We're racing through history!
By Fred Farley – Unlimited Hydroplane Historian
The world’s only community-owned Unlimited hydroplane from Madison, Indiana, did its 13,000 owners proud in 2012. Driver Steve David guided the OH BOY! OBERTO/MISS MADISON to first-place in National High Points for the fourth time in the past five years. This was on the strength of victories in the Albert Lee Cup at Seattle and the Bill Muncey Cup at San Diego.
David and the OBERTO team also finished second at Madison, Detroit, and Doha, Qatar.
When the roostertails subsided after the last race of the 2012 season, OH BOY! OBERTO had 9377 National Points, compared to 8193 for runner-up GRAHAM TRUCKING, followed by SPIRIT OF QATAR 96 with 6845, JONES RACING with 6370, DEGREE MEN with 5130, MISS BEACON PLUMBING with 4954, MISS PETERS & MAY with 4533, LELAND UNLIMITED with 3970, MISS RED DOT with 3468, FORMULABOATS.COM/MISS DIJULIO with 3127, SNOQUALMIE CASINO with 1252, BUCKET LIST with 690, LELAND UNLIMITED II with 582, and MATRIX SYSTEM/BROADWAY TAVERN with 510.
As High Point winner, OH BOY! OBERTO is entitled to wear the coveted U-1 emblem throughout the 2013 H1 Unlimited tour. David has now won six Driver Championships in the Unlimited Class since 2005.
In 2012, OH BOY! OBERTO started and finished 26 heats of competition, was first 16 times and second seven times.
Ted Porter’s GRAHAM TRUCKING, the second-place finisher in National Points, claimed two victories on the 2012 tour–the Tri-Cities Columbia Cup and the Oryx Cup/UIM World Championship at Doha. GRAHAM TRUCKING driver Jimmy Shane was a stand-out in his first season as a full-time Unlimited pilot. Shane, who had previously served as a back-up driver for the Porter team, started the 2013 season with a repeat victory in the Doha World Championship event.
Also achieving the winner’s circle in 2012 was Erick Ellstrom’s SPIRIT OF QATAR 96, the defending High Point Champion from 2011. Driver Dave Villwock took first-place at the first two races of 2012 in Madison and Detroit. The Ellstrom team qualified fastest at all six H1 events but was plagued with mechanical difficulty during the second half of the season. This included an engine fire which did major damage to the hull during a preliminary heat at Doha, Qatar.
For the first time in the post-World War II era, an American Unlimited hydroplane–the MISS PETERS & MAY–plied its spectacular trade in Great Britain. Driver J.W. Myers opened British Speed Week in November 2012 by setting a UIM World Kilo record for Unlimited hydroplanes of 176.110 miles per hour on Coniston Water, England. The record is the average of two runs over the same course in opposite directions with the fastest being 180 miles per hour.
Throughout its history, the Unlimited Class has always been looked upon as a development category. The door is always open to new ideas. In 2012, owner/driver Kelly Stocklin introduced the BUCKET LIST, an avowed experiment in the area of Lycoming turbine power. Stocklin installed a T-53–as opposed to a T-55–engine in a lighter-than-usual hull, originally built for participation in the now defunct “G” Class automotive series. Stocklin campaigned the BUCKET LIST at the Tri-Cities, Seattle, and San Diego events and went on to be named Rookie Driver of the Year.
Another noteworthy experiment that attracted a lot of attention was the use of Biofuel in the OH BOY! OBERTO during an exhibition heat at the Tri-Cities. The Biofuel project is headed up by former Boeing President/CEO Scott Carson who has been working with engineers from the Tri-Cities campus of Washington State University.
Carson called the test a success, saying the plant-based fuel performed up to or exceeded expectation. “The temperatures and overall performance were as good as the regular fuel,” he said. “In fact, they may have been a little better.”
H1 Chairman Sam Cole added, “We really want to thank Scott and the WSU engineers for the time and effort they have put into the Biofuel project and for moving us closer to the day when our entire sport can go green.”
Lucas Oil Indiana Governor’s Cup
The kick-off race for the 2012 Unlimited tour featured the 62nd annual running of the Indiana Governor’s Cup at Madison, Indiana. A dozen teams gathered on the banks of the Ohio River to vie for five spots–four on the front line and one trailer–in the winner-take-all Final Heat.
After three sets of elimination heats, SPIRIT OF QATAR 96 crossed the starting line first in lane-two in the Final Heat with OH BOY! OBERTO in lane-one.
OH BOY! OBERTO stayed within SPIRIT OF QATAR’s roostertail length throughout lap-one. QATAR pulled away from OBERTO on lap-two and went on to win, 136.105 miles per hour to 132.132. DEGREE MEN (with Scott Liddycoat), MISS RED DOT (with Kip Brown) and MISS PETERS & MAY (with J.W. Myers) checked in third, fourth, and fifth respectively.
This marked Villwock’s ninth victory since 1997 in the Indiana Governor’s Cup series.
APBA Gold Cup
The 103rd running of the APBA Gold Cup saw Dave Villwock score his tenth victory in that famous series on the Detroit River since 1996. Only the retired Chip Hanauer, with eleven, has more.
Villwock and SPIRIT OF QATAR 96 won all five Gold Cup heats. This was despite inclement wind and water conditions. Three other teams were involved in blow-over accidents: MATRIX SYSTEM with Mike Webster, MISS PETERS & MAY with J.W. Myers, and DEGREE MEN with Scott Liddycoat. The drivers suffered only minor injuries but the MATRIX SYSTEM boat was declared through for the season.
SPIRIT OF QATAR 96 and OH BOY! OBERTO crossed the starting line together in the Final Heat. QATAR and OBERTO seesawed for the lead for two laps before QATAR pulled to a substantial lead on lap-three. QATAR took the checkered flag at 151.089 miles per hour to OBERTO’s 147.040.
Lamb-Weston Columbia Cup
Driver Jimmy Shane scored the first victory of his Unlimited hydroplane career at Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, in southeastern Washington, with Ted Porter’s GRAHAM TRUCKING. In so doing, Shane snapped the two-race winning streak of Dave Villwock and SPIRIT OF QATAR 96, which blew a gearbox in a preliminary heat and finished a distant third in the finale.
OH BOY! OBERTO and Steve David missed the score-up buoy (by less than a boat length) during the warm-up lap prior to the start of the Final Heat and had to run a penalty lap. OBERTO took the physical “lead” on lap-one and maintained it throughout.
GRAHAM TRUCKING with Shane (in lane-two) and MISS BEACON PLUMBING with J. Michael Kelly (in lane-one) battled side-by side for the legal lead during all five laps. Kelly gained the advantage in the turns, while Shane used superior boat speed in the straightaways.
Shane did not take the lead until the last few yards before the finish line and beat Kelly by less than a boat length–approximately eight feet!
Albert Lee Cup at Seafair
Steve David and OH BOY! OBERTO/MISS MADISON came into Seafair week trailing Dave Villwock and SPIRIT OF QATAR 96 in Season High Points by just 190. During the preliminary heats, David moved into the lead, but by just 22 points.
For the Final Heat, seven boats approached the starting line closely bunched with Jimmy Shane and GRAHAM TRUCKING first across. OH BOY! OBERTO led out of the first turn and throughout. David, Shane, and Villwock were two roostertail lengths apart after lap-one. David pulled away on lap-two and went on to win by one and a half roostertails over second-place Shane, 135.021 miles per hour to 133.495.
The race was especially satisfying for the OBERTO team inasmuch as the victory occurred in the hometown of their sponsor, the Oberto Meat Products Company.
The 2012 Albert Lee Cup marked the third straight Seafair Regatta win by OH BOY! OBERTO and the fourth since 2007.
San Diego, CA
Bill Muncey Cup at Bayfair
The fifth stop on the 2012 H1 Unlimited series tour saw Steve David and OH BOY! OBERTO increase their lead in Season High Points and add the Bill Muncey Cup to their trophy collection on San Diego’s Mission Bay.
Fresh from their recent confrontation at Seattle, David and OBERTO once again crossed swords with Jimmy Shane and GRAHAM TRUCKING in the Bill Muncey Cup Final Heat. Coming up for the start, it was Shane in lane-one, David in lane-two, and Dave Villwock with SPIRIT OF QATAR 96 in lane-three. OBERTO led all the way with GRAHAM staying within OBERTO’s roostertail length for four of the five laps. David averaged 150.086, Shane 148.376, and Villwock 147.798.
A number of teams experienced mechanical difficulty over the course of the weekend. Owner Billy Schumacher withdrew MISS BEACON PLUMBING after the first set of preliminaries, citing a problem keeping salt water out of the boat. Then, SPIRIT OF QATAR 96 lost a hot section in the Lycoming turbine engine, while leading in Heat 2-B, and slowed to a halt.
Oryx Cup/UIM World Championship
For the fourth time in their history, the Unlimited hydroplanes made the trek half-way around the world to once again compete for the Oryx Cup/UIM World Championship at Doha, Qatar.
Only the top-10 teams in Season High Points are invited to participate in the Doha event, which is sanctioned by the Union of International Motorboating.
ace officials worked around a foreboding weather forecast that promised high winds on Doha Bay, but never really materialized. Preliminary heats were moved ahead a day to take advantage of a more favorable forecast.
Steve David and OH BOY! OBERTO clinched the High Point Championship during the preliminary heat action. But there was still the Oryx Cup to be contested.
Jimmy Shane and GRAHAM TRUCKING secured lane-one before the start of the Final Heat with David and OH BOY! OBERTO in lane-two. Shane led out of the first turn and throughout with David in second, ahead of third-place Jon Zimmerman and the JONES RACING entry. Shane averaged 136.703 to David’s 134.682 and Zimmerman’s 123.944.
This marked the third Oryx Cup win for owner Ted Porter, his first with driver Shane. Porter’s previous victories occurred in 2009 with J. Michael Kelly and in 2011 with Scott Liddycoat. In the past, Porter had fielded a two-boat–and sometimes a three-boat–team but in 2012 chose to concentrate on a single entry.
Looking ahead to the 2013 H1 Unlimited season, the fans can expect more of the same deck-to-deck action that characterized 2012.
The first race of 2013, conducted on February 8-12, witnessed a second straight triumph in the Oryx Cup/UIM World Championship at Doha, Qatar, by Ted Porter’s GRAHAM TRUCKING. Driver Jimmy Shane took the checkered flag ahead of runner-up Jon Zimmerman and the JONES RACING team, followed by third-place Steve David and the OH BOY! OBERTO/MISS MADISON.
In a ceremony on the awards stage at the 2013 Doha event, Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, President of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation, and H1 Unlimited Chairman Sam Cole signed a five-year agreement extending the annual event through 2018. According to the agreement, the race will be run in November of each year.
“The Oryx Cup has had a tremendously positive impact on our sport since we first came to Doha five years ago,” Cole affirmed. “Combined with the new events on our 2013 schedule in Sacramento, California, and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, we are looking forward to a very bright future for Unlimited hydroplane racing in the US and around the world.”