the boat back to the pits. The EMCOR was towed back as Mike rode back in the safety boat. He was checked out by medics on shore and appeared from the ambulance to the cheers of thousands of astonished race fans. He was OK.

So far, the events of the day had played right into Dave Villwock’s hands. In the restart, he powered through the first corner and took a lead that he never relinquished. LLumar and Bello’s gave chase. Trendwest went down before the start but fired up and followed the field to the start. Bud continued to lengthen the lead. Mark Evans had the LLumar in second, Mike Hanson was third in the Bello’s. Troxell’s Trendwest passed Mister Home Loan on lap 3 to take fourth position. And that’s how they finished. Villwock averaged 134.083 for the five laps to Evans’ 129.395. And so the Joe Little era begins. After dropping a prop in Evansville, the most famous race boat in the world got back on track at Madison. Joe’s dad must be proud.

2003 Budweiser Madison Regatta presented by Belterra Casino & Resort Indiana Governor’s Cup Race
1. U-1 Miss Budweiser T-6 Dave Villwock 134.083 mph
2. U-2 LLumar Window Film Mark Evans 129.395
3. U-9 Miss Bello’s Pizza Michael Hanson 126.375
4. U-25 Mister Home Loan Ken Muscatel 107.070
5. U-2 Trendwest Terry Troxell 98.958
6. U-10 Miss EMCOR Mike Weber  
7. U-16 Miss E-Lam Plus Nate Brown  
8. U-3 Master Tire Mitch Evans  
9. U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto Steve David  
  U-100 Maryann Travel Inn Greg Hopp (withdrawn)


(Thunderboat, August 2003)