2004 Budweiser Columbia Cup
Budweiser is Best in Field of 10
The "Outlaw" Tri-Cities Race
by Dan Lopez
The "independent" 2004 Columbia Cup had few apparent differences with most Hydro-Prop races. A truce of sorts allowed several loyalists to mingle with the rebel entries; 10 teams participated, the best turnout this year. Miss Budweiser, once again, showed herself to be virtually unbeatable without a stiff handicap. (All turbines had 4.3 gpm here.) Driver Dave Villwock nabbed the inside for the final heat, and he ran away from the rest.
Action started off slowly as only crowd-favorite Vacationville took advantage of the first session. Later, both Miss Budweisers, Oh Boy! Oberto, and Miss APBA joined Vacationville as the day's "qualifiers."
Miss Rock and Windermere Real Estate were not yet in the pits, and LLumar arrived during the day. Another boat, Miss Warner Auto Sales was there but couldn't run, because its engine was in American Maid. Mark Evans made two runs in the four-seater (not a race boat so far) with three passengers each time. Race director Emily Janikowski and representatives of KNDU-TV, KONA radio, and the Tri-City Herald got rides.
During the afternoon the first head-to-head unlimited racing occurred in the "Carl's Jr. Dash for Cash", a three-lap show. Budweiser (T6), on the outside, was first to the turn. Oberto, in lane 1, came out first. LLumar and Budweiser pushed Oberto back to third though all four boats were tightly bunched at the end of the first lap. The inside lane worked to Steve David's advantage, and Oberto again led out of turn 1 and through turn 2. J.W. Myers passed the pepperoni boat on the front stretch. His LLumar held a narrow lead at the end of the second lap. Again David gained through turn 1, and again Myers just nipped him at the finish for a hard-fought victory. Mitch Evans and Vacationville followed closely in third. Miss Budweiser failed to finish; Dave Villwock returned to the pits after two laps with gearbox woes.
The Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum had three boats on hand. Miss Burien and two replicas, "Hawaii Ka'i III" and "Oh Boy! Oberto" made several runs over the weekend. An exhibition race was held Sunday afternoon for the "Atomic Cup."
Five more boats and two rookie drivers, Dick Lynch and J. Michael Kelly, qualified today. Two other rookies, Steve Hook and Vince Xaudaro, were unable to complete the required number of laps (15 total, with 10 at 130 mph or more). Xaudaro's boat, Windermere Real Estate, also failed to reach the required speed and would not race in today's heat 1.
The format for assigning lanes was the same as in Evansville. In the first heat sections, the fastest qualifiers would be inside working outward. For the second heat sections, the lanes would be reversed; the fastest boats outside working in. The third heat sections would have the boats with the most points inside, the lowest-point boat outside.
Exceptions were for the rookie drivers, who would have to start on the outside and a roostertail behind.
There were only three boats for 1A, because Greg Hopp was unable to start Spirit of Tri-Cities. Miss Budweiser (T5 '97) grabbed the lead in turn 1 and never relinquished it. LLumar stayed within a roostertail of the leader for most of the heat and eventually finished less than three lengths behind. Lynch, in the underpowered Miss Warner Auto Sales, was third, about three-quarters of a lap back.
In 1B, David had to back off as he approached the start line, which allowed the other four boats to get the jump on Oberto. Vacationville took an early and permanent lead. Miss Rock (Ken Muscatel) exited turn 1 followed by Conover Insurance (Hopp subbing for Hook). Oberto moved by both to take over second place by the end of lap 1. Oberto ran close behind but couldn't catch the Allison boat. Hopp went inside and claimed third place from Muscatel on lap 3. Miss APBA (Kelly), forced to start outside and behind, ran fifth.
Saturday afternoon an extra test session was held. Although open to all, the primary intent was to allow the unqualified rookies more seat time. Between this session and the usual Sunday-morning one, both Hook and Xaudaro qualified. Sunday's racing would include all 10 boats and drivers.
No surprise: It was hot, over 100°, and sunny. Attendance looked good, normal or even better.
In 2A, Budweiser led into turn 1, but LLumar emerged with the lead. Myers held it until turn 2 of the second lap. There Villwock regained the lead on his way to a narrow victory. Spirit of Tri-Cities finished third followed by Warner and Windermere.
Vacationville got to turn 1 first in 2B, but Miss Rock emerged with the lead. Vacationville passed Rock halfway up the backstretch, then Oberto took second in turn 2. At the end of lap 1, Vacationville led by less than a roostertail over Oberto, with Rock close in third and Miss APBA right behind. The lower turn of lap 2 gave David the opportunity to take over first again. Evans reclaimed the lead on the backstretch.
David wasn't done yet; he continued to battle and exited the final turn a few feet in front. The Madison boat couldn't hold off U-3, however. The race for third was even closer—Kelly just missed catching Muscatel at the line.
After the heat, the Rock crew discovered a broken gearbox mount. It was done for the day.
Before the start of 3A, Miss APBA caught some spray from a roostertail and conked out. By the time Kelly got re-started, he was nearly a half lap back.
Meanwhile, LLumar and Conover led the field at the start. Unfortunately, both jumped the gun and were assessed one-lap penalties. Budweiser cruised to an easy victory over APBA. LLumar and Conover finished third and fourth. Lynch shut Warner down on lap 3 when he experienced a vibration.
Four boats started 3B. Vacationville took the lead at the start. Oberto ran a close second for all four laps On lap 4, Evans moved out, and David went inside in a last-ditch attempt, but fell short again. Tri-Cities finished third followed by Windermere.
With only one entrant, the provisional heat was canceled. Conover advanced to the final as the sixth boat. When officials announced that U-99 would have to start in lane 6, the Leland team decided Hopp (not a rookie) would drive in the final, so he could dice for lanes. They were told, however, that their boat had to start from the outside no matter who drove. The reasoning seemed to be that Conover advanced from the provisional. The team couldn't figure how U-99 was from the provisional when no provisional was run. However, the ruling held, and Hook ended up in Conover, starting in lane 6.
Villwock won the battle for the inside. He took the lead out of turn 1, and Budweiser never was seriously challenged. LLumar, in lane 2, and Vacationville collided at the exit buoy of the first turn. LLumar ended up dead in the water facing backwards; its cowling floated on the river about 30 yards away. Evans received a one-lap penalty and a $300 fine. Although physically in second for nearly five laps, Vacationville was fifth with the penalty. Oberto chased Vacationville and moved past the piston boat just before taking the checkered flag. Miss APBA had the best start, leading into turn 1 but exiting in last place. Kelly was able to take over third when he passed Conover on lap 2. Hook brought Conover in for fourth with Vacationville fifth.
LLumar was towed back with a large hole in the right sponson. The crew had repaired the same area just days earlier. After having his boat hurt by collisions with two different orange or red boats in as many races, Bill Wurster joked that LLumar might be painted red in Seattle, so "They won't be zeroing in on us."
(Unlimited NewsJournal, October 2004)