HPROP: Season preview press conference, part II

HYDRO-PROP Teleconference Preview of the Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series Guests: Dave Villwock, driver of U-1 Miss Budweiser Steve David, driver of the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto Mike Weber, driver of the U-10 Miss EMCOR HYDRO-PROP, Teleconference...

HYDRO-PROP Teleconference
Preview of the Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series

Dave Villwock, driver of U-1 Miss Budweiser
Steve David, driver of the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto
Mike Weber, driver of the U-10 Miss EMCOR
HYDRO-PROP, Teleconference moderator

Hydro-Prop: Steve David is driving the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto (Miss Madison). He won the Madison race last year. Steve, tell us about your testing last week in Madison and your prospects for this season?

Steve David - "We tested last Saturday up in Madison and did 2 or 3 laps, and brought it back in and found out that we had an output bearing problem in the gear box. We did not have a chance to get back in the water but it gave the new crew a chance to get used to the boat, change engines and gearboxes. We've got some wonderful new folks on the team that are all volunteers and they did a great job. We did not have a lot of running time, but a lot of good team time. I think we are better equipped than we have been in other years. We have some fresh engines and propellers and we've had some help from several of the teams including Dave Villwock and the Miss Budweiser team. So we are looking forward to a real strong season."

Hydro-Prop: Can you comment on last year's Madison race and your victory?

David: "Well if we could have done that six times, that would have been a perfect season. It was very special because it was a community win. I had taken a year away from the sport and had a renewed appreciation for the depth, history and tradition of the sport. Madison certainly represents all of those traditions. So to win in their town was an important shot in the arm for Bob Hughes, Charlie Grooms, the team and the community. It reinvigorated their whole effort. It was an exciting part, it was not just one driver but 13,000 residents that made us win."

Q: Steve: What does the Evansville race mean to you? And are they ever going to release the Madison movie?

David: "From what I heard from talking with the producers this week, it will be a September or October release. I believe MGM will release over a wide screen, over 2,000 theaters. It will happen and it should be great for the sport as well as all the cities that host the races. In terms of the Evansville race course, it is one of my favorites. It is where we first debuted Bob Fendler's three-wing boat back in 1990. It also is where we debuted Jim Harvey's two-wing boat in 1993. Evansville was the first place that I got in an Unlimited Hydroplane. There are a lot of firsts for me at Evansville except for a first place. If we can get Dave Villwock behind us, maybe I can change that."

Q: Steve: I'm just curious, a team like yours certainly benefited from the competition level last year? Do you go into a season more optimistic now than you did three years ago?

David: "I think you go in believing that you have equal armament to everyone out there and it puts a lot more responsibility in the cockpit. No matter what they do with the rules, you can never write off the stronger teams like Mike Weber, Nate Brown and Dave Villwock. They have tremendous crew guys, great equipment and a lot of history. So no matter what you do, winners are going to win. I just feel a little better with our team and at least we are right up there with those strong teams. We have pretty much equal equipment and it is up to me to do my best in the boat."

Q: Steve: You have a unique position because you came back to the sport last year - what was the feeling of the drivers and the community of drivers about the rule changes?

David: "Well I think those who have the best stuff would like to be let loose and I don't blame them a bit. If I was in Dave's shoes I want to use all of the resources available to me because they've got the talent to put that stuff way out front. On the other hand, if you are a team that did not have all that, then you want the advantage taken away from the top. I don't know if there is a right answer there. It really depends on which boat you are in and I don't blame anyone for the positions they take. The net of it is if the fans are pumped and they believe they are seeing better racing, long term it is probably better for all of us."

Q: Steve: In a way, has it almost gone the other way? Before the Miss Budweiser had the advantage and now it seems they don't have any advantage. Do you feel that the rules have made things go too far the other way or do you think it has found a good mix?

David: "It was the first year. I think we'll sense equilibrium this year. It is kind of ironic because I have the same issues in off-shore powerboat racing where I drive for the Fountain Powerboat Factory. Reggie Fountain's boats were disqualified from racing in several certain factory classes because they were faster than everyone. They kind of wanted to lower the bar. Reggie had worked some 40 years to make his boats the fastest. So I have experienced first hand how Dave feels. I truly appreciate where the top guys are and I can feel it from their point."

Q: Mike, Dave and Steve: What are your opinions on the final heat rules. Hydro-Prop will hold the rights to make decisions on how lane choices are determined - straight by points, inverse points, blind draw or free start with milling for lane choice. What are your thoughts on lane choices?

David: "From Madison standpoint, we just have to be fluid. I really don't mind it either way. If we had the depth of equipment we probably would want to know well in advance so we could throw our best stuff together. The good teams that are fluid and able to adjust quickly if they know 30 minutes before the final they will make those adjustments. It certainly makes the crew work harder. From driver's standpoint it is a little bit of a head game because you are trying to figure out what you set up we will need. So we all have to be a bit more spontaneous."

Weber: "I think sometimes it will work for you and other times it will work against you. I don't feel strongly one way or another. I'm an old fight leader guy so I would say lets race for a lane and what will be will be. I understand Gary's position and why he wants to do it the way he is doing it. It hurt us last year in the Gold Cup because Mark was second in points going into the final and drew lane five and obviously he was not very happy about that. I think if you look at the results of the finals from last year it is tough to argue with the success and the excitement that it created."

Villwock: "Do I have to answer that? As a competitor in any sport you want to know what the game is before you start playing it. I don't care what we do, if we start by a flag start, or clock start or we get the outside lane every time every heat. I'd like to know before the day starts what we are going to do. But our organization does not like that. I think if you talk to all the drivers privately, they would say the same thing. They would just like to know what the game is before we start the game. But that is probably not going to happen for a number of reasons. Whatever will happen will happen. They are going to decide who they want in and what lane and what mechanism they're going to use. That is what is going to happen this year. I would just like to know what they are going to do before the game starts.

The teams that have the most equipment and people can change the most quickly. The teams that don't have the people, resources it is often difficult for them to operate in a system that is fluid. Tthey don't have the resources to change throughout the day. That is the complaint you hear from the teams that are struggling. From our perspective, it is a pure sport concern, we just want to know what the game is so everyone has the same fair advantage to participate in that game throughout the day."

Q: Mike, Dave and Steve: Can anyone make any predictions for the season?

Weber: "Based on last year, I don't think you can predict anything and as soon as you figure it out the officials are likely to throw in another monkey wrench and change everything. I would not care to predict anything other than hopefully good close racing, the fans being excited and a good show on the water."

David: "Who knows? If you look at how last season went where Miss Elam came on strong at the end of the season we don't know what will happen. And with our fuel restrictions you never know what will transpire. Dave is always a strong contender, Mike Weber is going to do a heck of a job for his team and the unknown with the Evansville based Cooper's Allison that could come on strong this year. With our fuel restrictions, that Allison can probably run faster than most of us down the straightaway. It is anybody's game this year."

Villwock: "Obviously as Mike said, the races have been heavily influenced by our officials, so making a prediction of what is going to happen is extremely difficult. We will just try to run as best we can. We just got lucky to win a championship last year. Hopefully we can be as consistent as we possibly can. Given if the same thing happens as last year I'd be surprised if we could even win a race. Maybe we will have a chance at a championship. That is all we can predict."

Q: Dave: Are you still excited about racing?

Villwock: "All we can try to do is do the best we can. The obstacle has been placed before us and that's the challenge and we rise to it everytime. As much as that is difficult to work with it at times, we have a group of very strong individuals that pride themselves in their professionalism and they are willing to excel. That is our challenge and that is our mission. We will go out and participate to the very end. We will try to win the championship or every single heat. So, believe me we will be as competitive as we possibly can."

Q: Dave: Do you still find it exciting? Are you looking forward to the season beginning?

Villwock- "Yes. We enjoyed running the boat in testing and getting it out and working again. I expect the season to be a continuance of that."

Headquartered in Lake Hamilton, Fla., Hydro-Prop combines Unlimited Hydroplanes, the biggest, fastest racing boats in the world, with Formula One, the most versatile, fastest accelerating and fastest turning boats in the world. Hydro-Prop events are held throughout North America and are the only forms of Professional Powerboat Racing televised on ESPN2. For more information on Hydro-Prop, visit www.hydroprop.com.


UHRA press conference part I

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Series Boat
Drivers Bob Hughes