Dave Villwock’s Gold Cup win Sunday was his record 63rd career victory. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Dave Villwock’s Gold Cup win Sunday was his record 63rd career victory. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
DETROIT - Only a broken gearbox could stop Dave Villwock.

Villwock won his fourth-straight APBA Gold Cup and, in the process, became the Unlimited hydroplane racing's winningest driver with a dominating performance aboard the U-96 Spirit of Qatar Sunday on the Detroit River.

Villwock, whose boat was heavily damaged in a collision with the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison last week at Madison, won three preliminary heats and was never challenged in the winner take all final. The victory was his 63rd overall, one more than the legendary Bill Muncey amassed in his long and storied career.

"I still think I'm in a great club. I guess you could call it the Rushmore of boat racing," said Villwock, who now has two more wins than Chip Hanauer. "Myself, Chip Hanauer and Bill Muncey each brought something different to the sport."

The only hiccup that Villwock had during the weekend was in Heat 1B on Saturday when a broken gearbox kept him out of the race. But in every other heat he entered, he was never touched.

It was a dominating performance made all the more surprising considering the wreck the boat was in when it left the Madison Regatta pits after crashing with the Oberto in the Indiana Governor's Cup final heat last Sunday. The Spirit of Qatar was taken to Ed Cooper's shop in Evansville for four days of nearly around the clock repairs and still needed more work when it arrived in Detroit on Friday.

Not that anyone noticed.

Other than the gearbox issue, Villwock was as dominating as ever and made his 63rd career win look easy.

"This was a long week. The crew really worked their tails off," Villwock said. "Three a.m. on Friday night, they were still working on the boat. This one was special."

The other team involved in the collision, the Oh Boy! Oberto, didn't fare as well. Working with a replacement boat and a replacement driver, the U-1 managed only four fourth places and did not make the final heat for the first time in five years.

"This crew is amazing. They were really working hard to get this boat ready," said driver Jon Zimmerman, who replaced Steve David in the cockpit. "If we would have had just a half-day more, we would have been fine."

Rookie Scott Liddycoat, fresh off a third-place finish in his Air National Guard H1 Unlimited hydroplane series debut at Madison, finished second in the U-7 Valken.com. Liddycoat also had his first-ever heat win when he out-dueled J. Michael Kelly in the 88 Degree Men to win Sunday's Heat 4A.

"No doubt (Villwock) is one of the best that's ever been," Liddycoat said. "To finish second to him, I'll take it."

Liddycoat's teammate, Jeff Bernard, was third in the U-5 Graham Trucking despite serious damage to the rear wing and front canard wing. The damage occurred when Bernard was cut off by Kelly in the second lap of the final but Bernard was able to keep the damaged boat together.

Cal Phipps and the U-17 Miss Red Dot finished fourth in Sunday's final after it also lost its front canard wing. Still, the team carries a 124-point lead over the Qatar in the High Points race to the next stop on the Columbus River at the Tri-Cities, Wash., in two weeks. Kelly finished fifth.

There were seven different winners in 10 preliminary heats on the weekend. Along with the top five finishers in the final, Greg Hopp and the U-100 Al Deeby Dodge and J.W. Myers and the U-11 Miss Peters & May also claimed heat wins.

While the win gave Villwock his ninth Gold Cup win - including his fourth-straight - it also allowed him to lay claim to the title of greatest driver of all time. Muncey died in an Unlimited hydroplane racing crash at Acapulco, Mexico, in 1981, and his widow, Fran, who also employed Chip Hanauer for eight years in the 1980s, said that her late husband would approve of Villwock breaking Muncey's record.

"Bill would approve of him," Mrs. Muncey told H1 Unlimited's website. "He's so dedicated to this sport and he paid his dues."
102nd APBA Gold Cup

Detroit River, Detroit, Mich.

Length: 2.7 miles

RESULTS

FINAL HEAT

Sunday, July 10

1. Dave Villwock, U-96 Spirit of Qatar, 138.807; 2, Scott Liddycoat, U-7 Valken.com, 131.360; 3. Jeff Bernard, U-5 Graham Trucking, 129.239; 4. Cal Phipps, U-17 Miss Red Dot, no speed; 5. J. Michael Kelly, 88 Degree Men, no speed*; Greg Hopp, U-100 Al Deeby, DNF.

*-penalized one lap for encroachment

PRELIMNARY HEATS

Saturday, July 9

HEAT 1A

1. J. Michael Kelly, 88 Degree Men, 142.969; 2. Scott Liddycoat, U-7 Valken.com, 142.553; 3. Greg Hopp, U-100 Al Deeby, 133.650; 4. Jon Zimmerman, U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison, 129.038.

HEAT 1B

1. Cal Phipps, U-17 Miss Red Dot, 142.115; 2. Brian Perkins, U-21 Lakeridge Paving, 132.431; 3. Jeff Bernard, U-5 Graham Trucking, 145.050*; Dave Villwock, U-96 Spirit of Qatar, DNS.

*-penalized one lap for encroachment

HEAT 1C

1. J.W. Myers, U-11 Miss Peters & May, 129.822; Mark Evans, U-57 Formulaboats.com, DNF; Mike Webster, U-22 Matrix Systems, DNS; Ken Muscatel, U-25 Jarvis Restoration, DNS.

HEAT 2A

1. Dave Villwock, U-96 Spirit of Qatar, 147.103; 2. Cal Phipps, U-17 Miss Red Dot, 140.595; 3. Mark Evans, U-57 Formulaboats.com, 130.603; Mike Webster, U-22 Matrix Systems, DNS.

HEAT 2B

1. Jeff Bernard, U-5 Graham Trucking, 144.533; 2. J. Michael Kelly, 88 Degree Men, 136.836; 3. J.W. Myers, U-11 Miss Peters & May, 127.580; 4. Jon Zimmerman, U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto, 136.304.*

*-penalized one lap for dislodging a buoy

HEAT 2C

1. Greg Hopp, U-100 Al Deeby, 125.214; 2. Scott Liddycoat, U-7 Valken.com, 142.631*; 3. Brian Perkins, U-21 Lakeridge Paving, 132.055.**

*-penalized one lap for encroachment

**-penalized one lap for early start

Sunday, July 10

HEAT 3A

1. Cal Phipps, U-17 Miss Red Dot, 143.264; 2. J. Michael Kelly, 88 Degree Men, 138.283; 3. Scott Liddycoat, U-7 Valken.com, 129.904; 4, Mark Evans, U-57 Formulaboats.com, 126.004; 5. Brian Perkins, U-21 Lakeridge Paving, 120.263; Mike Webster, U-22 Matrix Systems, DNS.

HEAT 3B

1. Dave Villwock, U-96 Spirit of Qatar, 144.041; 2. Jeff Bernard, U-5 Graham Trucking, 136.489; 3. Greg Hopp, U-100 Al Deeby, 132.748; 4. Jon Zimmerman, U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto, 129.654; 5. J.W. Myers, U-11 Miss Peters & May, 120.212.

HEAT 4A

1. Scott Liddycoat, U-7 Valken.com, 140.342; 2. J. Michael Kelly, 88 Degree Men, 140.239; 3. Cal Phipps, 131.844; 4. Brian Perkins, U-21 Lakeridge Paving, 127.152; 5. J.W. Myers, U-11 Miss Peters & May, 116.298.

HEAT 4B

1. Dave Villwock, U-96 Spirit of Qatar, 138.937; 2. Jeff Bernard, U-5 Graham Trucking, 132.911; 3. Greg Hopp, U-100 Al Deeby, 128.052; 4. Jon Zimmerman, U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto, 114.786.

NATIONAL POINTS STANDINGS

BOATS

1. U-17 Miss Red Dot, 2724; 2. U-96 Spirit of Qatar, 2600; 3. U-7 Valken.com, 2350; 4. U-5 Graham Trucking, 2349; 5. U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto, 1951; 6. U-100 Leland Unlimited, 1574; 7. 88 Degree Men, 1467; 8. U-11 Miss Peters & May, 1359; 9. U-21 Lakeridge Paving, 1266; 10. U-57 Formulaboats.com, 904; 11. U-22 Webster Racing, 394; 12. U-25 Superior Racing, 0.

DRIVERS

1. Dave Villwock, U-96, 2600; 2. Jeff Bernard, U-5, 2349; 3. Scott Liddycoat, 2290; 4. Greg Hopp, U-100, 1574; 5. J. Michael Kelly, 88, 1467; 6. Cal Phipps, U-17, 1385; 7. J.W. Myers, U-11, 1359; 8. Steve David, U-1, 1280; 9. Brian Perkins, U-21, 1266; 10. Kip Brown, U-17, 1170; 11. Mark Evans, U-57, 904; 12. Jon Zimmerman, U-1, 671; 13. Mike Webster, U-22, 394; 14. Ken Muscatel, U-25, 0.