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All-time win record within Villwock’s grasp
He shies away from talk about shattering records.
Instead, 1972 South Kitsap High School graduate Dave Villwock prefers to view the record-setting racers of the Unlimited Hydroplane circuit along the lines of the presidential faces carved into Mount Rushmore.
Each has their own legacy.
The 56-year-old Villwock said during Tuesday’s Albert Lee Cup at Seafair luncheon at the Columbia Tower Club in Seattle that he just is excited to talk about himself in the same sentence as Chip Hanauer and Bill Muncey.
Villwock enters Sunday’s race with 60 career wins, which places him third behind Hanauer (61) and Muncey (62).
“I don’t know that me winning more races than Chip makes me better of worse,” said Villwock, who worked on Hanauer’s crew with the Miss Circus Circus in 1989. “I was glad to get win 60. I was sort of in the club.”
And he could have tied the leader of that group this weekend. Villwock, who drives the U-96 Spirit of Qatar, was in Lane 4 during the final lap of Sunday’s 45th Lamb Weston Columbia Cup in Kennewick. But according to the Tri-City Herald, Villwock moved in at the apex, which cut off Steve David’s boat.
Chief referee Mike Noonan assessed Villwock a one-lap penalty.
Villwock, who thought he won the race, was notified of the offense after he crossed the finish line.
“It’s unfortunate that the referees had to make that call,” said Villwock, adding that David committed the same infraction. “I understand their standpoint, but at the same time the sun was low ... I couldn’t find (David’s boat) because of it. I drove deep into the turn so I could look across the sun and see what was in front of me.”
In addition, Villwock said his throttle broke during the race.
“Races are hard to win for a lot of reasons,” he said. “I probably would’ve done a lot of things different there, but I was just trying to hang onto that thing.”
Villwock won his eighth Gold Cup on July 11 in Detroit, but ranks second behind David, who pilots the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto, in the National High Points Standings. David has 4,754 points to Villwock’s 4,384. Most of that is the result of David’s first-place finish in the season-opening Lucas Oil Madison Regatta in Indiana. Villwock placed fifth in that event.
He attributes that to a stronger field, which Villwock said will making winning Seafair an 11th time difficult.
“We have a much better product than probably we’ve ever had in the history of our sport in terms of competitiveness,” he said.
Despite some economic challenges — major sponsors of Seafair such as Budweiser and Chevrolet have dropped out in the last decade — Villwock said the sport remains strong from a profitability standpoint.
There was some doubt whether Seafair, which has run every year since 1950 on Lake Washington, would continue before Seattle-based Albert Lee Appliances stepped forward as its title sponsor.
Villwock said he is not concerned about the future of the sport in cities such as Detroit and Seattle, where it has a long tradition. But he believes the key to continuing development will come overseas.
For a second consecutive year, the hydroplane season will conclude Nov. 20 in Doha, Qatar.
He said the sport is so popular in that country that he gained Qatar as a sponsor with the idea that it could be a boon to tourists.
“They really took us in,” Villwock said. “It was very much like a scene we see in the pictures of Seafair in 1955 or 1960. They had seas of people surrounding the boats.”
He hopes the races in Qatar are just a start when it comes to foreign hydroplane ventures.
“If we can develop some more sights in the Far East, we probably will see a turning of the corner of the sport where more teams can afford more infrastructure and more professional help,” Villwock said.
After all, he hopes to remain in the cockpit for several years.
Villwock now is older than Hanauer when he retired, and Muncey, who was killed at 52 in a blowover crash during the Thunder on the Ohio race in 1981.
“As long as I’m having fun,” Villwock said. “I’m still having fun and still winning. If I wasn’t fast, I wouldn’t be doing it.
“It just seems like I have an extra gear.”