1997 Las Vegas Cup
Lake Mead, Las Vegas, NV, September 20-21, 1997


Heat 1

HEAT 1A

1. Weber, Miss Budweiser, 132.142
2. Hanson, DeWALT Tools, 131.267
3. Brown, Miss TruckGear, 119.054
4. Evans, Appian Jeronimo, 113.419
5. Christensen, Hire Power (speed N/A) (penalized one lap for bearing out)
(fast lap-- Weber, 1st, 136.778)

HEAT 1B

1. Evans, PICO American Dream, 131.905
2. Tate, Close Call, 128.827
3. David, Deja Vu, 122.959
4. Muscatel, Computers & Applications, 119.773
5. Weber, Miss Exide, 111.342
(fast lap, Evans, 1st, 134.481)

LAS VEGAS -- Plagued by ill fortune for nearly the past two months, the Miss Budweiser and replacement driver Mark Weber took a stride toward re-establishing the team's dominance of the unlimited hydroplane world by flashing to victory in Heat 1A of the Las Vegas Cup Saturday. The victory was worth 400 points which, coupled with another 40 for posting the fast qualifying speed earlier in the day, improved the Bud's season high-points total to 10,720, or 443 more than runnerup PICO American Dream, the defending champion of the JASPER THUNDER TOUR presented by LAS VEGAS.

The PICO, given the inside lane when second-fast qualifier Mark Tate in the Close Call chose to start in lane two, won Heat 1B with Tate always a roostertail or two in arrears.

The Bud hasn't won since original driver Dave Villwock nearly was killed in a horrific blowover at Tri-Cities, Wash., in late July. Mark Evans, piloting the PICO, has run off four wins in a row to bring his boat back into contention. Tate, a three-time former driving champ but winless in the season's first eight races, remains in the thick of things for season honors with 10,122 points.

The unlimiteds will return to Lake Mead Sunday for two more preliminary heats and a winner-take-all final, then move on to Honolulu for the season-ending race.

*  *  *

Heat 2

Sunday, Sept. 21

HEAT 2A

1. Mark Tate, Close Call, 134.014
2. Steve David, Deja Vu, 128.655
3. Ken Muscatel, Computers & Applications, 124.084
4. Mike Hanson, DeWALT Tools, 121.737
5. Rick Christensen, Hire Power, 106.541 (fast lap, Tate, 3rd, 135.944)

HEAT 2B

1. Mark Weber, Miss Budweiser, 133.028
2. Nate Brown, Miss TruckGear, 124.993
3. Mitch Evans, Appian Jeronimo, 119.569
4. Mike Weber, Miss Exide, 113.534
DNS--Mark Evans, PICO American Dream
(fast lap, Weber, 1st, 135.031)

PICO Charge Blunted by Mechanical Woes in Second Heat of Las Vegas Cup

LAS VEGAS -- The chances of the PICO American Dream to catch Miss Budweiser in the O'Doul's national high-points race received a severe blow at Lake Mead Sunday when Mark Evans' boat went dead in the water and could not start Heat 2B.

His main competitor sidelined, Mark Weber took control of the three-lap, six-mile race and added another heat triumph to go with one from Saturday afternoon. PICO, with 10,277 points, now is nearly a thousand points back of the Bud (11,120) with two heats remaining here and another four at the season finale in Honolulu October 12.

Early indications were that Evans, after firing the gas turbine and moving away from the dock, was the victim of a faulty gearbox.

The earlier Heat 1A went to Mark Tate in the Close Call, who now has passed PICO (and Evans in the driving championship) with 10,522 points. Tate emerged from a torrid three-boat race between himself, Steve David and Mike Hanson. The latter's DeWALT Tools was washed down in turn two of the first lap and fell back.

Heats 3A is scheduled for 1 p.m.

*  *  *

Heat 3

Sunday, Sept. 21

HEAT 3A

1. Steve David, Deja Vu, 122.655
2. Nate Brown, Miss TruckGear, 118.330
3. Mitch Evans, Appian Jeronimo, 116.802
4. Mike Weber, Miss Exide, 110.738
DNS--Mark Tate, Close Call (fast lap, David, 1st, 124.740)

HEAT 3B

1. Mark Evans, PICO American Dream, 136.601
2. Mark Weber, Miss Budweiser, 127.771
3. Mike Hanson, DeWALT Tools, 123.200
4. Ken Muscatel, Computers & Applications, 121.120
5. Rick Christensen, Hire Power, 119.078
(fast lap, Evans, 2nd, 137.609)

PICO Rebounds to Gun Down Miss Budweiser in Third Heat at Lake Mead

LAS VEGAS -- What could be an explosive final of the Las Vegas Cup was set up when Mark Evans, rebounding from an engine failure the previous heat, drove around and past Mark Weber and Miss Budweiser to win Heat 3B on Lake Mead Sunday afternoon. The winner-take-all final, which will see the top point-getters after the checkered flag, is set for 3:10 p.m. (PDT). Budweiser (1,100), Deja Vu (925), Miss TruckGear (825), PICO American Dream (800), Close Call (700) and DeWALT Tools (694) will start across the front line in that order, inside out.

Earlier, Close Call's efforts to gain a stronger starting position in the final were mortally wounded by the team's inability to get the boat out onto the water in time.

Driver Mark Tate sat by helplessly as his crew frantically worked to sort out a couple of cockpit problems at the dock before Heat 3A. When the canopy finally went down, and the engine fired on the Close Call, Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Association officials ruled the boat off for having not been on a plane at one minute prior to the scheduled start of the heat.

This was an enormous blow to Tate's hopes of gaining a fourth UHRA driving championship. He had been handed the lead an hour before on another stroke of luck when Mark Evans' PICO motor came up sour and refused to start for Heat 2B. Evans went back into the driving points lead with his finish in Heat 3B.

*  *  *

Mitch Evans nosed out -- literally, nosed out -- Rick Christensen to earn his way into the Las Vegas Cup winner-take-all final on Lake Mead Sunday afternoon. The veteran Chelan, Wash., pilot maneuvered the Appian Jeronimo to a come-from-behind victory, holding off Christensen's Hire Power by the barest of margins. Evans sped the three laps in an average of 130.120, to Christensen's average 130.089. Third place went to Ken Muscatel in the Computers & Applications at 122.937.

Evans started in lane one, with Muscatel in lane two and Christensen outside in lane 3. Miss Exide has withdrawn from competition for the day, its venerable hull beginning to show the wear and tear of some rough-water swells on this huge, manmade lake.

*  *  *

Winner-Take-All Final
Las Vegas Cup, Lake Mead, September 21, 1997

1. Mark Weber, St. Clair Shores, Mich., Miss Budweiser
2. Mark Tate, Canton, Mich., Close Call
3. Mike Hanson, Madison, Ind., DeWALT Tools
4. Steve David, Pompano Beach, Fla., Deja Vu
5. Mitch Evans, Chelan, Wash., Appian Jeronimo
6. Mark Evans, Wenatchee, Wash., PICO American Dream (one lap penalty)
7. Nate Brown, Preston, Wash., Miss TruckGear (no times available).

LAS VEGAS -- The Miss Budweiser's streak of bad luck has changed horses, landing instead on the back of Mark Evans' defending national champion PICO American Dream Sunday at Lake Mead's Las Vegas Cup.

Plagued earlier by a mis-firing engine, Evans -- in a valiant bid to notch a fifth straight win on the JASPER THUNDER TOUR presented by LAS VEGAS -- stormed back to pass and, apparently, fly past Mark Weber's Budweiser to gain the checkered flag. Alas, in his haste, Evans ran over a turn buoy on the last lap and was penalized one lap, dropping him to sixth place in the winner-take- all final.

Weber thus receipted for his first win since taking over the Budweiser from the injured Dave Villwock in July and opened up a nearly 1,000-point lead in the high-points chase with only the Honolulu race remaining.

When the spray subsided, Mark Tate's Close Call finished second -- for the sixth straight race -- and Mike Hanson's DeWALT Tools took third place before a huge, turnaway crowd of 65,000 on Lake Mead's Special Events Beach.

Early action in the day was highlighted by a couple of notable failures: first, PICO American Dream's motor failed to negotiate farther than the first turn, thus making Evans a non-starter in Heat 2B; then, in Heat 3A, the Close Call crew ran out of time trying to fix a cockpit glitch and was unable to put Tate onto the race course in the required time, thus scrubbing him from the heat. Thus, Budweiser's two principal challengers each lost a heat's worth of points, enabling Steve David in the Deja Vu and Nate Brown in the Miss TruckGear to line up in the second and third lanes outside Weber's Bud at the start.


'Plane and Simple : Bud Wins as PICO Penalized
By John Katsilometes

Most of the estimated crowd of 65,000 populating the shores of Lake Mead on Sunday thought they were witnessing a daring, last-lap dash to victory by the fearless Mark Evans.

Not so.

"What people saw from the shore was different from what was going on," said Mark Weber, who won the five-lap Unlimited Hydroplane main event of the Las Vegas Cup at Lake Mead's Special Events Beach at Boulder Beach. "We knew we had it won on the last lap."

Weber, who won his first main event since replacing injured Dave Villwock in Miss Budweiser in July, led the race for the first four laps. Evans pursued in PICO American Dream, and entering Turn 1 on the final lap made a bold attempt to cut inside Weber and seize the lead.

"He was pushing me outside, and I knew I couldn't overtake him from the outside," Evans said. "My crew kept telling me to stay outside and play it safe, and I did that up until the last lap."

Evans then ducked inside and made a crucial mistake, brushing the buoy in Turn 1 and drawing an automatic one-lap penalty.

The problem was, only race officials and the Miss Budweiser crew knew of the infraction. From the Miss Budweiser pits, crew member Loren Sawyer informed Weber of the penalty by radio while Evans continued to give chase down the backstretch.

"I was just holding on then," Weber said. "I just wanted to keep from doing anything stupid. We had a championship to win."

Evans finally muscled inside Weber through Turns 3 and 4, taking the lead, and he appeared to claim a dramatic victory. Instead, the one-lap penalty dropped him to sixth place.

"I didn't find out until after we crossed the finish line what happened," Evans said. "I don't know if I hit (the buoy). I thought the water spray hit it, but I'm not complaining. Mark did a great job of driving today, and he deserves it."

Drivers caught a break when the early-morning high winds settled down by the afternoon, but Weber said the water was still choppy and challenging.

"These are very difficult conditions," he said. "The rough water is really tough on our boat, and we were swerving around quite a bit."

Following Weber, of St. Clair Shores, Mich., was Mark Tate of Canton, Mich., in Close Call; Mike Hanson of Madison, Ind., in DeWalt Tools; Steve David of Pompano Beach, Fla., in Deja Vu; Mitch Evans of Chelan, Wash., in Appian Jeronimo; and Evans of Wenatchee, Wash.

Weber's average speed was 131.435 mph, and his fastest lap was a 137.852 pass on the first lap. He earned around $50,000 for the victory.

Evans' low finish cost him the Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Association points lead. He was overtaken by Tate, who earned 1,000 points over the weekend, compared to Evans' 895.

Tate holds a 50-point lead (10,822-10,772) entering the 10th and final race on the UHRA schedule Oct. 12 in Honolulu.

"It hurt our chances for the championship, that's for sure," Evans said. "We're going to run hard again in Honolulu. That's the only way I know how to drive."

One particularly interested spectator watching from the shore was Villwock, who calls himself the "Miss Budweiser cheerleader." Villwock was injured at the Columbia Cup on July 27 and has endured nine operations on his injured right hand.

Villwock has had two fingers amputated, but said he expects to return to the driver's seat in February. He said he was pleased that Weber was finally able to post a main-event victory after falling short in the past four races, all won by Evans.

"He hadn't won, so it was a good experience for him," Villwock said. "The only problem was letting Mark get inside on the last lap, but he hit the buoy, and that was it."

The victory was the third in Las Vegas for Miss Budweiser owner Bernie Little. Jim Kropfeld won the 1986 event, and Tom D'Eath finished first in 1988. The UHRA returned to Las Vegas for the first time since 1990.

Also competing in the three-day event were the Las Vegas Formula One tunnel boats, and Mike Seebold of Fenton, Mo., came away with the 30-lap main event victory with a 105.6-mph average.

It was the first win of the season for Seebold and the third straight event claimed by a member of the Seebold clan. Father Bill, also of Fenton, won in St. Louis on Aug. 17, and brother Tim, of Osage Beach, Mo., won in San Diego on Sept. 14.

Just one event remains on the Formula One tour, the Key West World Championship on Nov. 8 in Florida.

"It feels good to get the first win," Seebold said.

"Going into the last race without a win puts a lot on your shoulders. .. We've been competitive all year, but we haven't found a way to win."

Seebold was leading the first main event of the season in Washington, N.C., on June 1 for 29 of 30 laps. The race was halted by a red flag, and Seebold was overtaken on the restart by eventual winner Terry Rinker.

Seebold earned $5,000, not including contingency awards, for his victory.

Following Seebold in the top five were Lynn Simburger of Elsah, Ill.; Bill Seebold; Tracy Hawkins of Spring, Texas; and Todd Beckman of St. Louis.

The Unlimited Hydroplane race will be televised on ESPN2 on Friday at 5 p.m., and the Formula One race is scheduled to run on ESPN on Oct. 19 at 4:30 p.m.

(Reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Monday, September 22, 1997)


Water Downed Win For Miss Budweiser
By Brian Hilderbrand

Mark Evans neither acted nor sounded like a man who had just been stripped of a victory in the final heat of the Las Vegas Cup.

After charging to the lead in the final turn of the Unlimited Hydroplane final heat Sunday at Lake Mead and apparently nipping Mark Weber and Miss Budweiser at the finish line, Weber was assessed a one-lap penalty for clipping a buoy on the final lap.

Instead of a hard-fought victory in the PICO American Dream, Evans was relegated to a sixth-place finish and lost his lead in the drivers points battle. Weber, who ran second to Evans, was declared the winner.

But Evans' smile was as wide as the Boulder Beach shoreline as he obliged numerous autograph requests in the pits shortly after the race.

"In our hearts, we won that race," Evans said. "My crew worked so darn hard and we came across that (finish) line first. We might have clipped that buoy but in our hearts, we won."

In fact, Evans wasn't so sure he hit one of the buoys, which are set up to define the two-mile circuit. At least he wasn't admitting to it.

"Heck, no driver ever admits to that," he said with a laugh. "(Weber) came in -- it almost looked like he might have came up and hit a roller (wave) and came in because the boats are everywhere, they're really hard to control within an area.

"There wasn't much room at all and I tried to squeeze through. I really almost think the spray (from) my boat may have hit it. The spray is just atrocious when a boat comes down going that fast; the spray can almost cut a person in half. I'm thinking that maybe that's a big part of it."

Weber, who earned his first win in Miss Budweiser since taking over the ride from the seriously injured Dave Villwock, said he was unaware of Evans' penalty until after he had crossed the finish line.

"I didn't (see him hit the buoy) but I was pinching him in," Weber said. "I was listening to my radio guy. Down the backstretch, he said, 'Let him go, let him go, let him go.' It wasn't worth it; you do something stupid in one corner and it cost him.

"Those last two laps, we were racing for the Vegas Cup. Until then, we're racing for a championship and you've got to drive every heat to win that championship."

Weber, who averaged a course-record 131.435 mph for the five-lap, 10-mile distance in the final, said he left nothing on the water after his run against Evans.

"We were driving everywhere I could," Weber said. "(Evans) had a lot better rough-water boat than we did and I just decided we were going for it; we were either going to have pieces flying in that thing or it was coming through. You saw everything that was in Mark Weber today -- I couldn't have (driven) it any harder."

Although the threat of strong winds never materialized Sunday, the course for the final was extremely choppy -- the result of the pleasure craft that lined the backstretch of the course.

"That was the roughest final I've ever driven in my life because of the rollers," Weber said of the small waves created by the spectator boats. "The boat was just all over the place."

Evans, who held a slim 68-point lead over Mark Tate in the drivers standings coming into the Las Vegas Cup, slipped 50 points behind Tate, who finished second in the U-10 Close Call.

Miss Budweiser extended its lead in the boat standings to 998 points over Close Call and 1,048 points over the PICO American Dream heading into the final event of the season Oct. 12 in Hawaii.

(Reprinted from the Las Vegas Sun, Monday, September 22, 1997)


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