PERFECTION: Dave Villwock and the U-96 Spirit of Qatar (left) reels in Steve David and the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison during Sunday’s final heat at the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup in Kennewick, Wash. Villwock won the heat and used a perfect weekend on the Columbia River to take over first place in the Air National Guard H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Series national high points race. (H1 Unlimited photo by Jim Simpson)
PERFECTION: Dave Villwock and the U-96 Spirit of Qatar (left) reels in Steve David and the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison during Sunday’s final heat at the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup in Kennewick, Wash. Villwock won the heat and used a perfect weekend on the Columbia River to take over first place in the Air National Guard H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Series national high points race. (H1 Unlimited photo by Jim Simpson)
KENNEWICK, Wash. - Dave Villwock overtook Steve David on the third lap of the final heat and cruised to an easy victory in the 46th Lamb Weston Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities Sunday.

Villwock, driving the U-96 Spirit of Qatar, started the final heat in lane six but quickly outran most of the field to the first turn to trail only David and the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison. Villwock then made his winning move in the second turn of the third lap to pass David, and steadily pulled away from there for his record 64th career Air National Guard H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Series win.

The Spirit of Qatar lost its engine cowling and damaged its rear stabilizer on the final lap, but it wasn't enough to slow the sport's winningest driver down.

"We ran him down and then the boat started coming apart," Villwock said.

"We've kind of used the boat up," Villwock laughed. "It looks like a top fuel car going through the lights on fire with parts throwing out of it. We'll get it back in shape for Seattle (next week)."

David ended up bringing the Oh Boy! Oberto home in second place to cap a frustrating weekend for the three-time defending Columbia Cup and National champions. The rebuilt boat, which was badly damaged in a collision with the Qatar during the season opener at Madison, was the second-fastest qualifier in its return to the water but suffered two penalties in preliminary heat action that nearly cost the team a spot in Sunday's final and may have cost the team any chance of repeating as High Points champion.

In Heat 1C on Saturday afternoon, David was assessed a one-lap penalty when he crossed the score-up buoy in turn one early before the start of the race in an attempt to fend off a move by Kip Brown to take lane one in the U-17 Miss Red Dot. David ended up placing last in the four boat heat.

In Heat 2A on Sunday, David got off to a slow start after being washed down by J.W. Myers and the U-11 Miss Peters & May before the start and never had a chance to catch Brown.

The Oberto eventually finished second, but an hour after the race, it was ruled that David had cut off Brian Perkins and the U-21 Miss Albert Lee Appliance and incurred another one-lap penalty that dropped the boat to fifth place. Myers was penalized 50 points for his maneuver but still finished second in the heat.

David finally got on track by easily winning Heat 3A Sunday afternoon and that was enough for the Oberto to squeeze into the winner-take-all final heat and set up the runner-up finish in the dash for the Columbia Cup.

The Oberto/Miss Madison team now sits in fifth place, 1,218 points back and faces an near-impossible task if it is to win its fourth-straight High Points title.

"I'm the one that messed that one up. They gave me a great boat all weekend," David said. "Since the rebuild, it took me a couple of heats to get used to it."

Brown won all five of his preliminary heats to remain perfect in preliminary heats on the season. He took the National High Points lead into Sunday's final, but finished third to allow Villwock to overtake him in national points. Like Brown, Villwock won all three preliminary heats and finished with a perfect 1,700 points for the weekend and now leads the points race by 123 points.

"Where we finished in the final is nothing to hang our head about," said Brown. "To finish behind those two guys, they're heavy hitters in our class. I'm happy with the weekend."

Jeff Bernard finished fourth in the final heat, J. Michael Kelly was fifth in the 88 Degree Men, rookie Scott Liddycoat placed sixth in the U-7 Valken.com and Perkins was seventh.

Bernard and Liddycoat also had wins in preliminary heat action.

After running on the Ohio River at Madison, the Detroit River at the Gold Cup and the Columbia River on Sunday, the Air National Guard H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Series will now head west for its first event on a lake in 2011 when the fleet makes its annual stop on Lake Washington for the Albert Lee Cup at Seafair Aug. 5-7 in Seattle.

David and the Oh Boy! Oberto are the defending champion on the 2-mile Seattle course and both the Oberto and the Qatar have some fine-tuning to do before next weekend.

The Qatar must reattach its cowling and a new stabilizer and the Oberto must redistribute some weight in an effort to get the defending champ's boat ride back to its pre-crash form.

"We have some issues with weight and balance," David said. "We'll work on that before the Albert Lee Cup in Seattle next weekend."



(Information for this story was gathered by Courier sports writer David Campbell, sports editor Mark Campbell, The Associated Press and the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Series)