Hydro Racing

Madison Regatta declares David, Oberto winner after crash

MADISON, Ind. -- Steve David and the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto survived a rough-and-tumble day on the Ohio River on Sunday to win the Madison Regatta -- the season-opening H1 unlimited hydroplane race.

But David may not have a ride next weekend for the APBA Gold Cup in Detroit -- a race that the three-time national champion has yet to win.

David and the Oberto team were declared the race winners after he collided with driver Dave Villwock and the U-96 Spirit of Qatar after the third of five laps were completed in the final.

Neither Villwock nor David were seriously hurt -- although David was nursing a sore rib.

"It's OK," David said. "I had it x-rayed."

David, in lane 1, had lost ground to Villwock in lane 2 after three laps.

"I had him in the turns and he had me in the straightaways," David told the Herald on Sunday night. "I figured there was 700 feet in the turns and I could make up some distance on him."

What no one expected, though, was Villwock hooking his boat to the left coming out of the turn.

"I shouldn't have been so nice," Villwock told the Herald. "I had a roostertail lead on him and I could have moved in. But I continued to give him room. I just fell into a hole and the thing came around. It's just one of them things."

David didn't have any time to react.

"All I heard on the radio was (Oberto crew chief) Mike (Hanson) said 'Dave hooked' -- Boom!," said David. "It was instant. I heard the impact. I'm not sure I barrel-rolled. But I know I went forward in my seat pretty hard."

The Oberto sheared everything off the top of the U-96, except the canopy holding Villwock.

"Our fin was two to three feet back of the canopy when the boat came through," David said. "We could have lost Dave."

Villwock knows how lucky he is.

"It could have been worse," he said. "It was really rough down there. If I had made it through the turn a few seconds more I could have been on the podium holding the trophy."

Which would have given him his 63rd career victory and making him the all-time wins king in the sport -- ahead of Bill Muncey's 62 wins and Chip Hanauer's 61.

Instead, race officials declared David and Oberto the winner.

Because Villwock spun out, he was disqualified.

Since David was then the leader when the race was stopped because of the accident, he was declared the winner. Kip Brown in the U-17 Miss Red Dot finished second, and rookie Scott Liddycoat -- driving the U-7 Valken.com -- placed third.

Now, the U-96 team will spend this week at Ed Cooper's shop in Evansville, Ind., putting the boat back together in time for Detroit. Ironically, Cooper owns the piston-powered U-3 hydroplane that has sat on the beach since last year in a dispute between Cooper and H1 Chairman Sam Cole.

Unfortunately for David and the Oberto team, they won't have the same luxury.

"That was probably a $500,000 victory," said David. "When the sponsons hit him, that pretty much destroyed the spar, which holds the sponsons together. They all have to come off now and normally it takes four months to put it together."

Complicating things is the U-1 team sold its backup boat to the U-22 Great Scott! team in the offseason. So there is no backup boat.

"Mike knew that was a risk, but he also knew he didn't want to put me back in that boat," said David.

The Miss Madison committee, which oversees the U-1 operations -- the City of Madison owns the boat -- will meet tonight to discuss the team's options. That could include leasing another boat or only putting the broken boat back together.

If the latter option is chosen, Oberto might be ready for Seattle's race in August. But the team might have to miss the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup, set for July 29-31 in the Tri-Cities.

Whatever happens, David and Oberto will be hard-pressed to repeat again for the national high-points championship.

"We were in great shape for a run to another championship season," David said. "You know, I don't normally drink. But this bourbon I'm drinking right now is making me feel better by the ounce."

Villwock's and David's crash in the final wasn't the only accident Sunday.

Brian Perkins, driving the U-21 Go Fast, Turn Left Racing boat in an earlier heat race, missed a bouy on a turn.

Perkins turned his boat around to make the bouy, but he hit a rescue boat in the process and injuring four people.

A spokeswoman for King's Daughters' Hospital in Madison said the two crash victims being treated there were in stable condition.

The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., reports two others injured in the crash were flown to University Hospital in Louisville, where a male patient was in serious condition and a female patient was in fair condition.

Perkins was not injured.