Villwock Finds Gold in Detroit
After a six-hour delay because of high winds, Dave Villwock took advantage of the absence of unlimited hydroplane stars Chip Hanauer and Mark Tate to drive the Pico American Dream boat to victory Sunday in the Chrysler Jeep APBA Gold Cup.
Villwock, a 6-foot-6 former crew chief for Hanauer, moved ahead of Mark Evans, substituting for the injured Hanauer in Miss Budweiser, on the first lap and was an easy winner in the five-lap race over the Detroit River’s choppy 2 1/2-mile Gold Cup course.
Hanauer, defending Gold Cup champion and a 10-time winner, was unable to drive after suffering a concussion in a high-speed crash with the Smokin’ Joe’s boat during Saturday’s second heat. Tate, the Smokin’ Joe’s driver and defending American Power Boat Assn. champion, was ready to drive but the boat was not.
“We only had 18 hours to do four days work repairing the boat and it wasn’t enough,” Tate said. “We were doing our wind dance hoping the Gold Cup would be postponed until Monday, but it didn’t work.”
It was the first time someone other than Hanauer or Tate won the Gold Cup since 1990.
The F-16 fighter plane canopy on Tate’s boat was crushed when it was hit by Hanauer’s airborne boat on the first turn of the first lap Saturday. The roll bar, protecting Tate’s head, was bent and the Jim Lucero’s crew worked through the night but could not complete repairs in time, even with the long delay.
Villwock and Fred Leland’s Pico American Dream dominated the weekend, winning two three-lap heats and the five-lap Gold Cup and finishing second to Hanauer and Miss Budweiser in a first heat Saturday. A fourth heat was canceled.
“I’ve been trying to win the Gold Cup for a long time, first with Chip and then with a number of other teams, but this time I had the right team behind me,” Villwock, 41, said. “The boat was just awesome, it never missed a beat all weekend.”
Villwock averaged 149.328 mph over an exceedingly choppy course.
Curiously, Miss Budweiser owner Bernie Little plucked his reserve driver from Leland’s other boat, Miss Wellness Plan. Evans, who drove in place of an injured Hanauer in two races last year, was under contract as Little’s backup driver this year so he had to make the switch. Ken Dryden replaced Evans in Miss Wellness Plan and finished fourth. Mike Hanson, in Dewalt Tools, was third.
“I thought we could run with Pico, but when I got out close to the sea wall coming off the Roostertail Turn, I thought after all the work the crew had gone through to get the boat ready, I’d better concentrate on bringing it back in one piece so we can get on to the next race,” Evans said.
Repairs included replacing the canopy, windshield, rear wing, rear uprights, cowlings and right transom. “The boys were up all night and working all day today and they did a hell of a job,” Little said. “And so did Mark, getting in without so much as a lap in the boat.”
It was the second unlimited victory for Villwock, who took the opening race last month in Phoenix.
A brisk, steady wind that kicked up white caps all day prevented the Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Assn. from running on time. The first heat, scheduled at noon, did not run until 6 p.m. when winds calmed slightly and the Gold Cup ran at 7:40.