Villwock Wins Madison Opener in U-1 Spirit of Qatar

As the Unlimited hydroplanes kicked off the 2012 Air National Guard H1 Unlimited Series season in Madison, Ind., the sport’s greatest driver in terms of victories added another one to his list. Dave Villwock, who has amassed 66 career wins, drove the U-1 Spirit of Qatar perfectly on the Ohio River to bring home the Lucas Oil Indiana Governor’s Cup trophy on Sunday afternoon.

In the U-1 Spirit of Qatar hydroplane, Dave Villwock won the Air National Guard H1 Unlimited Series opener in Madison, Ind.In the U-1 Spirit of Qatar hydroplane, Dave Villwock won the Air National Guard H1 Unlimited Series opener in Madison, Ind. Photo courtesy H1 UnlimitedWith a slight 20-point advantage over veteran Steve David—his fiercest rival—Villwock won’t have much time to savor the win as the series moves to Detroit for the American Power Boat Association (APBA) Gold Cup this weekend.

“It was just the start to the season we needed in tricky conditions,” Villwock said in a press release referring to the windy course conditions that delayed the start of the final by 50 minutes and were still difficult for the five drivers to navigate.

Villwock, who runs the Ellstrom Racing hydroplane with the backing of Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and the Qatar Marine Sports Federation, clinched two heat wins, points for being the fastest qualifier and second place in one heat before charging to victory in the final. The U-1 driver managed to hold off the challenge from hometown favorite Steve David (his Oh Boy! Oberto boat is owned by the city of Madison), with Scott Liddycoat claiming third place and Kip Brown finishing fourth ahead of J.W. Myers in the Peters & May boat.

I caught up with David this morning, and although he was disappointed with the outcome, he expects the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto to fare well in Detroit. And there's no reason to think otherwise since he won all of his heats in Madison.

"In retrospect, we probably should have changed gears for the final—we were geared a little too tall for the conditions after the rain delay," David said. "We're excited for Detroit this weekend. We've got a great program this year. From the different gear setups, engines and propellers, we know we're going to be right there in every race.

"But what I'm also excited about is the depth of the field we have out there this year," he continued. "It's huge to see all these teams and drivers moving up and getting stronger. There's a lot of quality equipment in the mix now. Detroit is a huge course so there are going to be some fast times."

The 103rd Gold Cup begins on Friday with testing and qualifying. Heat racing takes place on Saturday as well as Sunday, before giving way to the final on Sunday afternoon.