1997 Virginia is For Lovers Cup
Willoughby Bay, Norfolk, VA, July 13, 1997


A Beautiful Day and 130 mph Laps on Water
By Bob Hutchinson

NORFOLK -- The weather gods that frowned on the Virginia Is For Lovers Cup Unlimited Hydroplane races over the Memorial Day weekend came up all smiles Saturday, the second time around. Almost-perfect racing conditions brought smiles to everyone from Norfolk city manager James Oliver to the racers, owners, drivers, crews and spectators.

But no one was smiling more than Dave Villwock of Auburn, Wash., and Mark Tate of Detroit. They won the day's two heats in the Thunderboat class, as the Unlimiteds, the world's fastest boats, are known.

And they did it at almost identical speeds, setting up what could be one great match in today's finals.

Villwock, piloting Miss Budweiser, made it 13 wins in 14 heats this year by winning the day's first 5-boat session with an average speed of 130.273 mph for three laps around the two-mile oval on Willoughby Bay off the Norfolk Naval Base. Villwock jumped the gun and was disqualified in the 14th race.

Meanwhile, Tate drove the Close Call to a win in his qualifying race Saturday, averaging 130.025 mph. Both came off the race course vowing to do better in the remaining heats leading up to today's finals, when they are expected to duke it out for the Virginia Cup.

``We're running good,'' said Villwock, who signed with Bernie Little, Miss Budweiser team owner, for this year's circuit after piloting PICO American Dream to the 1996 national championship and national high-point title. ``But we can do better. We just need to do a little more fine tuning.''

Tate, a frequent winner on the 11-stop circuit and the first driver to average 170 mph in competition, also said he is looking to improve on Saturday's running.

``We're running stronger all the time,'' he said. ``But we're still not there. We can get there. We know how to do it. We just have to work a little harder.''

Weather forecasters are calling for virtually ideal racing conditions again today on Willoughby Bay.

Saturday's weather was almost a complete reversal from the squally, rainy, 50-mph northeaster that blew the scheduled Memorial Day race off the water.

A light easterly wind provided just enough Willoughby Bay ripples to give the three-ton boats enough lift to practically fly around the course.

Conditions couldn't have been much better, according to Bill Doner of Seattle, commissioner of the sanctioning Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Association.

``After Memorial Day,'' Doner said, ``everyone deserved a weekend like this, especially the race fans and people behind this race in Norfolk. They were cheated out of a great show and we're just glad things worked out so we could get back here.''

So is Oliver, instrumental in bringing the spectacle to Norfolk.

``This gives us a chance to show our stuff,'' said the city manager. ``It'll be even bigger and better next year. We're excited.''

Villwock and Tate were not Saturday's only winners. Calvin Phipps in Miss Leroi and Randy Haas in Miss Leroi II won their heats in the Unlimited Lights competition, with the latter averaging 94.994 mph. And Mark Pakradonni won the heat for Jersey Speed Skiffs at an unknown speed.

The Unlimiteds are powered by helicopter-type turbo-jet engines hopped up to as much as 3,500 horsepower and are capable of straightaway speeds in excess of 200 mph. The conventional-engine Lights top out at about 165 mph and the Speed Skiffs at about 80 mph.

Racing resumes this morning. Gates to the spectator area open at 9 a.m., with a full schedule of competition before the Unlimited finals at 3:40 p.m.

Base access is through Gate 3A off Interstate 564. Admission is $15, with pit passes another $5.

(Reprinted from the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Sunday, July 13, 1997)


Unlimited First Heat Results July 12, 1997

Heat 1A (3 laps, 6 miles)

1. Dave Villwock, Auburn, Wash., Miss Budweiser, 130.273
2. Mark Evans, Wenatchee, Wash., PICO American Dream
3. Mike Hanson, Madison, Ind., DeWALT Tools
4. Mike Jones, Sumner, Wash., Miss Exide
DNF--Ken Muscatel, Seattle, Wash., Computers & Applications
(fast lap, Villwock, 1st, 135.721).

Heat 1B (3 laps)

1. Mark Tate, Canton, Mich., Close Call
2. Nate Brown, Preston, Wash., TruckGear/Ron's Rod &Customs
3. Mark Weber, St. Clair Shores, Mich., Team STIHL
4. Steve David, Pompano Beach, Fla., PrimeStar
DNS--Rick Christensen, Eatonville, Wash., Master Tire
(fast lap, Tate, 1st, 132.353).

NORFOLK, Va. -- The Budweiser victory parade continued here Saturday afternoon as the first preliminary heat of the Virginia Is For Lovers Cup took place on Willoughby Bay, off the Norfolk Naval Air Station. Dave Villwock of Auburn, Wash., winner of three races and 12 straight heats in the big red Miss Budweiser, made it 13 heat triumphs in a row and took the first step to a fourth win on the Jasper Thunder Tour presented by Las Vegas for unlimited hydroplanes.

An old Villwock rival, Mark Tate of Canton, Mich., trying to regain his stride after a disappointing start to the season, flashed some of his old form while guiding Close Call to a win in Heat 1B. The two winners will take 400 points apiece into the event's final day.

Two more preliminary heats and a provisional will precede Sunday's winner-take-all final. Heat 2A is scheduled to begin at noon. The winner-take-all final is set for 3:40 p.m. (EDT).

*  *  *

Unlimited Second Heat Results July 13, 1997

Heat 2A (3 laps, 6 miles)

1. Mark Tate, Canton, Mich., Close Call, 136.031
2. Nate Brown, Preston, Wash., Miss TruckGear/Ron's Rods & Customs
3. Mike Hanson, Madison, Ind., DeWALT Tools
4. Steve David, Pompano Beach, Fla., PrimeStar
DNS--Mark Weber, St. Clair Shores, Mich., Team STIHL
(fast lap, Tate, 3rd, 138.164).

Heat 2B (3 laps)1. Dave Villwock, Auburn, Wash., Miss Budweiser, 134.824
2. Mark Evans, Wenatchee, Wash., PICO American Dream
3. Rick Christensen, Eatonville, Wash., Master Tire
DNF--Mike Jones, Sumner, Wash., Miss Exide
(fast lap, Villwock, 1st, 137.588).

NORFOLK, Va. -- Dave Villwock in the Miss Budweiser and Mark Tate in the Close Call kept abreast of each other at 800 points with identical wins in Heats 2A and 2B, respectively, of the Virginia Is For Lovers Cup, presented by STIHL, unlimited hydroplane race here Sunday.

With Computers & Applications withdrawn for the day due to a broken strut and the Team STIHL sidelined with a minor engine glitch, the fields were four boats each. Both the Bud and Close Call were able to easily driver around boats drawn inside of them, although Tate momentarily relinquished the lead to Competition Specialties Racing teammate Nate Brown in the Miss TruckGear/Ron's Rods & Customs before blowing past him down the backstretch of lap one around the two-mile circuit.

A third preliminary heat will precede the winner-take-all final at 3:40 p.m.

*  *  *

Unlimited Third Heat Results

Heat 3A (3 laps)

1. Tate, Close Call, 130.520
2. Hanson, DeWALT Tools
3. David, PrimeStar
4. Weber, Team STIHL
DNF--Christensen, Master Tire
(fast lap, Tate, 1st, 131.368).

Heat 3B (3 laps)

1. Villwock, Miss Budweiser, 136.298
2. Evans, PICO American Dream
3. Brown, TruckGear/Ron's Rods & Customs
DNS--Jones, Miss Exide
(fast lap, Villwock, 1st, 141.379)

NORFOLK, Va. -- The so-far all-victorious Miss Budweiser will face its sternest challenge of the Jasper Thunder Tour presented by Las Vegas for unlimited hydroplanes later Sunday afternoon on Willoughby Bay off the Norfolk Naval Air Station.

Mark Tate, Canton, Mich., and the Close Call Phone Card entry, just like Dave Villwock in the undefeated Miss Budweiser, have won three straight preliminary heats and will collide in the winner-take-all final of the inaugural Virginia Is For Lovers Cup, presented by STIHL. The Bud now has won 15 consecutive heats, thus equaling the second-best skein in unlimited history -- set by the late Bill Muncey in the Miss Century 21 over the 1961-62 campaigns. The record is 20 straight, by the late Dean Chenoweth in the 1980 version of the Miss Bud.

The final goes at 3:40 p.m. (EDT). There will be no provisional, as only Mark Weber in the Team STIHL is ready to answer that call. He'll start as the trailer in the seven-boat final. The race will be televised next Saturday, July 19, at 4 p.m. (EDT) over ESPN2.

Unlimited Final

(5 laps, 10 miles)

1. Dave Villwock, Auburn, Wash., Miss Budweiser, 131.434
2. Mark Tate, Canton, Mich., Close Call
3. Mike Hanson, Madison, Ind., DeWALT Tools
4. Nate Brown, Preston, Wash., Miss TruckGear/Ron's Rods & Customs
5. Steve David, Pompano Beach, Fla., PrimeStar
DNF--Mark Evans, Wenatchee, Wash., PICO American Dream
(fast lap, Villwock, 1st, 138.884)

NORFOLK, Va. -- The startlingly dominant Miss Budweiser and "Super Dave" Villwock continued to wade deeper into the unlimited hydroplane record book Sunday afternoon by winning the inaugural Virginia Is For Lovers Cup, presented by STIHL, before possibly the largest crowd ever to witness a sporting event in this state.

The victory was the fourth straight this season for Villwock, and six in a row over two years for the big red Bud. En route, Villwock stretched his consecutive heat win streak to 16, second best skein in the 40-year history of the Jasper Thunder Tour presented by Las Vegas. Only the 1980 version of the Budweiser, driven by the late Dean Chenoweth, ever won more -- 20 straight to launch that long-ago season.

Mark Tate, in his best finish of the young season, brought the Close Call home in second place while Mike Hanson's DeWALT Tools completed his second podium finish of the year in third.


Norfolk, State, Navy Toast Hydroplane Race
By Bob Hutchinson

NORFOLK -- Unlimited-class hydroplane racing may have roared into a love quadrangle with the U.S. Navy, the city of Norfolk and the Commonwealth of Virginia with the Virginia Is For Lovers Cup, which concluded Sunday. It's hard to tell which of the four was most delighted with the throngs that lined the shores of Willoughby Bay to watch Dave Villwock of Auburn, Wash., in the fire-engine-red Miss Budweiser win an unprecedented 16th consecutive heat and the race's overall title.

Representatives of all four were bubbling over with praise for the two-day race. Indeed, it was a spectacle that included stage shows, a Dixieland band, military displays, aircraft-carrier tours, lumberjack competition, lots of food and drink, and an afternoon packed with hot on-the-water competition.

The bottom line is that there were few folks who left the races Sunday without singing the praises of a diverse, spectacular, fun filled show, the likes of which have never been seen before in these parts.

It was the first time the Unlimiteds, the world's fastest boats, had raced on the East Coast since the 1977 President's Cup Regatta on the Potomac River in Washington.

And it was the first Unlimited race on Virginia waters since 1934, when the sport and the boats were completely different. Back then, what passed as Unlimiteds were powered by conventional gasoline engines and averaged less than 60 mph.

Today's boats, all three-point hydroplanes, are essentially identical 29-footers that weigh more than 3 tons and are powered by hopped-up helicopter-type jet turbines cranking out more than 3,000 horsepower. They can top 210 mph on the straightaway.

Villwock and the Miss Budweiser averaged 131.434 mph in winning Sunday's 10-mile, five-lap finale after turning in a best-lap speed of 141.370 earlier in the day.

Second went to Mark Tate of Detroit in the Miss Close Call, which had the day's second-best lap speed at 138.884, also in an earlier heat. Third place went to DeWalt Tools, driven by Mike Hanson of Madison, Ind. Fourth went to PrimeStar with Steve David of Pompano Beach, Fla., at the helm, and fifth to Miss TruckGear and driver Nate Brown of Issaquah, Wash. Six boats started the finals but Mark Evans of Wenatchee, Wash., driving Miss PICO American Dream, drowned out his engine when he almost flipped on the first lap.

The finale was the day's first meeting between Villwock and Tate, both of whom had won all three of their preliminary heats, setting the stage for the late-afternoon matchup that promised to be a thrilling head-to-head confrontation.

But Villwock, who has completely dominated the Unlimited field this year after signing with team owner Bernie Little for an estimated $250,000, jumped out to a quick lead and was never seriously challenged.

Villwock gave most of the credit to Little, 72, who has won more races in his 35-year career than any other owner, and to the pit crew, which he called ``the best in the business.''

``They gave me a red rocket that couldn't be beat,'' he said.

In competition for other classes, Dennis Macy of Garden City, Mich., piloted the The Menace to the Unlimited Light title, averaging 94.250 mph, while the Jersey Speed Skiffs title went to Mark Pakradonni of Glen Mills, Pa., at an unknown speed.

(Reprinted from the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Monday, July 14, 1997)


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