Thunder on the Ohio's 30th Anniversary Is Wide Open EVANSVILLE, Ind.--- It will be hard to match the 2007 Thunder on the Ohio for excitement on the water, but this year's 30th anniversary of modern era hydroplane racing in Evansville will more...
Thunder on the Ohio's 30th Anniversary Is Wide Open
EVANSVILLE, Ind.--- It will be hard to match the 2007 Thunder on the Ohio for excitement on the water, but this year's 30th anniversary of modern era hydroplane racing in Evansville will more than likely see better competition and less airborne antics.
Even though the defending national high point championship team, the Ellstrom Elam Plus with driver Dave Villwock will be passing on the American Boat Racing Association eastern swing, a more competitive field of 10 boats are expected to make their way into the pits late this week for the 2008 Thunder on the Ohio season opener (July 27-29).
The boats will hits the water at 10 a.m. on Friday and the racing continues through the weekend until the winner-take-all final at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
"We have been extremely excited to note that more teams have been on the water, getting practice time for their teams and drivers than we have seen in a long time," said ABRA Race Chairman Sam Cole. "The recent decision of the Ellstrom Elam Plus team to forgo the eastern swing to go to the Far East later will help the sport in the long run.
"Race fans in Evansville, Madison and Detroit will definitely have a new champion this year and the sport will have a new national high point champion."
Last year, the racing in Evansville was indeed spectacular. Three boats flipped during the Sunday competition, giving Dave Villwock and the Ellstrom team an easy run in the final winner-take-all championship heat. The team went on take the first four races of the season.
Now, which team will win the 2008 champion is anyone's guess?
Steve David in the Oh Boy! Oberto won the final two races of the season and should be the favorite heading into the season opener but no one will know exactly which team made the most changes during the off-season to put its team on top.
LAST YEAR'S FLIPPIN' SHOW: Jean Theoret in the Miss Beacon Plumbing and Mike Allen and Jeff Bernard in the two Formulaboats.com hulls all flipped their boats during the elimination heats on Sunday during last year's Thunder on the Ohio. Theoret's team was able to get him back into the final winner take all championship heat, taking the Miss Beacon Plumbing to a second place finish behind Villwock.
VILLWOCK MISSING EVANSVILLE: Dave Villwock, the winningest driver in unlimited hydroplane racing, really has to be missing this race. Villwock has made Evansville his home away from home. Since 1996, Villwock has won 10 Evansville unlimited hydroplane races. The only other drivers to win this race since '96 have been Steve David in the Oh Boy! Oberto in 2005 and Mitch Evans in the Master Tire, the Evansville hometown boat owned back by Ed Cooper, Sr (who has since passed away) and his son Ed Cooper, Jr.
OBERTO WORKS ON 'DEPTH' : If you have a professional team in any sport, you want to go two or three deep at every position. This off-season, The Oh Boy! Oberto team, owned by the City of Madison, Ind., worked long and hard during the off-season to get this team ready for the entire circuit. The team spent most of the off-season creating spare parts and rebuilding three motors. Crew chief Mike Hanson has to feel better about the upcoming season since last year the boat didn't have its maiden voyage until the Friday testing session in Evansville.
OHIO RIVER RACE CONDITIONS: Despite the heavy rains and flooding in the Midwest, the Ohio River will be fine for this week's race. "It looks good, except for the current," said Thunder race chairman Tom Sawyer during an interview with the Evansville Courier & Press. "What they've done is opened everything up to the Ohio River. They are literally dumping water out of the bottom of the river as fast as they can. Level-wise it's looking good at this point. I just hope the current slows down. By falling like it has, the debris is way down and I don't see any real problem."
THUNDER ON THE OHIO EXPECTED FLEET
U-3 Cooper Racing, Driver Jimmy King, Owner Ed Cooper
U-5 Formulaboats.com, Driver Jeff Bernard, Owner The Ted Porter Family
U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, Driver Steve David, Owner The City of Madison, IN
U-7 Formulaboats.com, Driver Mike Allen, Owner The Ted Porter Family
U-10 Miss Ahern Rentals, Driver David Bryant, Owners Kim and Debbie Gregory
U-13 Graham Trucking/Spirit of Detroit, Driver J. Michael Kelly, Owner Dave Bartush
U-25 Jarvis Fire and Water Repair, Driver and Owner Dr. Ken Muscatel
U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing, Driver Jean Theoret, Owners Billy and Jane Schumacher
U-50 Spirit of the NAVY, Driver David Williams and Brian Perkins, Owner Greg O'Farrell
U-100 Mirageboats.com, Driver Greg Hopp, Owner Fred Leland