2007 Chevrolet Seafair Trophy

It’s Steve David and Oberto in Seattle

by David Greene

As Seafair came to a close Art Oberto was standing on the awards platform about to receive the Chevrolet Seafair Trophy the culmination of his over 30 years of sponsoring Gold Cupper hydroplanes. The victory was the fulfillment of a lifetime dream which was especially timely as Oberto was about to celebrate his 80th birthday. He is now “first cabin in the sport” as he put it, after campaigning Gold Cuppers for 25 out of the last 32 years.

Prior to the race things did not look very promising for any entry aside from Dave Villwock and the Miss E-Lam Plus. The Ellstrom hydro had won all four races this season, taking 15 of her 16 heats - not running up to par in the one lost heat. More discouraging, E-Lam had 4 m.p.h. on the field at the Tri-Cities which allowed her to sweep by on the outside to win the final heat of the Columbia Cup beating Steve David and Oh Boy! Oberto by 3 m.p.h.

Encouraging to the rest of the boats, Jean Theoret in Miss Beacon Plumbing had the fastest competition lap at Madison with Oh Boy! Oberto taking top honors at the Gold Cup. Other noteworthy antagonists for the E-Lam Plus at least on a sporadic basis were Jimmy King in Ronald McDonald (U-3) and Jeff Bernard in Formulaboats.com I (U-5).

Middle of the road entries were: Hoss Mortgage Investors (U-10) driven by David Bryant - a sometime contender last season and J. Michael Kelly in Car Pros (U-13) - about 5 m.p.h. faster than 2006. The next echelon was comprised of Greg Hopp in Mirage Boats.com (U-100), Ken Muscatel in Miss Pro Craft Windows (U-25), Brian Perkins in The Plumbing Joint (U-21) and U-9 Miss Tri-Arc Electric with Chris Bertram. Rounding out the field were David Williams in Miss Lakeridge Paving and Jimmy Shane in Formulaboats.com II - a contender 10 years ago when running as Appian Jeronimo having fallen on hard times in recent years. Nate Brown’s Miss Red Dot made her debut at Seattle after traveling to the Tri-Cities.

The qualifying record for Seattle is 163.451 m.p.h. with 157.480 being achieved in recent years. Miss E-Lam Plus posted 156.501 with Hoss Mortgage Investors second at 154.119. The other qualifications were unremarkable except that the new Red Dot did 142.227.

Fourteen boats qualified and, unlike 2006, there were three sections of the first two heats thus ensuring that qualified boats were not relegated to a trailer position. Heat 1-A had Oh Boy! Oberto, Miss Beacon Plumbing, Ronald McDonald House, Hoss Mortgage Investors, and Miss Lakeridge Paving as contestants. Miss E-Lam Plus drew an easy heat 1-B with Mirage Boats.com, Miss Procraft Windows, Tri-Arc Electric and Miss Red Dot as antagonists. Formulaboats.com I also appeared to have a clear advantage in 1-C over Car Pros, The Plumbing Joint and Formulaboats II - a back up hull to the former Miss Budweiser (T5) that had not been repaired after the Detroit Gold Cup.

Starting heat 1-A Oh Boy! Oberto, Beacon Plumbing and Hoss Mortage Investors were in the first three lanes and were together up the first backstretch with Oberto showing a slight lead. At the end of the lap, it was Oh Boy! Oberto, Hoss Mortgage, Beacon Plumbing and even the piston pounding Ronald McDonald close together. Miss Lakeridge Paving brought up the rear. On the second backstretch Beacon Plumbing went dead in the water with David Bryant pressuring Steve David. At the end of the second lap heading into the final lap Hoss Mortgage Investors was in hot pursuit of the leading Oberto. In the last lap however Bryant was passed by Jimmy King who finished six seconds behind Oh Boy! Oberto. Hoss was third with Lakeridge Paving last.

Mirage Boats.com, Miss Pro Craft Windows, Miss E-Lam Plus, Tri-Arc Electric and Miss Red Dot were in succeeding lanes to the outside heading into the first turn of heat 1-B when the Tri-Arc Electric became airborne and went over. Immediately the boats returned to the pits to await the running of heat 1-C.

The Plumbing Joint failed to start heat 1-C. The three starters from the inside out - Formulaboats.com I, Car Pros and Formula Two were close into the first turn. The latter fell back and it was Formula One and Car Pros going at it down the backstretch. At the end of the lap Formulaboats.com had a second advantage over Car Pros who was 8 seconds ahead of Formulaboats.com I. On the second backstretch, Kelly in the Car Pros had to go wide to avoid the stalled Plumbing Joint. As a result Formula One gained another second on the Detroit entry. In the final lap the Ted Porter contender lengthened her lead, but the erstwhile Kelly was still near in second. Formula Two was far to the rear.

Heat 1-B was then summoned to the water minus Tri-Arc Electric. Miss E-Lam Plus again started in an outside lane but led up the backstretch with Mirage Boats.com close behind. At the end of the lap however Miss Pro Craft Windows was still close in second place with the Mirage Boats falling back. Miss Red Dot was last. In the second lap Miss E-Lam plus drew away with the Pro Craft the runner-up.

Mirage Boats.com was a clear third with Miss Red Dot a short distance back in fourth place. The positions remained unchanged during the final lap. Miss E-Lam cruised in first to take the heat by three seconds. The others were spaced out behind.

Heat 2-A was composed of the also rans Miss Pro Craft Windows, Mirage Beats.com, Miss Red Dot, Miss Lakeridge Paving and possibly a repaired Tri-Arc Electric. Oh Boy! Oberto appeared to be in tough in heat 2-B with Formula One, Hoss Mortgage, Car Pros and Formula Two as competitors. A somewhat awaited clash between Miss E-Lam Plus and Miss Beacon Plumbing was to be featured in 2-C. Ronald McDonald and the Plumbing Joint were also scheduled to start.

Miss Lakeridge Paving and, not surprisingly, Tri-Arc Electric failed to start heat 2-A. Mirage Boats.com on the inside, Miss Pro Craft Windows in the middle and Miss Red Dot on the outside headed into the initial turn together. They remained close through the first lap with Brown showing a slight advantage. Mirage was second with Pro Craft just off the pace. During the second lap the latter spun out and went dead in the water. Mirage Boats assumed the lead but it was about even heading into the final stanza. At the end of the heat Hopp’s Mirage Boats.com was in front by four seconds as the Red Dot’s speed was substantially reduced.

For the first time in the 57 year history of Gold Cupper boat racing on Lake Washington the finish of a heat was too close to call by the unschooled naked eye. Oh Boy! Oberto started heat 2-B on the inside and had a tight battle with Formula One and Hoss Mortgage Investors for the first two laps. Then Formula One lost power and Hoss which had started in lane 4 came on strong in the final lap to nip Steve David at the finish line. This was surprising since David’s U-6 had increased her advantage in the second lap. Formula One was third. Car Pros, which was right behind after the first lap, nevertheless accounted for fourth. Formula Two lagged.

Miss Beacon Plumbing had been damaged in her first heat, but was repaired overnight with a few more beans in her tank. As a result Miss E-Lam Plus could stay with her for the first lap of heat 2-B, but on the second lap the Schumacher entry turned a near record 150 m.p.h. besting E-Lam by 9 m.p.h. to take a clear margin into the final circuit in which she increased her lead to win the heat by 4 seconds. Ronald McDonald jumped the gun and was in the chase for a lap then fell back and ultimately place fourth due to her penalty. The Plumbing Joint was markedly off the pace, but advanced to third.

Unlike the Tri-Cities, the field was compressed into two sections for heat three. This approach may leave qualified entries on the beach, but keeps the field from being possibly too spread out for all preliminary heats This produced a corker for heat 3-B with four heat winners Miss Beacon Plumbing, Miss E-Lam Plus, Oh Boy! Oberto and Hoss Mortgage being drawn together, Ronald McDonald and The Plumbing Joint rounded out the field. This left Formula One in heat 3-A with Car Pros and ProCraft Windows - both were running speeds that were competitive with her. Mirage Boats.com. Miss Red Dot and Formula Two were also drawn into this heat.

Formula One started heat 3-A in lane two. Mirage Boats had lane 1, but ended the initial circuit slightly behind the Jeff Bernard entry. Car Pros was not far back in third place. Muscatel’s Pro Craft boat and Brown’s Red Dot were next. Once again Jimmy Shane in Formula Two brought up the rear.

Formula One had a clear lead heading into the final lap with Mirage Boats and Car Pros neck and neck for second. Shortly thereafter Mirage Boats.com went dead in the water. However Car Pros was coming on in the last lap and closed significant ground, being only 30 yards back at the finish. Pro Craft Windows was third and Formula Two was fourth. Mirage Boats restarted to finish fifth. Miss Red Dot lost power in the second lap to finish last.

In heat 3-B Theoret in Beacon Plumbing again wrested the inside away from Villwock in the Miss E-Lam Plus who was in lane three. Oh Boy! Oberto was in lane 2,with Hoss Mortgage in lane 4. Beacon Plumbing pulled away on lap 1 and had a decent advantage heading into lap 2. Miss E-Lam Plus was second. Oberto and Hoss followed closely in third and fourth. Theoret increased his lead in the ensuing laps and was clearly in front at the finish. It was a fast parade behind the Schumacher entry with Miss E-Lam Plus second, Oh Boy! Oberto third and Ronald McDonald going past Hoss Mortgage Investors in the final lap. The Plumbing Joint was a decided last.

Ronald McDonald and Mirage Boats.com were withdrawn due to structural problems leaving Miss ProCraft Windows, Miss Red Dot, Formula Two, The Plumbing Joint and Miss Lakeridge Paving to start the the provisional heat for the dubious privilege of being a trailer in the final heat. Tri-Arc Electric had been repaired from the first day’s racing, but was unable to start.

The whole field jumped the gun for the provisional heat. Muscatel’s Pro Craft got the inside at the start, however Miss Red Dot was slightly in front going down the first backstretch. At the end of the lap Miss Red Dot kept her advantage. The two leaders continued their duel on the second backstretch, but at the end of the circuit Muscatel was leading on the inside. On the final lap Red Dot dropped back 100 yards after being near to the front heading into this circuit. ProCraft had a clear lead approaching the extra lap and increased her advantage to win by 11 seconds. The Plumbing Joint was third all the way with Miss Lakeridge Paving fourth and Formula Two slightly behind in fifth place.

Approaching the final heat Beacon Plumbing (150.316) had a 6 m.p.h. margin in terms of competition lap times over the rest of the field which consisted of Miss E-Lam Plus (144.138), Hoss Mortgage Investors (144.109), Oh Boy! Oberto (143.449), Formulaboats.com I (142.258), Car Pros (141.668) and the trailer Miss Pro Craft Windows (141.140). As in the last two Seafairs, it appeared that the reconditioned Miss Budweiser (T4) was ready to win. Her fast lap had been exceeded at Seattle only once by Miss Budweiser (T5) in 1999. Except for the speed noted immediately above no other boat since 1997 was close to the Beacon.

After losing two straight heats to Theoret (when allowed the inside) Miss E-Lam Plus driver Dave Villwock was determined to get lane 1 for the start. When he tried to sneak inside Beacon he was watered down resulting in the Schumacher entry being disqualified.

Both entries were off plane or nearly off plane when the balance of the field was sprinting for the start. Given the competitive situation indicated above and the demise of the favorite it was anybody’s race at least among Hoss, Oberto, and Formula One.

Aside from the stragglers Oberto was inside with Formula One, Car Pros and Hoss Mortgage outside her. ProCraft Windows was the trailer. Oh Boy! Oberto led down the first backstretch with Formula One, Car Pros, and Hoss Mortgage close behind. At the end of the lap this was still the situation. The leaders were within four seconds of each other. At the next turn Hoss Mortgage had gained second. During lap three, Bryant began to pressure David and was only 1 second behind at the end of the lap. Car Pros and Formula One had fallen off the pace. In lap 4, Oberto legally moved Hoss out and had a good lead heading into the final lap. She gained a little in this lap to win the race. Hoss Mortgage was second.

Kelly in the Car Pros was a creditable third. Jeff Bernard was fourth for two laps, but then was passed by Dave Villwock for this position. Formula One was next. The trailer Pro Craft Windows passed a faltering Miss Beacon Plumbing to place sixth. The disqualified Beacon was last.

Steve David drove a superb race in winning the Chevrolet Seafair Trophy. He just plain outperformed rookie David Bryant and Jeff Bernard - two relatively inexperienced drivers - to win the race. Losing heat 2-B to Bryant and then placing third in the very competitive heat 3-B were revoltin’ developments, but when it really counted David came through.

It was Art Oberto’s fifth victory as a sponsor. Two were salt water piston victories against turbines.

The third was due to others jumping the gun at Madison in 2001. However, in 2005 the old 1988 vintage ninth Oberto won at Evansville.

Also returning to first cabin status as a result of the Oberto win were Bob Hughes and the people of Madison. Their new boat has about 5 m.p.h. on last year’s old warhorse that ran 19 years in 128 races. Only the immediately previous Miss Madison and Dave Bartush’s current charger have participated in more races. Other years that the Madison entry was competitive with the leaders were 1970, 1971, 1993 and 2000.

Also returning to contender status is Kim Gregory with the old Miss Budweiser (T3). His new driver David Bryant beat the winning Oberto in heat 2-B along with Formula One. More experience should allow him to do this consistently. Bryant should become the rookie of the year.

Miss E-Lam Plus experienced the Seattle blues for the second consecutive year. Like last year the engines just wouldn’t play a winning tune especially in the rough water. The Seattle two-mile course is unlike the wide turn 2-mile course at Evansville, perhaps providing a unique problem for the Ellstrom team. Nevertheless their position in the sport should be envied by the other teams.

The crowd for Seafair Sunday was estimated at 300,000. This was the same estimate that was given for some of the 1950’s Gold Cups on a 3-mile course as contrasted with the current 2-mile oval. When Seattle ran a 3¾ mile course in the middle fifties the crowd was estimated at as much as 500,000 in 1955 and 1956.

[Reprinted from Thunderboat, September 2007]