Hydro Racing

David has long history at Columbia Cup

Oh Boy! Oberto driver Steve David remembered the day he got fired on the Columbia River.

"It was 1999 and we had struggled and finished sixth," David said. "I came out of the boat going 'We're No. 6.' "

Anyone who knows David knows that's just his outgoing personality, that he drives the boat as hard, if not harder, than everyone else.

The sponsor for the U-2 T-Plus boat David, 54, was driving for felt the driver wasn't trying hard because of that statement.

So the sponsor wanted David fired that day.

"The boat's owner, Jim Harvey, was torn," David said. "He said 'It's either the sponsor or you.' I told him he needed to keep the sponsor. Jim cried."

Harvey, who was in Lampson Pits this weekend working for Ted Porter's U-7 Formulaboats.com team, remembers it well.

"That wasn't a fair call," Harvey said. "I lived with it. But I don't want to say much more about it."

It was obvious it still bothered Harvey.

But if it wasn't for Harvey, David might not be driving for Oberto today.

"After I got fired I moved over to offshore boats and I could have kept doing that," David said. "But when the Madison team (sponsored by Oberto) was looking for a driver, it was Harvey who suggested me. If it wasn't for Jim Harvey, I wouldn't be in hydroplane racing."

Harvey knew David was a good driver.

"Larry Oberto is like a younger brother to me," Harvey said. "When they were looking to make a decision on a new driver, I said 'Give this guy a call.'"

Bob Hughes, the owners' representative for the 13,000 residents of Madison, Ind. - who own the hydroplane - looked at the suggestion and came to the same conclusion as Harvey.

"His past record is great," Hughes said. "Look at all of the things he's done well. He's a super guy."

David is a former politician, and he has the gift of gab. He'll stop to talk to any person that wants some time with him.

"He's charismatic," Harvey says. "And at his age he can still press the right foot down hard on the gas."

Sunday's Lamb Weston Columbia Cup was his fifth career victory for Oberto, seventh overall. But it's his third in the last two seasons after Oberto and Madison built a new boat.

"He sticks with people," Harvey said. "When a driver receives a reward like he did with a new boat, I think it's great."

David will be the first to say that this is a team effort, that he can't win without the crew. The truth is, the Oberto team, well on its way to this year's national title, works well together.

"Steve has been perfect for us," said Oberto crew chief Mike Hanson, a former driver who has won a Gold Cup. "He's a whole lot better than me at the speaking end of things. And that's great, because that allows me to do what I want, which is work on the boat."

And now for David, the lowest moment he's known on the Columbia - that 1999 firing - has been erased with his best moment on the river. His victory Sunday.