Hydro Racing

10 things about this hydro season

KENNEWICK -- If you live in the Tri-Cities, and you get past the Fourth of July, you know that the unlimited hydroplane races can't be too far off.

For the Tri-Cities, the Lamb-Weston Columbia Cup runs July 29-31 on the Columbia River.

But the H1 Unilimiteds circuit actually begins today, with the Madison Regatta Indiana Governors Cup.

Twelve boats are expected to battle on the shortened 1 2/3-mile course, and there will be a lot of drama and storylines taking place.

Here are 10 storylines to follow for the 2011 season.

1. Villwock. Dave Villwock is tied with the late Bill Muncey with 62 career victories.

The Auburn resident should get at least one this season to take over the lead. He might be the guy who unseats the top dog this year. Which brings us to No. 2. ...

2. Steve David. Along with Villwock, he is the elder statesman among drivers in the sport.

He's also piloted the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto to the national high points championship for three straight seasons.

He's good. He's amiable. The fans, the media -- heck, everyone loves him. Could he get a fourth straight title? Yes.

He and Villwock should both be near the top of the standings. And here's why ...

3. Fighting for lanes. We're fighting for lanes again this season, instead of having assigned lanes.

That means if you're really could at jockeying for position to get an inside lane -- and you're good enough to hold that lane during the race -- you're going to score a lot of points this season.

That bad news? Expect a lot more parade laps too -- which is what seems to happen when drivers fight for lanes.

4. Still no thunder. If you're expecting to see the piston-powered U-3 Cooper's team racing this season, don't hold your breath.

Ed Cooper had a falling out with H1 chairman Sam Cole last year and pulled his boat off the circuit.

Cooper has been busy rebuilding engines this offseason. He's got more than he's ever had. But until Cole relinquishes the top spot of H1, Cooper is not competing.

5. More women. Drivers, that is. Last season, Kayleigh Perkins got a chance in Seattle to drive the U-1 and she did herself proud.

This year, Bianca Bonincini is going to get a chance to drive the U-57 Formulaboats.com. Mark Evans is the main driver, but once he gets things at a comfortable level, Bonincini is expected to get a crack at things.

6. Colorful boats. Someone in marketing did a great job this offseason.

Check out the U-5 and U-7 paint jobs when they come to the Tri-Cities.

Same with 88.

7. Houston. Give credit to Cole. It's been a while since the circuit has added a race in this country.

But it looks like the hydros will be back at Clear Lake in Houston in September. That is, as long as all the details get ironed out.

8. U-11 on board. Scott Raney had been the crew chief for a while with the Schumacher team.

But he and his wife Shannon decided to go into business for themselves, and now they have the U-11 Peters & May.

They also took driver JW Myers with them.

9. Kelly to 88. So what did Jane and Bill Schumacher do? They coaxed standout driver J.Michael Kelly over from the U-7 team to drive for them.

Then they hired Jim Harvey to manage the team.

10. Water Follies. Annually the biggest event the Tri-Cities has to offer, this season's race should be a good one.

The teams will have two races under their belt before they get here at the end of the month.