By JOE PAS
For the sixth time at the APBA Gold Cup, Steve David stood in the runner-up position on the scuffed-white winners podium, center stage. For a fifth time, there stood a victorious Dave Villwock, Unlimited Hydroplane’s winningest driver and David’s top rival. Only, it was David who thought he had won it outright, Sunday afternoon on the Detroit River.
Villwock claimed his fifth-consecutive Gold Cup win and his 10th overall. He is the oldest driver to win and only the second to win 10 or more (Chip Hanauer), but his win is slightly tarnished, according to David. He said officials incorrectly allowed an illegal turn by Villwock.
“We nailed the start, and Dave is super fast. We had him in the turns, he had us in straightaways. What happened is, the third lap down there, he came in, sawed us off, and I had to ride his tailer over,” David said. “The turn judge called it as a chop, our camera showed it as a chop, the helicopter (official) says he has seven boat lengths.
“That ended the race.”
It was particularly frustrating to David, because, at times, Villwock’s U-1 Spirit of Qatar 96 appeared loose and almost headed for a blowover. David’s U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, he said, had “a terrific boat ride.”
“I believe we won it. I really thought it was going to be ours,” he said. “The disappointment isn’t second, it’s how we got second.”
The official’s call is like “balls and strikes, and that’s what happens,” he said.
J. Michael Kelly, driving the U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing, finished third, but was unaware of the turn drama.
“The thing is, Steve David wants this, you know. It’s getting to that point where he’s probably thinking about retiring and stuff, and this is one of the biggest trophies you can possibly get and he wants,” he said. “I don’t know what happened out there, but it’s racing, it happens.”
Villwock and helicopter officials weren’t available for comment.
The final heat front line comprised Villwock, who won every weekend heat, David, Kelly, Jimmy Shane (U-5 Graham Trucking, finished sixth) and Jon Zimmerman (U-9 Jones Racing, finished fourth). Mark Evans, driving the U-57 Formulaboats.com/Jarvis hydro, began the heat as a trailer and finished fifth.
In the racing world, the Detroit River is synonymous with choppy, dangerous waters. On Sunday, it once again lived up to its moniker. Twice, drivers headed toward the first turn facing the Belle Isle Bridge, and twice, there was a blowover.
J.W. Meyers’ U-11 Miss Peters & May was first to go during the third lap of Heat 4A. Scott Liddycoat and his U-88 Degree Men was next in the first lap of Heat 4B. Both drivers were treated and released onsite with no apparent injuries.
Heat 4B would have to be restarted, but officials determined it was best to wait. As it turned out, nearly an hour went by before drivers were allowed back onto the river. The final heat was eventually delayed by about 80 minutes.
“We woke up this morning, we had about a 17-20 mph wind coming straight down the river, which is the worst thing that could happen to us,” said race organizer Tom Bertolini. “We decided to hold off a little bit, run some of the other classes. The wind died down and we’re about an hour late, but for the Detroit River, I’m pretty happy about that.”