Two weeks after the Detroit Gold Cup, the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto took a business-like approach to the current task at hand: winning the H1 Unlimited national high-points championship.
The first step?
Become the fastest qualifier at the 48th Lamb Weston Columbia Cup, and that’s what happened Friday, as driver Steve David raced around the Columbia River with a fast lap time of 158.766 mph for the 100 points that go with the top speed.
As an added bonus, Oberto gained 50 points on Jimmy Shane and the 5 Graham Trucking team, which couldn’t really get anything going in qualifying.
Still, David wasn’t satisfied.
“We’re still not as fast as we need to be,” he said after his first run. “I’ve got to get us in the 160s.”
No one on the Oberto team seemed off their game Friday, as it was the first opportunity to compete after the Gold Cup final in Detroit on July 14.
In that final, David — looking for his first Gold Cup victory in 23 tries — had the lead coming out of the first lap. But race officials called a one-lap penalty on him, charging that he had cut off Shane in the Graham Trucking.
Fans, especially those from the boat’s homeport of Madison, Ind., were irate with the call.
So was the team.
“No I’m not over it,” said Oberto crew chief Mike Hanson. “It may be 20 years before I get over what happened in Detroit. I was there. I saw what happened.”
David, Hanson and the rest of the Obertos are setting their sight on running away with the season title and defending their national championship.
“Our goal is to dominate the rest of the year,” said Hanson.
So even when David went back out a second time, and he couldn’t get to 160 mph, he wasn’t happy.
“Frustrated,” he said. “Just frustrated. It’s just the heat (100 degrees). I think it’s for every degree above 70, you lose 1 horsepower. But it’s still good. Gaining 50 points on Graham, that’s a big help.”
For the Graham, team owner Ted Porter said the team had some turbine issues.
“It wouldn’t want to spool up,” Porter said. “Last time out we weren’t making full power with the turbine. At least we got qualified.”
Porter is confident Shane can handle the field this weekend, especially since he won last year’s Columbia Cup.
“He knows the course,” Porter said. “The current is not as strong this year as it was last year. So that will help.” Shane’s not worried. He trails Oberto by 233 points going into today’s competition.
“(Scoring 50 points in qualifying) is better than nothing,” Shane said. “If you’re going to have problems, (Friday) is the day to have them.”
Shane and Graham faltering allowed Jon Zimmerman to finish second in qualifying in the 9 Fox Plumbing presents Team Red Dot powered by Les Schwab with a fast lap of 155.089 mph and 80 points.
“There were 10 boats and we were the second fastest,” said Zimmerman. “We’re happy with the 155.”
Gold Cup winner Kip Brown drove the 95 Spirit of Qatar to a third-place speed of 154.424 mph and 70 points.
“I’m content,” Brown said. “We always want to beat the 9. They always seem to be a touch faster than us. And we would have liked to finish second to Oberto.
Here’s the rest of the qualifying ladder:
J. Michael Kelly and the 37 Miss Beacon Plumbing, at 151.778 mph and 60 points;
Tommy Thompson and the 11 Peters & May, 150.155 mph and 40 points;
Mark Evans and the 57 FEDCO, 148.109 mph and 30 points;
Greg Hopp and the 14 Miss Dijulio, 147.087 mph, and 30 points;
Brian Perkins and the 21 Go Fast, Turn Left Racing, 143.963 mph and 30 points.
Neither Mike Webster in the 22 Payne West nor Ryan Mallow in the 100 Leland Racing ever made it off the beach.
Now the fun begins, with two heat races today; and on Sunday, four preliminary heat races and the final, set for 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“(Friday) is the relaxing day,” said Brown. “It’s the fun time to get to go out and drive as fast as you can. The fight starts (Saturday).
“Really, Friday is fun,” he continued. “On Saturday and Sunday we try to kill each other. Then on Monday, we try to be friends again.”