2010 Lamb-Weston Columbia Cup

Tri-Cities Three-Peat For Steve David & Oh Boy! Oberto

by Ben Keller

The 45th renewal of unlimited hydroplane racing on the Columbia River, the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup, saw a rare three-peat for the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison and driver Steve David. Miss Madison first won the Tri-Cities race back in the storied season of 1971 so this year marked the fourth win overall for the team on the Columbia River which widens at the Tri-Cities to the extent that the water is also called Lake Wallula. It allowed the team to claim the high points lead over Dave Villwock and U-96 Spirit of Qatar (pronounced “cutter”) by a scant 370 points and was Steve David’s 11th career victory.


Eleven boats qualified on Friday, with Villwock and U-96 leading the way on the 2½ mile course at 161.928. David and U-1 were second at 160.972 mph. Neither team was satisfied with their Friday results. “We’re in the hunt,” Oberto crew chief Mike Hanson stated, “but it’s not worth beating up our parts for 20 points.” The 20 points is the difference in season points awarded for qualifying second as opposed to first. Considering the closeness of the points chase, those 20 points might be more important when all is said and done. U-96 didn’t participate in the second round of qualifying on Friday, and U-1 failed to improve on the morning mark. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Nate Brown, driving U-17 Red Dot to the third-fastest speed at 157.199.

Other Friday qualifiers were U-25 “Superior Racing” with Dr. Ken Muscatel at the wheel at 156.513, Cal Phipps in U-13 Miss DYC at 156.296, Brian Perkins and U-21 Albert Lee Appliance at 155.566, U-7 Graham Trucking driven by J. Michael Kelly at 155.030, U-5 Formula and Jeff Bernard at 153.861, U-100 “Leland Unlimited,” sponsored this weekend by Fleury Auto & Truck Parts, steered to a 152.219 mark by Greg Hopp, and U-37 Miss Peters & May with Jon Zimmerman driving at 150.763. Rounding out the field was U-22 Matrix System and driver Mike Weber at 136.622 mph. A twelfth boat in the Lampson pits and the final part of the Ted Porter Flotilla, U-57 Formula, remained unqualified.

Friday Notes:

Mark Events returns:

Although the boat was not ready to hit the water on Friday, Ted Porter stated that the U-57 was to be trailer-fired Friday afternoon. All eyes would be on the ever popular Mark Evans in anticipation of his return to unlimited racing. Jimmy Shane had driven the U-57 earlier for the Formula team. Veteran Jim Harvey is crew chief, with the crew from Evans’ Grand Prix boat twisting the wrenches for the weekend. One of Mark’s biggest concerns was having to wear bifocals so he could read the gauges! On Saturday at the drivers’ meeting chief referee Mike Noonan kept things light, stating that the 11 laps Evans had completed at 130+ would be enough to re-qualify as a driver as long as his boat displayed a handicapped sticker.

Miss Peters & May returns:

After one of the more scary accidents in recent memory destroyed their primary race boat in Detroit, Billy and Jane Schumacher leased one of Fred Leland’s hulls (#0010). The team referred to the hull as U-37 v.2.0. Jon Zimmerman was named as driver, replacing J.W. Myers who was injured in Detroit. Driver and boat qualified on Friday at 146.656 in the morning session, improving to 150.763 in session two which was their best mark for the weekend. The boat carried a hybrid paint scheme between the old PICO blue and the bright yellow Peters & May wrap. When Schumacher racing took delivery there was little to no hardware in it, so chief Scott Raney and his crew put in 20-hour days to get the hull ready and running. When asked which boat was his favorite, Zimmerman’s 4-year old son responded “Oberto. ” Jon stated, “We have some work to do!”

Legends Casino Dash for Cash was won by U-1 and Steve David, followed closely by Brian Perkins in U-21 and Greg Hopp in U-100.

Vintage Unlimiteds: The crowd was treated to the appearance of four vintage piston-powered unlimiteds: 1962 U-40 Miss Bardahl, replica 1955 Miss Thriftway, 1980 U-12 Miss Budweiser, and 1982 U-00 Atlas Van Lines. The vintage boats brought back the thunder missing since Ed Cooper Jr. chose not to race in 2010. The three most-often used power plants of the piston era were represented: Allison, Rolls-Royce Merlin, and Rolls-Royce Griffon. Vintage photos by Karl Pearson.

In Saturday qualifying, Steve David and U-1 surpassed U-96’s top speed from Friday at 162.928. This mark lasted about three minutes as Villwock and U-96 then ran 163.579 mph to regain the top position. As to the "Porter Flotilla", J. Michael Kelly and U-7 increased their speed to 157.062, Jeff Bernard in U-5 increased to 154.974, and Mark Evans checked in at 132.747 driving the U-57. Greg Hopp also improved his speed Friday, albeit slightly, to 152.322.

Heat One

Drawn separately into 1A and 1B respectively, Steve David and Dave Villwock both won their heats easily, although Nate Brown and Red Dot nailed the start in 1A and led through the first turn. U-1 caught U-17 on the backstretch and never looked back. Remaining order of finish: U-21, U-22, U-57. The U-5 failed to finish (broken propeller and cooked hot section). A piece of the prop went right through the rear stabilizer, another sliced the deck.

In heat 1B the U-96 and Villwock had the field covered and was well ahead. In the first turn of lap 3, while chasing Cal Phipps and U-13, Dr. Ken Muscatel‘s U-25 dove into a persistent hole and then hooked nearly 180 degrees to the left, severely damaging the boat and ending his weekend. The heat was declared complete.

Heat Two

With lanes reversed, Jon Zimmerman and U-37 started on the inside with Brian Perkins in lane 2. Mark Evans and U-57 started as the trailer. The U-21 took off, to use one of Bill Muncey’s favorite phrases, “like a bandit” up the backstretch of lap 1 and went on to win with ease. Phipps and the U-13 crossed in second. Nate Brown had as bad a start in heat 2A as he had a good one yesterday in 1A. “I messed up. The crew’s working hard. I have to do a better job” stated Brown. The U-17 went dead in the first turn of the heat but restarted to finish last.

Heat 2B was a great competitive heat. While Steve David and Dave Villwock were drawn together, they were in lanes 4 and 5 due to the reversal rule, so the heat ended up being a barnburner. Teammates J. Michael Kelly and Jeff Bernard dueled up the backstretch of lap 1 with Kelly overtaking Bernard for the lead, but U-1 and U-96 began reeling in the two leaders. By lap 3, Villwock demonstrated his superior speed by overtaking everyone on the outside to win. David felt that the U-7 and U-96 were “trying to make an Oberto sausage out of me” by bearing in, but no penalties were called.

Heat Three

Steve David won 3A wire-to-wire in Oberto. Starting from lane 3, David nailed the start and held off J. Michael Kelly in U-7. Cal Phipps in U-13 was between roostertails and lost his cowling in the process, failing to finish. Third was Brian Perkins and U-21, fourth went to Nate Brown and U-17. Oberto’s average speed of 150.444was the fastest heat of the weekend.

It was another showcase for Dave Villwock and U-96 in 3B. Starting in lane 1, he grabbed the lead and never looked back. The real race was for second in a spirited duel between Jeff Bernard in the U-5 and Greg Hopp in U-100. The boats see-sawed deck-to-deck with Bernard sprinting to nip Hopp at the finish line.

Final Heat

Dave Villwock and Spirit of Qatar and entered the final with a perfect 1,200 points. All indications were that their winning ways would continue and that Villwock would tie Chip Hanauer for second place all-time with 61 race victories, one behind racing immortal Bill Muncey’s 62. Starting from lane 1, U-96 led at the start. Despite a sticky throttle, Villwock led the field, with David slowly gaining ground in Oberto. On the final turn of the final lap, the U-96 veered in from lane 4, cutting off the U-1 and incurring a one-lap penalty (Villwock quickly shut down after crossing the finish line). This left the U-1 crossing the line in first place, but an upset Steve David was completely unaware that the penalty had actually been called, having lost his radio communications during the five-minute milling period before the start. When he returned to the pits the crew was waving three fingers, signifying “three-peat” and the race win. Villwock was told of the penalty as he returned to the dock; he restarted to finish fifth. The U-21 hooked in the upper turn, died, and failed to finish.

After the race, Chip Hanauer offered to buy Steve David a hot dog for protecting his record. Hanauer remains in second and Villwock in third with 60 wins. The High Points lead changed from U-96 to U-1 but remained close, promising for an exciting finish to the 2010 season.

[Reprinted from Unlimited NewsJournal, September 2010]