When Steve David announced his retirement in September 2013 as driver of the then-U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto, he planned to stay away from unlimited hydroplane racing for at least a year, spending more time with his wife and taking their boat around the Florida Keys.
That didn’t last as long as he had hoped.
This past September, during Bayfair in San Diego, H1 chairman Sam Cole stepped down from his position of 10 years, and the H1 executive committee named David interim chairman. But he only expects to be an active chairman for one race: this week’s Oryx Cup World Championship in Doha, Qatar.
David praised Cole for staying with the hydros for 10 years — enough to test the sanest of people.
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“Sam had a hard job when he first started here, trying to keep things together for the past 10 years,” David said. “He was one of the few people who could keep these cats (owners) herded. But now it’s gotten to the point that we need to do some effective stuff.”
David dived right into work.
“All of the bills are paid now,” he said. “After (this week’s race in) Doha, I’m thinking we’ll have $200,000 in our checking account. It looks like we’ll have an exhibition race in Owensboro, Ky. We’ve still got some work to do in San Diego and Detroit. We’re working on getting some associate sponsorships.”
David also is working on getting the Coeur d’Alene race — with either new organizers or the same group — back up and running.
Right after that, he said, “I’d like to see us working towards some type of conventional television deal.”
Not what KNDU does here, or what KIRO does in Seattle — an all-day type of deal. That’s great for the serious hydro fans.
“But for the casual fans, you’ve got to condense it into about an hour,” he said.
To do that, you would have to tape the heat races, then go live with the final.
He’s also pushing for new performance standards.
“The boat must get out on the water if the team wants to get paid,” David said.
David wants all types of unlimiteds. He cited Mark Evans working with Murdo Cameron and Team Miss Spokane on new molds as an example.
“And any power plant in the world is welcome,” he said. “The Aylesworths from San Diego are working on an automotive-powered boat.”
David wants to make the Grand Prix West boats a permanent part of the schedule, and possibly more classes.
“If we can condense our show right, there should be no more than 5 minutes of dead time out on the water,” he said.
David is excited for next season, too. Greg O’Farrell is busy building a new boat, and David said that Ed Cooper, who beached his team a few years back while involved in a dispute with Cole, is seriously considering a return to the circuit.
“Ed has made some wonderful suggestions on what we need to do,” David said.
David’s stint hasn’t been without controversy. He has fought an uproar about allowing Dave Villwock to drive for Schumacher Racing in Doha. Villwock’s boat collided with Jimmy Shane and Oberto in July in the Tri-Cities. A week later, he did it again at Seafair. He was suspended for the rest of that race and the San Diego race in September.
“I took a lot of heat (for letting Villwock race this week),” David said. “But he’s now on death watch. If he screws up once — if he hits another boat or hits another buoy — he’s not only suspended for the rest of the race, but he’s beached for a year.”
If anyone is looking for David to be a permanent fix for H1, he said it won’t happen.
He’s the CEO at Florida Professional Family of Companies LLC, a real estate company in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“I have too many obligations to my shareholders to do this,” David said. “I’ll go to early spring, but we need someone full time.”
So David is working with a group that includes Oberto team manager Charlie Grooms, Oberto sponsor Larry Oberto, former Boeing official Scott Carson, Maj. Ron Perry of the Air National Guard and former restaurant official Craig Edwards to find a permanent replacement.
“The replacement cannot come from the hydroplane community,” David said. “It has to be someone from the outside who is really good in sales. The big picture is making contacts. You guys don’t have this problem in the Tri-Cities, but at some race sites, the boards are filled with nice people, but they don’t have the Rolodex we need.”
Hopefully David’s replacement will continue fulfilling the former Oberto driver’s vision.
NOTES: Entering the Doha race, Shane and the 6 Oberto team have 7,488 points, 832 more points than second-place J. Michael Kelly and the 1 Graham Trucking team. ... Doha is 11 hours ahead of the Tri-Cities, so qualifying for the race will start at 2 a.m. PST Thursday and run for three hours. On Friday, Heat 1A will run at 2 a.m., Heat 1B at 2:30 a.m., Heat 2A at 3:45 a.m. and Heat 2B at 4:15 a.m. The final day of racing Saturday starts with Heat 3A at midnight, Heat 3B at 12:20 a.m., Heat 4A at 1:45 a.m. and Heat 4B at 2:05 a.m. The Oryx Cup World Championship is scheduled for 4 a.m. ... Changes since the teams were in the Tri-Cities in late July include Seattle’s Jesse Robertson driving the 12 Miss DiJulio instead of Greg Hopp; and Jean Theoret in the cockpit of the 96 Spirit of Qatar over Kip Brown, who needs neck surgery.