1999 Budweiser Thunderfest
Kempenfelt Bay, Barrie, Ontario, June 20, 1999

Sunday Report:


Dominant Villwock Sweeps Qualifying, Heat Races and the Budweiser Thunderfest Final

(Barrie, Ontario) – Dave Villwock stretched his points lead in the 1999 Ralph’s Unlimited Thunder Tour championship by leading from the start and never looking back on second-place finisher Chip Hanauer in the inaugural Budweiser Thunderfest.

Villwock’s victory was his first of the season and came at the 2-mile tri-oval in Kempenfelt Bay in Barrie, Ontario.  His winning average speed was 140.780 mph.

“We had a good start,” said Villwock, who was edged at the season-opening race on the start by Hanauer.  “I concentrated on boat speed and didn’t worry so much about jockeying for position on the start.  I knew that I had the boat speed to work the outside lane.  From there, we just went as hard as we could.”

Villwock and Hanauer’s Miss Pico were followed by Steve David in the Freddie’s Club hydro and rookie Greg Hopp in the United Furniture Warehouse U15.

Villwock has 3180 championship points followed by Hanauer with 2341 and Hopp with 2199.

The race will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Saturday, July 3 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.  The next Hydros race will be June 25-27 in Evansville, Ind., site of the Budweiser Thunder on the Ohio.

Todd Yarling and Mark Weber Uninjured in Separate Accidents

Miss Madison driver Todd Yarling was uninjured when his boat turned upside down in the third heat race.  “I was going down the backstretch and everything was great and there was plenty of room,” said Yarling.  “I set the boat for the turn then it started getting real tight with the boat on the outside.  I hit the roostertail from the skid fin and managed to get over that.  Then I hit the larger roostertail and the boat just climbed it like it was still in the water and over I went.  It was a very soft landing, but man was the water cold.” 

In a separate accident at the start of the main event, Mark Weber’s York International Hydro flipped in the first turn.  Weber, who is suffering from a sore left foot as a result of the accident, reported that it got tight in the first turn.  “That’s racing,” said the Michigan native.

Heat 1a:

Results Not Available

Heat 1b:

Results Not Available

Heat 2a:
Finish, Number, Driver, Speed (mph), Points

1. U-10  Mark Weber    128.591  700
2. U-15  Greg Hopp     116.941  525
3. U-3   Mike Weber    115.841  525
4. U-100 Chip Hanauer  136.663* 338
5. U-9   Mike Hanson    61.607  352

FAST LAP: #2, U-100, Chip Hanauer, 139.456 mph

Heat 2b:

1. U-1   Dave Villwock 126.973  800
2. U-6   Todd Yarling  121.115  700
3. U-8   Nate Brown    120.367  225
4. U-2   Steve David   124.883* 338

FAST LAP: #1, U-1, Dave Villwock, 138.478 mph

Heat 3a:

1. U-1   Dave Villwock 137.669 1200
2. U-10  Mark Weber    135.870 1000
3. U-9   Mike Hanson   112.707  577
4. U-8   Nate Brown        DNS  225
5. U-6   Todd Yarling      DNS  700

FAST LAP: #1, U-1, Dave Villwock, 145.959 mph

Heat 3b:

1. U-100 Chip Hanauer  133.653  738
2. U-2   Steve David   126.897  638
3. U-15  Greg Hopp     117.605  750
4. U-3   Mike Weber    106.271  694

FAST LAP: #2, U-100, Chip Hanauer, 134.489 mph


1. U-1   Dave Villwock 140.780 1600
2. U-100 Chip Hanauer  133.822 1038
3. U-2   Steve David   127.966  863
4. U-15  Greg Hopp     126.122  919
5. U-3   Mike Weber     91.821  821
6. U-10  Mark Weber        DNS 1000

FAST LAP: #1, U-1, Dave Villwock, 147.741 mph

* One lap penalty

Saturday Report


Dave Villwock Fastest Qualifier in Miss Budweiser

Miss Budweiser driver Dave Villwock held on to the top qualifying spot today for tomorrow’s inaugural Budweiser Thunderfest, the second event on the 1999 Ralph’s Unlimited Thunder Tour, along Kempenfelt Bay in Barrie, Ontario.  Villwock’s top speed of 158.384 mph at the 2-mile tri-oval turned in on Friday was more than nine miles per hour faster than Chip Hanauer, the second-fastest qualifier, in the Miss Pico Hydro.

“Being the fastest qualifier is important because it gives us 40 more points in the championship,” said Villwock.  “But really, we weren’t going for speed today.  We spent most of the day working on our starts.  Hitting the start just right is really important.  I spent a lot of time testing different scenarios and timing them.  I want to know how slowly I can get from point A to point B.  No matter what the other guys do, I’ve got enough information to know how to hit the start.  I don’t try to psych the other guys out too much.  I might try to jockey with Chip a little bit, though, just to throw him off somewhat.”

Heat race activity will get underway at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow with the main event scheduled for 4:10 p.m. Eastern.

Final Qualifying Speeds

Pos. No. Driver Entry Speed (mph)

1 U1 Dave Villwock  Miss Budweiser 158.384
2 U100 Chip Hanauer Miss Pico 149.201
3 U10 Mark Weber York International 147.617*
4 U6 Todd Yarling Miss Madison 142.775*
5 U15 Greg Hopp United Furniture Warehouse 140.529
6 U2 Steve David   Freddie’s Club 140.460
7 U9 Mike Hanson Jones Racing 137.078*
8 U3 Mike Weber Master Tire 129.887

* Denotes improved speed over previous effort

Wiggins and Bononcini Score Unlimited Lights Heat Race Wins

Charley Wiggins won the first Unlimited Lights heat race in the Earl’s Performance Products entry and Phil Bononcini won the second heat race in the Impact Equipment UL72.  Bo Schide in the Alamo UL16 was the fastest qualifier at 114.395 mph.

Sneak Preview

To give the fans an idea of what to expect tomorrow, the top four Hydros qualifiers ran a three-lap exhibition race late in the afternoon along Kempenfelt Bay.  Dave Villwock, driving the Miss Budweiser, crossed the finish line first ahead of Chip Hanauer, Mark Weber and Todd Yarling.

The Airline Lost My Luggage…Really

Nate Brown, driver of the Llumar Window Film Hydro, had to sit patiently on Friday and Saturday along the shore of Kempenfelt Bay while his team put the finishing touches on his boat.  “The airline lost the wiring harness and accessories and we did not get them until ten o’clock last night.  With this being our first race this year and completely rebuilding the boat, the team has been working hard to get the boat ready.  Sure, I’d like to be out testing and qualifying like all the other guys, but it’s all part of the game.  I’m sure we’ll be okay.”  Brown is hoping to qualify on Sunday morning.

Hopp Racing Secures United Furniture Warehouse

Third-place finisher at Lake Havasu and current rookie of the year contender Greg Hopp has secured United Furniture Warehouse sponsorship for this weekend’s Budweiser Thunderfest at Barrie, Ontario, as well as the upcoming Hydros events in Seattle, WA (Aug. 6-8) and Kelowna, BC (Aug. 13-15).  After qualifying at over 140 mph on Friday, Hopp blew an engine this morning and was able to reach a top speed of 133 mph today.

Friday Report

Dave Villwock Fastest Qualifier On Day One

Under sunny skies with the temperature in the 70s and a mild breeze along the Kempenfelt Bay of Lake Simcoe in Barrie, Ontario, Dave Villwock was the fastest qualifier for Sunday’s inaugural Budweiser Thunderfest race, the second event on the 1999 Ralph’s Unlimited Thunder Tour.  Driving the Miss Budweiser, Villwock toured the 2-mile tri-oval at an average speed of 158.384 mph.

“I think we posted a good time for the conditions,” said Villwock.  “Running earlier in the day tomorrow, we will probably be able to go a little quicker.  But basically, we are going to start concentrating on our race set up.  That’s what really matters.”

Winner of the first 1999 Hydros event in Lake Havasu, Arizona, Miss Pico driver Chip Hanauer hit a buoy in Turn One on his first qualifying attempt, then turned in a 149.201 mph average speed in his second boat to post the day’s second fastest effort. 

Qualifying will continue on Saturday, June 19 at 11:15 a.m. Eastern.  Race activity will get underway at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 20.

Day One Qualifying Times
Pos. No. Driver Entry Speed (mph) 

1 U1 Dave Villwock  Miss Budweiser 158.384
2 U100 Chip Hanauer Miss Pico 149.201
3 U10 Mark Weber York International 144.860
4 U6 Todd Yarling Miss Madison 140.735
5 U15 Greg Hopp United Furniture Warehouse 140.529
6 U2 Steve David   Freddie’s Club 140.460
7 U9 Mike Hanson Jones Racing 134.637

Mike Weber in the Master Tire Hydro and Nate Brown in the Llumar Window Film entry will qualify on Saturday.

Tri-Oval New Challenge For the Hydros; Fans To Benefit

The two-mile tri-oval race course in Barrie is the first such configuration that the Hydros have competed on.  Traditionally, the Hydros run on oval courses that consist of two corners and two straightaways. 

“We designed the course to maximize the use of the incredible beach area here in Barrie,” said Bob Gobrecht, President and CEO of the Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Association (UHRA).  “This is a beautiful race venue and we wanted to make sure that the fans were able to take advantage of that and enjoy the spectacle of Hydros racing.”

“I like the course,” said Mark Weber, driver of the York International Hydro.  “It’s going to be good for the fans…anything that we can do to improve the event for the fans, I am all in favor of.  From the cockpit, it will change the race.  The corners are much faster than on an oval.  On an oval, you basically are turning 180 degrees and then heading down another long straightaway.  Here, the corners are not as sharp, and are therefore much faster.  The challenge is getting the right gear and propeller combination.  But it’s the same for everyone…we all are driving the course for the first time, so it’s not like anyone has an advantage.  So, I think it’s great.”


The 1999 Ralph’s Unlimited Thunder Tour is proud to head into the second race of the season at a new race site, Barrie, Ontario, Canada.

“We are delighted to bring the Hydros color and excitement to the fans in this new race market,” said Bob Gobrecht, President and CEO of the Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Association (UHRA).

 Here are some things for first time fans to look for at Hydros events:

These Are Big Boats… “One of the first things that fans always comment on is the size of the boats,” said UHRA Commissioner Ken Muscatel. Our hydros are virtually twice the size of other racing vehicles. The boats are 28-30 feet long and weight about 6,300 pounds.

These Are Fast Boats… “We typically run top speeds in the 190 mph plus range,” said Mark Weber, of St. Clair Shores, Michigan, driver of the U-10 York International. “The course conditions will be a big factor in our speeds, but the Hydros world lap record is 172 miles per hour for one lap of the 2.5 mile course in San Diego.”

These Are Beautiful Boats… “There is nothing in motorsports more aesthetically beautiful than an Unlimited hydroplane at speed,” said seven-time UHRA champion Chip Hanauer of Seattle, driver of the Miss Pico. 

These Are Top Crews… “We can usually change an engine in the Miss Budweiser in about 14 minutes,” said legendary team owner Bernie Little of Lakeland, Florida. “Our crew can lift the boat from the water to the trailer, changes engines, gears and the aero package, refuel and have the boat back in the water in 25 minutes.” 

These are Great Drivers… Chip Hanauer returns to the Hydros in 1999 after a three-year hiatus. Hanauer is second only to the late Bill Muncey in career wins. He is the youngest driver from any form of motorsports ever inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. He has won the American Power Boat Association Gold Cup ten times, including one string of seven consecutive years.  Miss Budweiser’s Dave Villwock has won the last three Gold Cups. Mark Weber, Steve David, Mike Hanson, Mark Evans, have all posted Hydros victories in recent seasons. 

There are No Tires…  “Tires are critical to a race car, but we make one small propeller (approximately 16 inch diameter) do all the work that four tires do. The propeller affects the handling, acceleration, top speed and engine RPM of the boat,” says driver Steve David of Pompano Beach, Florida. Propellers are carved from blocks of exceptionally strong stainless steel and can take over 125 hours to machine and polish. “No matter what anyone claims, even if you try to make them exactly identical, no two are exactly alike,” said David.

There are Big Roostertails… “Hydros put literally over a ton of water into the air as they go around the race course,” says Miss Madison driver Todd Yarling. “The propeller is running about 50 percent in the water and 50 percent out of the water and turning anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 revolutions per minute. Every revolution of the propeller throws more water into the air. The roostertails can be nearly 40 feet high and extend over 200 feet behind the boat. You need to be careful not to ride up the roostertail of the boat in front or you or get washed down by all the spray.  This is definitely a water sport,” laughs Yarling of Madison, Indiana.

Helicopter Engines…  Most of the teams racing on the Ralph’s Unlimited Hydroplane Thunder Tour use surplus turbine engines from Chinook helicopters used during the Vietnam War. “Turbine engines deliver a lot of power in a compact package,” said Nate Brown, driver of the U-8 Llumar Window entry. “We get about 3,000 horsepower from a 700 pound package.” 

What’s a Skid Fin ?…  “Getting these 6,300 pound Hydros turned around and heading the other direction is not an easy deal, especially when you remember that the race track isn’t banked,” says U-9 driver Mike Hanson. “The skid fin is like a big dagger that sticks down into the water on the left side of the boat. When we get to the turn we pitch the boat sideways and let the fin act as fulcrum or pivot point to help the boat get through the turn. You can see a big second roostertail of spray come up from the side of the boat when the boat is hooked up on the skid fin through the turn.”

How Do You Breathe ?… “Hydros use modified F-16 fighter style canopies to protect the drivers in case of an accident. The drivers use air masks connected to air tanks mounted behind the cockpit,” said veteran driver Jerry Hopp whose son, Greg drives the U-15. In case the boat is upside down or the canopy is blocked or jammed, each boat is fitted with an escape hatch in the bottom of the boat.

Website: www.budweiserthunderfest.com/ [That site was down the last couple of times I checked. It may be down for good. --LF]

(Republished from Hydros™; text and images ©Hydros™; used by permission)

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