HPROP: Series preview teleconference transcript

Guests: Dave Villwock, driver of U-1 Miss Budweiser Steve David, driver of the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto HYDRO-PROP, Teleconference moderator HYDRO-PROP: "We will start with Steve David who is returning to the series this year after being out of the ...

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

HYDRO-PROP: "We will start with Steve David who is returning to the series this year after being out of the sport for a little over a year. Steve will be driving the U-6 Miss Madison team boat that will run this year as the Oh Boy! Oberto. Steve: Welcome back and what brings you back to the sport?"

Steve David: "The huge money! I have been having a ball offshore powerboat racing and I really miss the thrill of the Unlimited's. Offshore racing is great but there is nothing that compares to Unlimited racing and going 200 miles per hour competing against these quality drivers. Running against Dave Villwock and the Miss Budweiser is a thrill. I am really looking to get back to that competitive level."

HDYRO-PROP: "This year will be the 30th Anniversary of the famed Madison Gold Cup, the 1971 APBA Gold Cup race in Madison that was won by the Miss Madison. Steve: What do you think are the prospects of another celebration in Madison?"

Steve David: "I would bet every cent you have on the Miss Madison winning this year! This team is better equipped than they have ever been to compete well. The rules this year certainly favor the teams that are ready. So it is going to be a very good race. Dave and the Miss Bud guys are going to be as prepared as ever, but I think the Madison team is equally prepared."

HYDRO-PROP: "Dave Villwock, driver of the Miss Budweiser, is the defending series champion and defending champion at Evansville, Madison and Detroit. Dave: It is a short season this year, does that put any extra pressure on defending a championship with a limited margin if anything goes wrong?"

Dave Villwock: "Yes, it is a short season so preparation will be very key to a good season. There have been a lot of rule changes so preparation has been difficult. We will have to see how it all shakes out. We will show up at the boat race and race as hard as we possibly can and hopefully it comes out our way."

Dave: "When you talk about testing, how many other boats besides the Miss Budweiser have been testing?"

Dave Villwock: "The Znetix boats have tested a number of times early in the year. Mike Hanson with Jones Racing has tested once and I am not sure what are the plans for Kim Gregory's team, they usually test at least once before the season starts."

Dave: "Can you go over the rule changes so everyone can understand them?"

Dave Villwock: "There a number of rule changes for this season and I am really not at liberty to discuss all of the little things at length. They are available and maybe you should ask HYDRO-PROP for a list of these rules."

Q, Steve: "If you give us an idea what about some of the new rule changes that leads you to believe that we will have other boats besides the Miss Budweiser winning most all of the races? Is there something in particular that excites you about this season? Something that you see that will provide even more competition?"

Steve David: "Probably fuel flow systems. Obviously whoever is better at using what fuel you have got to develop horsepower and connecting it to the water is still going to have a distinct advantage. But I think that the gap between the front runners and the fourth and fifth place boat is going to be shorter so it puts a lot more responsibility in the cockpit. Even though lanes are assigned, nailing the staring line at wide open is going to be critical. I think that there is more pressure on the drivers this year with these rules."

Dave: "Do you like the idea of the lanes being assigned?"

Dave Villwock: "Actually I was one of the people that discussed that because we ran that system several years ago. That system allowed drivers to race from different positions and it rewarded someone racing hard from the beginning of the weekend to the final heat. You had to race all weekend to get the best position in the final. I don't think it is a bad plan and hopefully it will provide different winners and it will be fun for the fans. Lets face it, we race for the fans."

Q, Dave: "Why do you think you have been so successful at Evansville winning five straight races? And what does this race mean to you and how is it different being the first race of the season and does that add any additional pressure?"

Dave Villwock: "No it really does not put pressure on me being the first race of the season. But you had to bring up the fact that I have won five times in a row, you would think that I would have to lose sooner or later. We will just go there, like we do every other day, put on our racing clothes and race as hard as we can. What happens - happens. And hopefully we will do everything that we possibly can to run as best as we can and we will be satisfied with that."

HYDRO-PROP: "To fill in briefly about the rule changes - there will be pre-assigned lanes at all races this season, minimum weight of the boats has been increased from 6300 pounds to 6750 pounds and there are some adjustments on the fuel system and on parts. The two biggest aspects of the rule changes will be the starting procedures and the weight."

Dave: "The Miss Budweiser T-6 hull was built with fuel restriction in mind. It was built a little lighter on its feet. With the extra weight requirement this year has that made a difference with the boat?"

Dave Villwock: "Contrary to popular belief, the truth is that the weight rule really will not have that big of an impact. The truth is that there were four or five boats out there that were very close to those weight limits, within a hundred pounds of those limits last year. So I don't see the weight rule being a big issue. We have certainly designed each and every Miss Budweiser to better than the last. The T-6 is the last in that evolutionary line. Now since then, we have taken all the boats and tried to bring them up to T-6's new standards and beyond."

Steve: "Whom did you race with two years ago?"

Steve David: "I drove for Jim Harvey for a number of years in the U-2."

Steve: "How did you hook up with the Miss Madison for this year?"

Steve David: "The Madison folks contacted me over the winter when Nate Brown got the call to go over to the Miss Elam Team. The Madison people put out their feelers and we compared me offshore commitments and I realized that I only had one conflict, which is Detroit. So I have gotten another throttle guy to take over for me in the offshore boat that weekend. So I was able to drive for the Miss Madison and keep my commitment for Reggie Fountain in the offshore series. It was kind of fortuitous that they called me and that our schedules worked out okay."

Steve: "Going to a team with the tradition of the Miss Madison, can you talk a little bit about that?"

Steve David: "It is potent and it is one of the reasons that I did come back. You know, our sport has kind of been on its face over the last few years, but I sense that Gary Garbrecht is going to make a turn-around of the sport. One of the things you look at is the tradition and what were the strengths there that give you the roots to come back from. And one of those things are the Madison people, both the people of Madison and the team, have been around the sport for a number of years and they keep coming back. They are like the Green Bay Packers of Unlimited Hydroplane racing. That is a neat spirit and it is uplifting for me. The guys want to win and it has been a long time since they have won. They are willing to put whatever resources they have into winning. So it felt like this was a team that absolutely had it inside and felt it waiting to bust out. I think that I can help them make that happen on the water."

Steve and Dave: "Where do you assess the series as a whole right now? Are you happy where the sport is at this present moment and the direction that it is going?"

Dave Villwock: "That is really a question for Gary Garbrecht. I think that some of the things that they have are good and other things I have some reservations about. We need to progress forward, we need to have more competitive races and we need to have more race sites. We will see where Gary's paths leads us."

Steve David: "If you look at any kind of motor sports with NASCAR leading the way and really drawing a lot of dollars away from the other sports, you are seeing these other sports, particularly CART and IRL suffering as a result. In motorsports, to move to the future, this is the time to do it. Gary has a vested interest in making the sport work and he did that with outboards. Outboards were on the brink of extinction in the 1980's and Gary started the Formula One tour and was able to bring it back. He had to make some tough decisions that competitors were not happy with. I can certainly appreciate where Dave and the Miss Budweiser are coming from because he has a winning team and it is like people continuously throwing rocks at you. But I know Dave and the Miss Budweiser team is going to come back at us with everything they have. And they also understand that we have to prove that the show. The responsibility is on both Gary as the business leader and on us as competitors to make this as fan friendly and fan exciting as we possibly can. I think that you will get a sense of that and it will be palpable."

Dave: "How hard is it for you because of the competitors you do want to go out and win every race but at the same time looking at the big picture you probably say well it would not be bad if another boat(s)won or had a chance to win? How hard is it for you to balance those feelings?"

Dave Villwock: "I think there is that chance and more so than most people realize. From the inside we know how hard we race to win a race like Seattle last year. It was impossible for us to win last year at Seattle yet we won. We know how hard we are trying to excel and that is difficult for the media and the fans to see. I have mixed emotions, we try extremely hard but at the same time, we want other people to rise to that excellence level. We want to see great competition and we love great competitors that come into our sport and Steve David is one of those drivers. The Madison team has a tremendous amount of history. We are working together with a number of teams giving them some of our technology and parts and pieces that we have developed to help that happen. Hopefully that will help bring the sport forward."

Steve David: "Dave and the red boat have gotten slammed over the years and I have certainly thrown my own bombs at them, but they have been more than willing to share information. They are willing to lend whatever other teams need and they don't ever brag about it. Dave does not boast what he gives other guys and teams, like props, you name it and the Miss Budweiser team has been there for a lot of teams. That does not really get the play that it should. I know they have helped us on a number of occasions where it was not known. While they are very tough competitors, they are there to help when it is needed."

Steve: "This is going to be the first weekend that you are even getting in the Miss Madison. How long is it going to take for you to be comfortable with it? How long will it take for you and the boat to be one?

Steve David: " I think it's more of a matter for the team to be comfortable with the fact that I won't destroy it. I am pumped to get back in. Offshore is obviously slower, my Super-V only runs at a 140mph, so the speed difference is going to be significant. But I already have 4 offshore races under my belt this season, so I have been in a competitive mode all along. It is just getting back being used to Unlimiteds. The team will be there ready to go in the water as soon as we can on Friday, and I am going to get all the test time that I can. So come Saturday, I am able to run competent and safely with my other friends out there on the race course."

Dave: "The short season seems to put pressure on points. You always try to score every point that you can every time out on the racecourse. Do you see that as making it tougher because there aren't more races to recover if there is a problem?"

Dave Villwock: "Well there is certainly that liability. For instance, go back to the 1999 season; we lost the first race of the season. But at the same time, we came out of that race with the points lead. So we were cautious at certain places, when we felt we needed to be in order to keep the boat in one piece and score points at all. So sometimes we might want to keep the boat in one piece. During the first couple of races when everyone is new, and when a lot of people haven't tested, just keeping the boat in one piece will be a challenge. In order to get points, you have to finish."

Dave: "Dave, what does The Gold Cup mean to you?"

Dave Villwock: " The Gold Cup is probably one of the most challenging races primarily because of where it is held. Detroit is one of the greatest places in our country that has one of the longest traditions and has the most there in the sense of history of Unlimited Hydroplanes. So that coupled with the challenges of the Detroit River have made the Gold Cups that I have won very special. It is like winning Daytona, or like winning Indy. It has more value than the other races just because of its history and nothing more. I never thought I would win one, let alone four. We are going to go back this year and do the best we can."

Steve: "Steve, what would a Gold Cup mean to you?"

Steve David: "I remember a couple of years ago when Dave won his first. He and I were talking afterwards and he had said that he always thought it was just a race, but after he won it he realized that beating the Detroit River and surviving the River was awfully significant and that winning was terrific. That was pretty inspiring coming from Dave who had won many races. It is the epitome in boat racing. No matter how many Worlds we win, winning the Gold Cup is the 500. It's the big one. You win that one, and it makes for a successful year. There are a lot of hungry guys out there who want to win it this year.

Dave and Steve: " With all the changes this year, what is going to be the biggest factor in equalizing racing?"

Steve David: "From our perspective, it is a lot of new stuff being thrown at all the teams. In all of racing, if you gave everyone the same stuff those people who are most prepared are still going to have a distinct advantage. The Madison, Bud, Mark Weber and Znetix teams are going to be able to ramp up a lot faster than others will. It is going to be learning what you can do with what you have as fast as you can. We are all really coming in fresh into this first race."

Dave Villwock: "There have been a lot of things that have been changed. How they are running and managing the competition is probably the biggest issue. Really this question should go to Gary Garbrecht. He has made comments that he is going to manage this sport. In fact, Danny O'Neill from the Seattle Times has a story today in which Gary is quoted regarding how he is planning to manage the competition. I would look at that article and speak to Gary in order to get your answer."

Q: Steve: "Steve, you've been out of competition for over a year. How long is it going to take you to really feel comfortable in the boat and go charging in the first heat?"

Steve David: "If we win, yes, but if we don't win, I'll say I wasn't ready. I am as ready as I think I ever was. I've got to make sure I don't go in cocky because it's a big responsibility. The folks of Madison have a lot invested in this program, and I have to shepherd those assets as responsibly as I can, and also go out to win. As the day progresses, and the heats go on, I am going to get stronger and stronger. So in the final, I will still know it's the red boat behind me, but it will get smaller as the race proceeds."

Steve and Dave: "Do you like the fact that the drivers in the sport seem to be the same over the years? Does that make it more fun because you tend to learn their tendencies? What are your thoughts on this?"

Dave Villwock: "One of the things we learned in Seattle last year is that some of the newer drivers were really struggling to maintain their lane amidst a group of people. So it's important that you have a lot of trust in your competition when you travel the length of a football field in a second while driving a 7,000-pound hydroplane. It is a big responsibility to make sure that the boat stays in its particular place that its supposed to be, and that is the driver's responsibility. Trust is important, and we like to see some of the same people because we learn, and they learn what they need to do to really put on a good show and have a safe race."

Steve David: "It is wonderful to see new blood in the sport, but it is also nice to know the guys you are running with, because you do know their tendencies. You know what to be cautious of, and what not to be. Every driver out there is responsible and wants to do the best they can. Sometimes though, the boat can get the better part of you, so you would like to see some people with experience when you are racing deck to deck with them."

Steve: "Changes this year include Scott Pierce back in the sport and no Mark Evans. Do you think this will change things very much?"

Steve David: " Scott will be fun to have back. Scott is a good guy to race with, and he is with my former owner, and Jim is strong competitor, unfortunately Jim has had some setbacks with sponsorships, but Scott will give everything he's got to race the boat. It is a shame that we won't have Mark Evans driving this year, but I'm glad that Mark will be involved with the television broadcasts because he certainly knows everything about the sport. He was a great personality in the cockpit and now the sport will again as he will bring his personality to the fans through the television broadcast. I am certainly going to miss him."

Steve and Dave: "The series has new safety people this year. Have you both met these people, and are you comfortable with the steps that HYDRO-PROP has put in place to protect you?"

Dave Villwock: "Absolutely. The rescue team, which is a semi-new group of people, came by our shop and everyone else's and looked over the safety equipment to learn about our systems. That is very important to have continuity from race-site to race-site with these people."

Steve David: "The guys that Gary are introducing this year in the rescue team have been rescuing outboard racers for a long time. They have experienced a number of rollovers and barrel rolls. Probably in the number of total accidents, they have more experience than what we have had, but they just have not been Unlimited accidents."

Dave Villwock: "We competed in an exhibition last year at Cypress Gardens, and the rescue team literally had a stack of boats five feet high that crashed during the course of the weekend. This rescue team gets a lot more practice than our guys did in the past."

Steve David: "Again, kudos to the red boat because they have helped develop further enhance the safety of the boats, including the cockpit, especially this off-season after the tragic death of George Stratton. Rescue isn't the first thing that comes to mind in an accident, you hope that the structure will save you, and then rescue will help evacuate you."

Dave: "What does the Evansville race mean to you?"

Dave Villwock: "The thing that gives me an edge in Evansville is that I like the people, the area and the whole set-up of the Evansville race. I think you see that a lot in motor-sports, particularly if a driver does not like to go to Rockingham in NASCAR, he typically won't perform well there. On the other hand, if you take a guy that just can't wait to get to Rockingham, then he typically will do very well. I think attitude is very important, and how you approach a particular racetrack. I think Evansville fits into this equation for me. I enjoy everything about Evansville, and I think that's why I always do well there."

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 televised during prime time on ESPN2.


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