Dave Villwock knows he can still drive an unlimited hydroplane.
Bill and Jane Schumacher know he can too.
So Villwock, who hasn’t raced competitively since early 2013, will sit in the cockpit of the U37 Beacon Plumbing when the HAPO Columbia Cup takes place July 25-27 on the Columbia River.
For the Schumachers, who own the boat, it’s a no-brainer in putting the 60-year-old Villwock — the all-time leader in most race victories with 67 — in the boat.
“He’s a wonderful driver,” said Bill Schumacher. “We all know that. We are working on selling the boat (to Bill Cahill). Bill was pretty insistent for Dave to drive it.”
Villwock was up for it.
“The group that was Billy and Jane and Mr. Cahill (who owns Beacon Plumbing) got together, and they talked about the purchase of the boat at the end of next month,” Villwock said. “What they wanted to do was put me in the thing. Take their best shot at it. Get it up to speed fast.”
Once the boat seems ready to go, and it performs well, probably sometime after Seafair in August, Cahill will make the purchase.
That leaves Scott Liddycoat, who was hired in the offseason to drive the boat, as odd man out for now.
“We’re happy that Dave is in the boat,” Bill Schumacher said. “We think with the work he’s done, he can dial it in faster.”
Liddycoat should still see some time in the boat in the Tri-Cities, especially on Friday qualifying, said Schumacher.
Villwock agrees that it’s tough for Liddycoat.
“It’s a little bit of a raw deal for Liddycoat,” he said.
The U37 has spent the majority of the offseason in the shop, getting a makeover from Villwock, crew chief Bob Catipovic and the rest of the crew.
“It’s a lot of changes to it,” Villwock said. “We changed it to make it more user-friendly. We’ve modified things. Bob’s a fantastic talent. He’s done a lot of things. The mechanics in the boat were so bad.”
“We found quite a few things that were actually done wrong on it,” Schumacher said. “It was put together in quite a hurry. The back end was too heavy.”
Schumacher said he believes the boat should have more top-end acceleration now.
And the team has been busy stockpiling some equipment.
“Kelly Stocklin and I built a bunch of propellors,” Villwock said. “We’ve got a few things to throw at (the rest of the field). Tracy Bratvold of Whispering Turbines will come over and help. And Dan Walters is a guy who has been with me at Circus Circus, Pico, Coors Dry and Circus Circus again. He’ll do my radio work.”
Villwock expects to see a lot of water time on the Columbia on qualifying Friday.
“We have to make the boat float first, then make it run second,” he said. “We’ll try to catch up with everybody who has already been running this season.”
Bill Schumacher said it’s time he and Jane get out of the sport.
“It’s an expensive sport,” he said. “You need sponsorship to run this properly. We didn’t have sponsorship except for Tri-Cities and Seattle.”
He did say once the sale is final to Cahill, the Beacon Plumbing owner would like to have Schumacher help him find sponsors at other H1 Unlimited races.
As for Villwock, he’s just looking at driving in Tri-Cities and Seattle.
“I don’t know what the real plan is after that,” Villwock said. “There’s San Diego and possibly Doha.”
Whatever the plan, Villwock said Cahill just wanted an experienced driver in the boat for now — at least until the sale is final.
“It’s a pretty easy thing,” Villwock said. “I try not to wreck it. I think they decided the people selling and the people buying would probably feel better if the boat is in good shape.”