(Lake Hamilton, Fla.) - Hydro-Prop, Inc. today announced drivers and teams for the 2003 Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series presented by Boat ShopperÂ® magazine. The series welcomes back most of the familiar faces though, with some new additions...
(Lake Hamilton, Fla.) - Hydro-Prop, Inc. today announced drivers and teams for the 2003 Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series presented by Boat Shopper® magazine. The series welcomes back most of the familiar faces though, with some new additions and changes to some of the teams.
"We have an outstanding group of professional drivers scheduled to compete this season," said Bart Garbrecht, CEO of Hydro-Prop. "For the past two years the competition has been fierce and we should see similar results this year. We had five different winners in 2001 and ten different preliminary heat winners last year. With the return of a nine-time victor coupled with the arrival of a new team and an assortment of new equipment including hulls, this season should be extremely exciting to the drivers, teams and fans."
The Miss Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane team will never be the same without its leader Bernie Little patrolling the pits. But the most successful Unlimited team remains intact with Bernie's son, Joe, leading the charge for another championship. Team Manager and driver, Dave Villwock, will return for his seventh season to defend his championship and the APBA Gold Cup. Villwock, third on the all-time win list, added three victories last season and currently owns 39 career victories and six world championships. This season the team will attempt to add to the Miss Budweiser legacy of career victories (134), world championships (22) and APBA Gold Cup victories (14).
Jim Harvey announced that he has signed Unlimited Hydroplane veteran Terry Troxell as the driver of the U-2 Miss Trendwest for the 2003 season. Troxell drove Fred Leland's U-99 entry for the past two and a half years where he recorded his only victory at Tri-Cities in 2001. Troxell finished fifth in the championship last season which included three consecutive second place finishes at Evansville, Madison and Detroit. Harvey has been an Unlmited owner since 1987 and owns five career victories. Once again, the U-2 will be sponsored by Trendwest Resorts for the entire 2003 race season.
The Cooper's U-3 could dominate the headlines this year as they plan on competing an entire season with their new piston powered Unlimited Hydroplane. Last year, this new Unlimited made its debut on the west coast swing to the delight of all Hydros fans. Mitch Evans was immediately able to raise his own piston powered lap speed record to over 160 miles per hour and was the fastest qualifier at San Diego while taking a heat win as well. The team has spent countless hours with the new boat and the benefits could be reaped this year as they have the ability to challenge at every venue and for the championship. Being the only piston powered Unlimited Hydroplane in the series, the U-3 continuously thrills the crowds at each venue as it roars along the water. Evans has spent most of his career driving for the Coopers' and would like nothing better to bring them all their second victory. The last piston powered Unlimited victory was in 1989 with Evans driving for the Coopers'.
The Miss Madison will extend its record of consecutive Unlimited Hydroplane seasons to 43 when it takes to the water at Evansville. The world's only community-owned Unlimited Hydroplane will once again compete as the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto with sponsorship from the Oberto Sausage Company. Steve David will pilot the U-6 for the third season after finishing sixth in the championship last year, which included one heat win and a third, fourth and fifth place finish. The Miss Madison has six career victories while David has secured four victories including the 2001 Madison Regatta aboard the Miss Madison.
Longtime Unlimited Hydroplane owner, Bill Wurster, enters the 2003 season with a number of significant off-season changes. Wurster recently announced that veteran driver, Mark Evans, will pilot the U-8 this season. Evans owns nine career victories and has driven the Miss Budweiser, PICO American Dream, Miss Exide and Miss Elam Plus during his storied career. The team also announced that it purchased the T-4 Two Wing Budweiser hydroplane and will update the boat to race-ready conditions for the start of the season. The T-4 was built in 1994 but only entered one event. In fact, Mark Evans piloted the T-4 at Madison in 1995 and produced three heat wins. The hydroplane was then shelved for future development that never transpired. For the seventh consecutive year, LLumar Window Film will sponsor the team and will race as the U-8 LLumar Window Film.
Michael Hanson will pilot the U-9 for the fifth consecutive year for team owners Mike and Lori Jones. The team looks forward to another strong campaign on the water after producing two victories during the past two years including the 2001 APBA Gold Cup. Last year, Hanson finished third in the championship and won the season finale at San Diego. He also secured five heat wins and never finished below fifth in any final. Hanson currently has four victories while Jones Racing has secured two wins. Typically sponsored by a race by race status, the U-9 is consistently one of the most competitive Unlimiteds at each event.
Mike Weber returns to the cockpit of the U-10 Miss EMCOR for USA Racing Partners and its' owner Kim Gregory. Weber, a Detroit native, will attempt to secure his first career win with the talented and proven team. Weber was the 1998 Unlimited Rookie of the Year and is entering his second season with the team. Weber finished seventh in the championship last season, which included a couple of heat wins. USA Racing Partners recently announced that EMCOR Group will return as the primary sponsor for the team, the sixth year of involvement for EMCOR.
Nate Brown enters the 2003 season with the ultimate goal of winning the championship. Brown has once again been selected to pilot the Ellstrom Families U-16 Miss Elam Plus. Brown's two victories in addition to two second place finishes, propelled him to a second place finish in the championship last year. During the past two years Brown has won four races and is a legitimate threat to win the championship. Consistently one of the fastest Unlimiteds in the series, Brown was the fastest qualifier at five races last season.
Dr. Ken Muscatel, team owner and driver of Superior Racing's U-25, spent the entire 2001 off-season rebuilding the boat and had grand hopes of a successful 2002 race season. All those hopes came literally crashing down when Muscatel flipped the U-25 at Tri-Cities last season and broke the boat in two. The U-25 team has spent the majority of this off-season attempting to rebuild the hydroplane and plan on competing at Evansville. Muscatel, the Unlimited Rookie of the Year in 1991, is a past commissioner of the sport, the president of the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Seattle, Wash. and a Forensic Psychologist.
Fred Leland recently announced that Greg Hopp will return to pilot the U-100 this season. Leland is a veteran Unlimited Hydroplane owner with 18 career victories, including two APBA Gold Cups and a World Championship. Hopp secured two third place finishes in the world championship in 1999 and 2001. He returns this year in search of his first career victory.
A new addition to the Unlimited fleet this year is the U-00 Team owned by Brian Rubenaker. Rubenaker is a long-time Unlimited participant with over 19 years in the sport, and was most recently a team owner up to 1995. Rubenaker purchased a Fred Leland hull that was last raced in 1999 as the Miss PICO and plans on competing at Tri-Cities, Wash., Seattle, Wash. and San Diego, Calif. races. Rubenaker has selected Gordy Gillmer as the primary driver with Andrew Walker as the back-up. Gillmer drove an Unlimited for Rubenaker in 1990 and 1991 and also has various other boat racing achievements in 5-Litre and 7-Litre classes. The team recently announced that former Unlimited Hydroplane World Champion Steve Reynolds will be the team manager and will bring his experience and knowledge of Unlimited racing to the team.
Tentative driver line-up for the 2003 Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series Presented by Boat Shopper® magazine. <pre> Hull # Name Driver Owner U-1 Miss Budweiser Dave Villwock Joe Little U-2 Miss Trendwest Terry Troxell Jim Harvey U-3 Master Tire/Vacationville.com Mitch Evans Ed Cooper Sr. & Jr. U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto Steve David City of Madison, Ind. U-8 LLumar Window Film Mark Evans Bill Wurster U-9 Jones Racing Michael Hanson Mike & Lori Jones U-10 Miss EMCOR Mike Weber Kim Gregory U-16 Miss E-Lam Plus Nate Brown Ellstrom Family U-25 Superior Racing Dr. Ken Muscatel Dr. Ken Muscatel U-100 Leland Racing Greg Hopp Fred Leland U-00 Rubenaker Racing Gordy Gillmer Brian Rubenaker