SEATTLE -- As J Michael Kelly surveyed some minor damage to his unlimited hydroplane in the pouring rain, he knew it was something a little fiberglass, duct tape and elbow grease could fix.
Figuring out a way to end Dave Villwock's Seafair mastery was a little more perplexing.
"We'll see how he runs (today)," said Kelly, the U-7 Graham Trucking driver. "He's starting on the outside. If he goes blowing by us all from the outside, we're all going to have to find something unless he makes a mistake."
Nothing has seemed to faze Villwock so far at the Albert Lee Cup at Seafair.
His U-96 Spirit of Qatar boat qualified No. 1 at more than 4 mph faster than the nearest racer, then ripped through the rain and choppy waters to win a heat race by roughly five roostertails Saturday.
Villwock, 56, will go after his 11th Seafair victory today, including his third straight, on Lake Washington.
More heat races will take place before the race for the Albert Lee Cup starts at 4:40 p.m.
"It's a great boat," said Villwock, who can overtake national season points leader Steve David with a victory today. "The team's doing a great job. We'll just keep plugging away."
Kelly figures the morning's first heat race at 10:40 a.m. will let drivers know if they have much of a chance to stop Villwock, barring a mechanical failure.
That heat race, by nature of a draw, includes the top three drivers in the national points standings -- David, Villwock and Kelly. If Villwock wins, he'll have to do it from the outside lane against his fiercest competion on the H1 Unlimited circuit.
Kelly finished second, yet well behind Villwock in the day's second heat race. But he was just happy to avoid a potential disaster.
Entering a turn on the second lap, Kelly was sitting in third and pursuing Jeff Bernard when Bernard cut in front of him.
Bernard's roostertail struck Kelly's boat and the force of the water chipped off pieces of his wing, bent back his side mirrors and peeled off decals.
Bernard, who shares the same team owner as Kelly, was penalized a lap for changing lanes with a pursuing driver too close behind.
"You have to have seven boat lengths or a full roostertail," Kelly said. "He probably had about five boat lengths by the time I got down there. I started backing out. If I wouldn't have backed out, I probably would have been upside down."
David, 56, won the day's other heat race and his U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto boat showed signs of returning to top form after the team re-installed its old engine.
He said he's ready to try to unseat Villwock as Seafair king.
"We're ready to have a great race," David said. "He's faster so we're going to need some luck and maybe force an error to win this thing because he's still got some speed on us."
NOTE: A commissioner's exemption allowed the U-25 Car Pros boat driven by Ken Muscatel to enter the second heat race even though the boat didn't participate in qualifying. The racing team scrambled to get the boat ready to race at Seafair after it wrecked at the Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities. Crew chief Jay Leckrone worked without sleep for more than two days to patch it up.