HPROP: Thunder Ohio: Season opener preview

Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series opens (June 28-30) at Evansville, Ind. Competition heated with top drivers: Villwock, Brown, Weber, Hanson, Tate. (Lake Hamilton, Fla.) - The Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series opens next weekend on the...

Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series opens (June 28-30) at Evansville, Ind.
Competition heated with top drivers: Villwock, Brown, Weber, Hanson, Tate.

(Lake Hamilton, Fla.) - The Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series opens next weekend on the shores of the Ohio River with the Budweiser Thunder on the Ohio (June 28-30) at Evansville, Ind. For the 23rd time, the fastest boats in the world will compete on Evansville's speedy tri-oval course in hopes of securing the first win of the season.

"After a long off-season, we are all anticipating the start of the 2002 Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series," said Gary Garbrecht, Chairman of Hydro-Prop. "This season is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in the history of the sport."

"The Ohio River and Evansville have become a traditional venue to hold Unlimited Hydroplane races and this season will add to that storied past," continued Garbrecht. "Throughout its history, these fans have witnessed the best Unlimited drivers the sport has to offer and Evansville has crowned many of its legends including Bill Muncey and Chip Hanauer. Lets get this season started and watch these boats battle for that coveted Budweiser Thunder on the Ohio title."

* Last Year at Evansville

Dave Villwock, driving the Miss Budweiser, won his sixth consecutive Budweiser on the Ohio last year at Evansville. Villwock qualified second and won two preliminary heats. Michael Hanson drove the U-9 Jones Racing to a second place finish and Greg Hopp in the U-100 finished third. Hanson also was the top qualifier and won two preliminary heats. Hopp and Mark Weber won preliminary heats during the race weekend.

* Dave Villwock and Miss Budweiser To Be Challenged in Defense of Championship

The Miss Budweiser and driver Dave Villwock enter the 2002 Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series as the defending champions. After an extremely competitive 2001 season, which witnessed five different winners in six races, Villwock will have his hands full attempting to win his sixth drivers' championship. In addition, team owner Bernie Little seeks his 22nd championship, the most in the history of the sport.

* Nate Brown to Continue Hot Streak

Nate Brown and the U-16 Miss Elam Plus head to Evansville on a two-race win streak after securing wins at the last two races of the 2001 season. Brown won his first career Unlimited race at Seattle and followed that with a victory at the season ending San Diego event. Last season the team did not compete at the Mid-West races because they were in the process of finishing their new boat, which made its debut at Tri-Cities. This season, with a full race scheduled planned, they should be a force to challenge Miss Budweiser for the championship.

* Mike Weber Fills In for Brother Mark

Mike Weber will drive the U-10 Miss EMCOR for USA Racing Partners for the 2002 season, filling in for his brother Mark who has decided to take the season off. Mike drove part-time last season for USA Racing Partners in the U-15 back-up boat and secured a heat victory at San Diego and finished fourth in that final. Mike, the 1998 Unlimited Hydroplane Rookie of the Year, will attempt to win his first career Unlimited race this season.

* Hanson Aims Top Prize

Michael Hanson, who pilots the U-9 for Mike and Lori Jones, enters the 2002 Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Series as a legitimate contender for the championship. Last season, Hanson secured five preliminary heat wins and finished fourth in the championship. But the highlight of the season was when Hanson won his first APBA Gold Cup on the Detroit River. The win was also marked the first victory for Mike and Lori Jones.

* Piston-Power

Mitch Evans will again pilot the Evansville-based U-3 Master Tire for Ed Cooper Sr. and Jr., the lone piston-powered Unlimited Hydroplane in the series. Local family and friends will cheer as the U-3's turbo-charged Allison aircraft engine literally thunders across the Ohio River.

* Former Unlimited Hydroplane Champion Returns

Mark Tate, who did not participate in the 2001 Unlimited Hydroplane season, returns to drive the U-2 Miss Trendwest for Jim Harvey Motorsports. Tate, who has 12 career Unlimited victories, won the 1995 Evansville Thunder on the Ohio with Smokin' Joe's. Tate is a four-time Unlimited Hydroplane Champion, one of only five drivers to accomplish that feat, and has secured two APBA Gold Cups in his career.

* Full Field Awaits Budweiser Thunder on the Ohio

In addition to the drivers mentioned above, a number of talented professional boat racers will compete at Evansville including Steve David (U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto); Jimmy King (U-8 Llumar Window Film); Dr. Ken Muscatel (U-25 Superior Racing); Terry Troxell (U-99 Leland Racing) and Greg Hopp (U-100 Leland Racing).

* Evansville Freedom Festival

In addition to the Unlimited Hydroplane race, the Evansville Freedom Festival is highlighted by the return of the Blue Angels who will have two days of practice and appearances and two days of outstanding air shows. An assortment of other various aircraft will perform this year at the air show including, T-6 aircraft, F-86 SabreJet, MIG 15, F-104 Supersonic jets, Canadian F-18, P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt, F-117 Nighthawk, B-1 Lancer and harrier jets.

Practice and qualifying for the Unlimited Hydroplanes will begin Friday, June 28 with the finals scheduled for Sunday, June 30. The Budweiser Thunder on the Ohio race will be televised on ESPN2 on Sunday, July 14 at 7:00 PM (EDT).

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


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Series Boat
Drivers Mitch Evans