2004 Budweiser Bluewater Hydrofest
Bud clinches season title,
Troxell declared winner in rough going at St. Clair
After a 44-year break, the Unlimiteds returned to the quiet river town of St. Clair, Michigan August 19-22 to compete in the Budweiser Bluewater Hydrofest. Six race teams made the trek back East and were greeted by an enthusiastic race committee, regardless of the fact that they were expecting at least eight boats.
The 2½ mile course, laid out between St. Clair on the American shore and Courtright, Ontario along the backstretch in Canada, was smack-dab in the middle of shipping lanes for the huge freighters that ply the Great Lakes. And just like they did when the hydros raced here in the fifties, the freighters would come into play in 2004.
Water conditions were never perfect the entire weekend, but they were best during the Friday qualifying seesions. Dave Villwock was able to do a 158.111 mile-per-hour lap in the Miss Budweiser T-6. Joe Little’s Bud team found itself in a three-way battle for the Hydro-Prop championship coming into this last race of the season. Steve David in the Oh Boy! Oberto and Terry Troxell in Miss E-Lam Plus also had their sights on the title, but Villwock and Budweiser had an edge of 65 points over David and 66 over Troxell.
The first two heats were scheduled to be run Saturday afternoon and the crowds on both riverbanks anxiously awaited the appearance of the world’s fastest race boats.
Officials decided to utilize the same race format that worked last year in San Diego with a six-boat field. To avoid three-boat heats, four boats would race in each heat. At the end of the preliminary heats, each boat would have run four times. Four boats came out at the five-minute gun for Heat 1-A and plowed around for a lap before being called back to the pits. It seems some pleasure craft were running in the backstretch area and posed a hazard. Then, a couple of freighters appeared from the southern end of the course and caused a nearly two-hour delay.
In the meantime, Hydro-Prop officials decided to revert to three boat heats so the hydros wouldn’t have to run an extra heat in the roughening course conditions.
Miss Budweiser, Oh Boy! Oberto and Miss E-Lam Plus came out bounding over the waves. Steve David went over the starting line early and way ahead of Miss Budweiser. E-Lam Plus lagged a quarter lap behind. On lap #2, Villwock powered past the Oberto for the biggest racing thrill of the weekend. Troxell and E-Lam trailed the distance.
Heat 1-B had J W Myers in the LLumar Window Film, Ken Muscatel in Miss Aim Plastics, and rookie J Michael Kelly in Jim Harvey’s Graham Trucking, sponsored by Sindbad is and the Roostertail. LLumar took the start and never looked back. Graham Trucking ran second all the way and Muscatel in his U-25 trailed.
In the first heat on Sunday, the three boats were crawling at the start. Steve David was way off plane on the inside and drew a one-lap penalty. JW Myers took the lead in lane #2, and Terry Troxell was really moving on the outside. On lap 2, Oberto’s wing assembly had visible damage, so Steve David left the course and returned to the pits. LLumar won by three boat lengths over E-Lam.
In Heat 2-B, J Michael Kelly led for a lap, with Villwock toying with him in second place. Aim Plastics got a really late start and trailed slowly. On lap two, Bud went by the U-2 on the outside and won, gaining enough points to insure the 2004 O’Doul’s High Point championship.
Water conditions were now extremely rough. In Heat 3-A, the three entries were plowing and stalling. Aim Plastics went down before the start, but refired and drove straight to the pits. E-Lam led in a joke of a heat. Graham Trucking stalled repeatedly, but finished. Troxell’s winning speed was 84.642 mph.
Conditions were even worse for Heat 3-B. LLumar never left the dock with starter problems. Oberto took an early lead as Miss Budweiser was left plowing down the Canadian shoreline. On lap 1, Bud's horizontal stabilizer was ripped off. On lap 2, the beer boat hooked and spun in turn #3, tearing a gaping hole on the inside of the left sponson. David averaged a very respectable 101.963 for three laps in these conditions.
The finals were scheduled for 3:10 pm, but choppy water and freighter traffic led to a series of postponements. The vintage boats that were on hand tried to make a go of it, but returned to the pits after only a lap.
At 4:00 pm Hydro-Prop honcho Tom D’Eath held a drivers’ meeting and declared the race would be called at 4:30 if conditions did not improve. They didn’t, and the race was declared “official”. The winner was Terry Troxell in Ellstrom’s Miss E-Lam Plus based on points earned in the earlier heats.
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Hydro-Prop has filed against the Bluewater International Hydrofest, the organization that put on the St. Clair race.
After the race, the six boat teams that raced discovered they weren’t getting paid for participating. Each team was to receive at least $8,100. Hydro-Prop is in the process of filing the lawsuit after the Michigan non-profit organization failed to remit a final payment of $ 144,135 that was due by Aug. 22.
|Budweiser Bluewater International Hydrofest results
|Miss E-Lam Plus
|J. Michael Kelly
|LLumar Window Film
|Miss Budweiser T-6
|Oh Boy! Oberto
|Miss Aim Plastics