The top three drivers in the Air National Guard H1 Unlimited hydroplane series showed why they are at the top of the season point standings Saturday.
Dave Villwock, Steve David and Jimmy Shane each won heat races on the first day of the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup.
Shane, sitting in third place in the standings, drove the U-5 Graham Trucking to victory in Heat 1C.
Coming out of lane 3, Shane nailed the start and got in and out of the first turn ahead of Brian Perkins in the U-21 Miss HAPO and Nate Brown in the U-17 Miss Red Dot.
Perkins tried to stay with Kelly for a lap, but couldn’t hang on and finished second.
Brown, making his first appearance in a competitive heat in two years after nephew Kip Brown broke a tibia in a testing session Friday, placed third.
“I had a really good start,” Shane said. “I just had enough speed to stay ahead of Perkins. If Nate had a better start, it would have been a three-boat race.”
Brown felt he could have done better.
“The racing was OK,” he said. “But I kind of messed up my start. I just hung on and watched those boys ahead of me play.”
David, in the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, took control on the first lap of Heat 1B when he beat J. Michael Kelly and the U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing to the first turn.
Kelly settled in for second place.
“We basically did what we planned on,” Kelly said. “We were looking to get the second-place points, and if we won that would have been great. But we’re really down on speed, and we have handling issues.”
Villwock, driving the U-1 Spirit of Qatar, had what had to be the easiest heat victory he’s had this year in heat 1A.
Before the race even started, Scott Liddycoat shut his 88 Degree Men down at the west end of the course.
“We broke a shaft, and lost a propelller and shaft,” said Liddycoat. “It’s frustrating, because we’ve got plenty of propellers and plenty of shafts. But there are not very many points.”
It became a parade from the start. And even Mark Evans, in the U-57 Formulaboats.com Tire Factory, couldn’t get across the finish line.
He shut his boat down when he lost a part of a prop and his boat started to violently shake.
“It could have ruined the boat, but we shut it down,” said Evans. “About the only thing it broke was the handles trying to shut it down. That was good second-place points we could of got.”
Ryan Mallow, in his first competitive heat race in an unlimited, drove the U-99 Leland Unlimited II to a second-place finish and 300 points.
As expected, the Columbia River water was rougher when more than one boat was on the course. On Friday, the river level was six feet higher than normal, and thgat caused the current to be much faster.
On Saturday, the water level dropped a foot, and it may have helped the current slow a bit.
“I thought it would be a lot rougher than it was and it may be if we have more boats out there,” said Villwock. “If they go to a six-boat program tomorrow, it’s going to be extremely rough in the first turn.”
“Tomorrow won’t be as easy,” said David. “Tomorrow will be real hard. Six of us going out there at the same time will be rough.”
Today’s first heat races — there won’t be any C heats — will feature the Qatar, Graham Trucking, Oberto, Les Schwab/Sound Propeller Services, Miss HAPO and Leland Unlimited in 2A at 10:20 a.m.
It’s a chance to see Qatar and Oberto in a heat race together.
“We’re gonna have to match up with them at some point,” said David.
In 2B at 10:40 a.m., it’s Peters & May, Red Dot, Beacon Plumbing, Formulaboats.com Tire Factory, Degree Men and Leland Unlimited II.
David expects the better boats to come to the top today.
“The battle is going to come down to 1, 6, 88 and 5. And maybe the 11 and 37,” said David. “When you get six out there it’s going to get as rough as it can be. It’s going be a super fast final heat.”