Hydro Racing

Usual suspects David, Villwock set qualifying pace

The superspeedway known as the Columbia River produced its usual fast qualifying speeds on Friday - the fastest normally produced among the six American Boat Racing Association sites.

Three unlimited hydroplanes surpassed the 160-mph mark, with the top two speeds earned by the sports wiliest of veterans.

Steve David, driving the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, leads the way with a speed of 161.492 mph. But he had to bounce back to get it.

Early in the morning, David had the fastest speed of 160.625 mph. But in the afternoon, Dave Villwock piloted the U-1 Ellstrom Elam Plus to a fleet-best 161.085 mph.

That mark didn't last long. In the spirit of the late Bernie Little - who would send his Miss Budweiser drivers back out onto the course to retake the top spot on the qualifying ladder - David came back out and reclaimed the top spot with the 161.492 mark.

It didn't necessarily mean that much - no points are awarded for qualifying, and anymore everyone who shows up gets into the race.

But the qualifying mini-drama gave old-timers on the beach some great nostalgia.

"So far, so good," said David, who also won the four-boat Dash for Cash, a made-for-television exhibition race to end the day. "I think there's a little more there. But (coming back to top Villwock) was just like the old days. We really respect those guys and what they do.”

Villwock liked the reference to the old days.

"If this was for points, it might be a different deal,” Villwock said. "We're just trying to get some bugs worked out. All of the things that you have to do at the first race of the season.”

While this is the fourth race of the ABRA schedule, it's the first for the Elam team, which skipped the season's first three races while trying to court more race sites in Europe and the Middle East.

So the Elam team spent Friday trying out different combinations.

"I think last year we ran a 166 or 167 here,” said Ellstrom team manager Erick Ellstrom. "If we were in the midst of a championship, then it would be a different story. But we're just cycling all of the motors through the boat.”

Meanwhile, second-year driver David Bryant got the U-10 Hoss Mortgage Investors to break the 160 barrier with a speed of 169.054.

Jean Theoret's impressive speed of 159.145 mph in the U-37 Beacon Plumbing was fast, but only the fourth best. Theoret got out on the water twice, then he and his team spent the rest of the day dry-docked, which was fine with them.

"We're happy,” Theoret said. "But we have to save the equipment.”

Some other teams did that by showing up late or not showing up at all.

The backup boat for the U-7 Formulaboats.com, which was being rigged up all week in a Seattle shop, finally arrived by mid-afternoon, as did backup driver Jimmy Shane. He replaces Mike Allen this week, who is recovering from a flip of the original U-7 in Detroit two weeks ago.

Not long after, Fred Leland's U-100 Mirageboats.com made it into Lampson Pits. The only boat not in the pits when they closed at 6 p.m. was the U-25 Miss Procraft Windows. But that boat should be parked in the pits when they open at 8 a.m. today.

A total of 13 unlimiteds are scheduled to race today, as the first three heats - 1A, 1B and 1C - are set to be run starting at 3:05 p.m.

The course opens at 8 a.m. today with testing and more qualifying.

Friday's qualifying

U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto (Steve David), 161.492 mph; U-1 Ellstrom Elam Plus (Dave Villwock), 161.085; U-10 Hoss Mortgage Investors (David Bryant), 160.054; U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing (Jean Theoret), 159.145; U-13 Graham Trucking (J.Michael Kelly), 158.699; U-5 Formulaboats.com (Jeff Bernard), 157.087; U-3 Hoss Mortgage Investors Too (Jimmy King), 154.870; U-17 Our Gang Racing (Nate Brown), 149.437; U-50 Miss Albert Lee (Brian Perkins), 147.545; U-48 Albert Lee presents Lakeridge Paving (David Williams), 143.586.