Sports

Villwock thwarted in quest to win Seafair again

SEATTLE — No one has won more races in the Unlimited Hydroplane circuit than Dave Villwock.

But no one has challenged his dominance at home more in recent years than Steve David, driver of the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto.

David used the new starting rules on the Air National Guard Series this season to his advantage as he easily won the final heat of Sunday’s Albert Lee Cup at Seafair for a second consecutive year.

Drivers are allowed to fight for the coveted inside-lane position this season instead of having them pre-arranged. Several pilots, including Villwock, slowed to a near standstill to position themselves for the inside lane, which is the shortest on the two-mile course, as they approached the one-minute buoy.

But David elected to hang back before he revved his boat past his competition, moved inside and claimed lane one.

“He leapfrogged right around us,” said Scott Liddycoat, who finished second in the U-7 Valken.com. “That was a pretty good move on his part. I was kind of surprised he pulled it off, actually. Once you see it coming, there is nothing you can do about it.

“I really didn’t think he was going to have the time to do it, but he pulled it off.”

David conceded his strategy, which was devised with his crew before the final heat, was risky.

“It was a Hail Mary,” he said. “We were either going to win or get last.”

Villwock, a 1972 South Kitsap High School graduate who entered Seafair with two consecutive victories, had no problems with David’s strategy.

“I was going to do what Steve did,” he said. “Then everybody got in the way so I had to stop and do the crazy troll thing again, and then Steve made a great move.”

Villwock was able to win from the outside a week earlier in the Tri-Cities, and he initially made a move past Liddycoat, who was between him and David, in Lake Washington. But the Seattle course is a half mile shorter than the one on the Columbia River. That makes a strong start even more important.

“Villwock has the top-end speed on me, but he couldn’t blow the legs out on this water,” David said.

But David said he made certain that would not happen through his own maneuvering.

“Basically, I’m trying to push them to Kirkland and then out to Kingston,” he said.

Villwock, who was the top qualifier Friday and won all three of his qualifying heats, said the escape hatch at the bottom of the cockpit caved early in the final.

“It started blowing water all over the inside,” he said.

Because of that, Villwock said he decided to back off and finish the race.

He has a 1,200-point lead in the standings with two races remaining, which puts Villwock in position to win his 10th national title, which is a record.

There are two more stops on the circuit this season, including Sept. 16-18 in San Diego and Nov. 17-19 in Doha, Qatar.

TOP THREE PLACERS

Boat                            Driver              mph

U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto   David              136.283

U-7 Valken.com          Liddycoat       134.547

U-96 Spirit of Qatar    Villwock         131.356

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