UP AND DOWN: Dave Villwock hands his helmet to wife Holly (above) after winning the Lucas Oil Indiana Governor’s Cup on Sunday. Steve David pensively watches the river (below) before the final heat. Villwock is going for his 10th Gold Cup win and David is going for his first when the two compete on the Detroit River starting on Friday. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
UP AND DOWN: Dave Villwock hands his helmet to wife Holly (above) after winning the Lucas Oil Indiana Governor’s Cup on Sunday. Steve David pensively watches the river (below) before the final heat. Villwock is going for his 10th Gold Cup win and David is going for his first when the two compete on the Detroit River starting on Friday. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Steve David has accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish as an Unlimited driver. He has steered the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison to three National High Points titles, won five driver's titles and his 14 career wins stand 10th all-time.

He has even won the team's hometown race in Madison three times, something that 10 years earlier Miss Madison fans might have thought impossible.

But what he has not done is hoist the APBA Gold Cup, the pinnacle of Unlimited hydroplane racing. In 19 tries at the Cup, he has finished second five times and third twice. All five times he has finished as the race runner-up - 1998, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010 - it has been to Dave Villwock.

"We've perfected that second place at the Gold Cup," David said. "Personally, I'd like to break that perfect record."

David will get his 20th chance at hydroplane immortality when the 103rd APBA Gold Cup kicks off this weekend in Detroit.

While David is still looking for that first Cup win, Villwock is seeking his 10th, which would leave him behind only Chip Hanauer (11) on the all-time list.

Villwock was won the Gold Cup with three different teams and his last four victories have come aboard the Ellstrom-owned Spirit of Qatar. He won the season opener at Madison by beating David to the start and knows he will need a similar performance in Detroit.

"I'm looking forward to racing Steve and the rest,' Villwock told the Detroit Free Press. "It will be a matter of who has the right setup and gets a good start. I know Steve would like to get one (a Gold Cup), but my job is not to let him do it."

Only two drivers, Jim Kropfeld (22) and Chuck Thompson (15) have more victories than David in the modern era without a Gold Cup win. In addition, 18 drivers with fewer overall wins than David have also won the Cup.

David's plight is eerily similar to that of George Woods Jr., who made a career out of finishing second in Gold Cup races. Woods, who had only three career wins, finished second five years in a row between 1989 and 1993. Ironically, his first runner-up finish was also driving a boat sponsored by Oh Boy! Oberto.

"The real goal, really, for the entire year is the Gold Cup. That's the only thing Steve hasn't got," said Miss Madison crew chief Mike Hanson, who won the Gold Cup as a driver in 2001. "We owe it to him to put the best piece of equipment we can on the river up there and try to bring home the Gold Cup ... We'll be loaded for bear in Detroit this year."

In order to win the Cup, David and the Oh Boy! Oberto will have to slay the dragon that is Dave Villwock.

The Detroit River race course, which is listed at 2.5 miles but in reality is nearly a tenth of a mile longer, is set up perfectly for Villwock, who flies a boat as well as anyone in the history of the sport. Two years ago, Villwock literally drove around the field from lane four to win one heat going away.

Villwock and David have had their share of history in the Gold Cup. Long before they were driving for their respective teams, they got into one tussle in 1993 when David, then driving the U-2 Miss T-Plus, was disqualified in one heat for cutting off Villwock and causing Villwock's U-31 Miss Circus Circus to pinwheel in the air.

Since the Miss Madison built its new boat in 2007, the two drivers have dominated the sport. Villwock's win at Madison last week was the 24th out of the last 30 races won by either him or David over that span.

"They're doing the best job out there, no doubt about it," David said the Qatar team. "But it's a case where there is another top team out there to make you raise your game. Because if you don't, they're going to beat you."

While Villwock and David will be the top draws at Detroit, there are several other drivers who could break through with their first Gold Cup victories.

Scott Liddycoat, who finished second as a rookie last year, finished third this past weekend in the 88 Degree Men boat. Kip Brown, driving the U-17 Miss Red Dot, could also be a factor as could rookie Jimmy Shane in the U-5 Graham Trucking. J. Michael Kelly, who won one heat at Madison in the 37 Miss Beacon Plumbing, could be the darkhorse aboard arguably the best cornering boat in the field.

Still, the race will in all likelihood come down to David and Villwock. David was forced to watch last year's race on the computer after a collision with Villwock in the final at Madison busted both his boat and ribs.

This year, David will be back on the Detroit River and ready to go.

"They've got great equipment, great crew and Dave is a wonderful driver," David told the Free Press. "Dave has set the bar high. But I think we can beat him in Detroit. We'll give it our best shot."


Past winners of the APBA Gold Cup

Year-Driver, boat (location)

1904-Carl C. Riotte, Standard (New York, N.Y.)

1904-Willis Sharpe Kilmer, Vingt et Un II (New York, N.Y.)

1905-Jonathan Wainwright, Chip (Chippewa Bay, N.Y.)

1906-Jonathan Wainwright, Chip II (Chippewa Bay, N.Y.)

1907-Jonathan Wainwright, Chip II (Chippewa Bay, N.Y.)

1908-Jonathan Wainwright, Dixie II (Chippewa Bay, N.Y.)

1909-Jonathan Wainwright, Dixie II (Alexandria Bay, N.Y.)

1910-F.K. Burnham, Dixie III (Alexandria Bay, N.Y.)

1911-J.H. Hayden, MIT II (Alexandria Bay, N.Y.)

1912-A. Graham Miles, PDQ II (Alexandria Bay, N.Y.)

1913-Casmir S. Mankowski, Ankle Deep (Alexandria Bay, N.Y.)

1914-Robert Edgren/Jim Blackton Jr., Baby Speed Demon II (Lake George, N.Y.)

1915-Jack Beebe/John Milot, Miss Detroit (New York, N.Y.)

1916-Bernard Smith, Miss Minneapolis (Detroit, Mich.)

1917-Gar Wood, Miss Detroit II (Detroit, Mich.)

1918-Gar Wood, Miss Detroit III (Detroit, Mich.)

1919-Gar Wood, Miss Detroit III (Detroit, Mich.)

1920-Gar Wood, Miss Detroit IV (Detroit, Mich.)

1921-Gar Wood, Miss America (Detroit, Mich.)

1922-Jesse G. Vincent, Packard Chris Craft (Detroit, Mich.)

1923-Caleb Bragg, Packard Chris Craft (Detroit, Mich.)

1924-Caleb Bragg, Baby Bootlegger (Detroit, Mich.)

1925-Caleb Bragg, Baby Bootlegger (Port Washington, N.Y.)

1926-George H. Townsend, Greenwich Folly (New York, N.Y.)

1927-George H. Townsend, Greenwich Folly (New York, N.Y.)

1928-NO RACE

1929-Richard F. Hoyt, Imp III (Red Bank, N.J.)

1930-Vic Kliesrath, Hotsy Totsy (Red Bank, N.J.)

1931-Vic Kliesrath, Hotsy Totsy (Montauk, N.Y.)

1932-Bill Horn, Delphine IV (Montauk, N.Y.)

1933-George C. Reis, El Lagarto (Detroit, Mich.)

1934-George C. Reis, El Lagarto (Lake George, N.Y.)

1935-George C. Reis, El Lagarto (Lake George, N.Y.)

1936-Kaye Don, Impshi (Lake George, N.Y.)

1937-Clell Perry, Notre Dame (Detroit, Mich.)

1938-Theo Rossi, Alagi (Detroit, Mich.)

1939-Zalmon Guy Simmons Jr., My Sin (Detroit, Mich.)

1940-Sidney Allen, Hotsy Totsy III (Northport, N.Y.)

1941-Zalmon Guy Simmons, My Sin, (Red Bank, N.J.)

1942-NO RACE

1943-NO RACE

1944-NO RACE

1945-NO RACE

1946-Guy Lombardo, Tempo VI (Detroit, Mich.)

1947-Danny Foster, Miss Peps V (Jamaica Bay, N.Y.)

1948-Danny Foster, Miss Great Lakes (Detroit, Mich.)

1949-Bill Cantrell, My Sweetie (Detroit, Mich.)

1950-Ted Jones, Slo-Mo-Shun IV (Detroit, Mich.)

1951-Lou Fageol, Slo-Mo-Shun V (Seattle, Wash.)

1952-Stan Dollar, Slo-Mo-Shun IV (Seattle, Wash.)

1953-Joe Taggert/ Lou Fageol, Slo-Mo-Shun IV (Seattle, Wash.)

1954-Lou Fageol, Slo-Mo-Shun V (Seattle, Wash.)

1955-Lee Schoenith, Gale V (Seattle, Wash.)

1956-Bill Muncey, Miss Thriftway (Detroit, Mich.)

1957-Bill Muncey, Miss Thirftway (Seattle, Wash.)

1958-Jack Regas, Hawaii Kai III (Seattle, Wash.)

1959-Bill Stead, Maverick (Seattle, Wash.)

1960-NO CONTEST (Las Vegas, Nev.)

1961-Bill Muncey, Miss Century 21 (Reno, Nev.)

1962-Bill Muncey, Miss Century 21 (Seattle, Wash.)

1963-Ron Musson, Miss Bardahl (Detroit, Mich.)

1964-Ron Musson, Miss Bardahl (Detroit, Mich.)

1965-Ron Musson, Miss Bardahl (Seattle, Wash.)

1966-Mira Slovak, Tahoe Miss (Detroit, Mich.)

1967-Billy Schumacher, Miss Bardahl (Seattle, Wash.)

1968-Billy Schumacher, Miss Bardahl (Detroit, Mich.)

1969-Bill Sterrett, Miss Budweiser (San Diego, Calif.)

1970-Dean Chenoweth, Miss Budweiser (San Diego, Calif.)

1971-Jim McCormick, Miss Madison (Madison, Ind.)

1972-Bill Muncey, Atlas Van Lines (Detroit, Mich.)

1973-Dean Chenoweth, Miss Budweiser (Tri-Cities, Wash.)

1974-George Henley, Pay 'n Pak (Seattle, Wash.)

1975-George Henley, Pay 'n Pak (Tri-Cities, Wash.)

1976-Tom D'Eath, Miss U.S. (Detroit, Mich.)

1977-Bill Muncey, Atlas Van Lines (Tri-Cities, Wash.)

1978-Bill Muncey, Atlas Van Lines (Owensboro, Ky.)

1979-Bill Muncey, Atlas Van Lines (Madison, Ind.)

1980-Dean Chenoweth, Miss Budweiser (Madison, Ind.)

1981-Dean Chenoweth, Miss Budweiser (Seattle, Wash.)

1982-Chip Hanauer, Atlas Van Lines (Detroit, Mich.)

1983-Chip Hanauer, Atlas Van Lines (Evansville, Ind.)

1984-Chip Hanauer, Atlas Van Lines (Tri-Cities, Wash.)

1985-Chip Hanauer, Miller American (Seattle, Wash.)

1986-Chip Hanauer, Miller American (Detroit, Mich.)

1987-Chip Hanauer, Miller American (San Diego, Calif.)

1988-Chip Hanauer, Miller American (Evansville, Ind.)

1989-Tom D'Eath, Miss Budweiser (San Diego, Calif.)

1990-Tom D'Eath, Miss Budweiser (Detroit, Mich.)

1991-Mark Tate, Winston Eagle (Detroit, Mich.)

1992-Chip Hanauer, Miss Budweiser (Detroit, Mich.)

1993-Chip Hanauer, Miss Budweiser (Detroit, Mich.)

1994-Mark Tate, Smokin' Joes (Detroit, Mich.)

1995-Chip Hanauer, Miss Budweiser (Detroit, Mich.)

1996-Dave Villwock, PICO American Dream (Detroit, Mich.)

1997-Dave Villwock, Miss Budweiser Detroit, Mich.)

1998-Dave Villwock, Miss Budweiser (Detroit, Mich.)

1999-Chip Hanauer, Miss Pico (Detroit, Mich.)

2000-Dave Villwock, Miss Budweiser (Detroit, Mich.)

2001-Mike Hanson, Tubby's Grilled Subs (Detroit, Mich.)

2002-Dave Villwock, Miss Budweiser (Detroit, Mich.)

2003-Mitch Evans, Miss Fox Hills Chrysler Jeep (Detroit, Mich.)

2004-Nate Brown, Miss Detroit Yacht Club (Detroit, Mich.)

2005-Terry Troxell, Miss Al Deeby Dodge (Detroit, Mich.)

2006-Jean Theoret, Miss Beacon Plumbing (Detroit, Mich.)

2007-Dave Villwock, Miss Elam Plus (Detroit, Mich.)

2008-NO CONTEST (Detroit, Mich.)

2009-Dave Villwock, Miss Elam Plus (Detroit, Mich.)

2010-Dave Villwock, Spirit of Qatar (Detroit, Mich.)

2011-Dave Villwock, Spirit of Qatar (Detroit, Mich.)