SIDE-BY-SIDE: Steve David, in the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison (above, left) and Jimmy Shane, in the Graham Trucking, battle it out on the Detroit River Sunday during the APBA Gold Cup. The two were the favorites to win the Cup, but David was penalized one lap in the final for encroachment on Shane, ending both’s chances. David (below, right) talks with Spirit of Qatar owner Nate Brown after the final heat. Brown credited David’s clean driving — and a skid fin courtesy of Oberto Crew Chief Mike Hanson — for the win by his team. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
SIDE-BY-SIDE: Steve David, in the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison (above, left) and Jimmy Shane, in the Graham Trucking, battle it out on the Detroit River Sunday during the APBA Gold Cup. The two were the favorites to win the Cup, but David was penalized one lap in the final for encroachment on Shane, ending both’s chances. David (below, right) talks with Spirit of Qatar owner Nate Brown after the final heat. Brown credited David’s clean driving — and a skid fin courtesy of Oberto Crew Chief Mike Hanson — for the win by his team. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Just over a week ago, Steve David reflected on his long history with the APBA Gold Cup and commented that he had lost the race in "every way imaginable."

Now, he can chalk up another.

An encroachment penalty on the first lap of the final heat on Sunday sent David down to defeat for the 23rd time, the longest stretch of futility in the race's long 104-year history.

The penalty came at a time when David was seemingly pulling away for what was sure to be an historic win aboard the Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison. Instead, it was Kip Brown who hoisted the oldest active trophy in motorsports, and in just his third try.

At issue was whether David had the proper seven boat-lengths to leave his racing lane, as mandated by H1 Unlimited rules, or whether he improperly veered into the lane of Jimmy Shane. And to some extent that depended upon your point of view.

David was in lane three and leading chief rival Jimmy Shane by more than a roostertail when he entered turn two. Before the boats exited the turn, Shane had driven into David's roostertail, severely damaging his boat.

Officials immediately called David for the encroachment and assessed a one-lap penalty. David, however, felt like Shane closed the gap on him in the corner and shoreline video stills appear to back David's viewpoint. H1 has not released video from the officials' helicopter circling above.

David was highly critical of the call after the race and criticized H1 officials profusely.

"The (officials) continue to do this," said David in the heat of the moment. "I've given the referees every break that I can and I can't anymore. These guys couldn't manage a kindergarten class."

David wasn't the only one upset with the call. The internet exploded Sunday night and the feeling among fans was almost unanimous that no call should have been made in the incident.

Veteran crew chief Dan Walters, who recently worked for the Erick Ellstrom-owned Spirit of Qatar team, said that what David did in turn two was no different than what Chip Hanauer or Dave Villwock, two of the best drivers in the history of the sport, would have done.

"I know there is a closing gap etc. but Oberto was well over seven to move where he wants. It's up to the other team's radio man to see what is developing," Walters wrote on Hydropage.com, a popular message board devoted to the sport. "I know some teams think it's dirty to move over, but the rules say you can, so we did it whenever we could. Sometimes even when we had a boat covered. You know why? To make them pay for grabbing the inside and not having the speed to keep up. Wanna race with the big boys? Well here is what happens when you do. Whack, Oh you say it's dirty? Well it's called racing and if the rules allow it do it and next time maybe you will think twice about taking the inside."

Shane, whose shot at the Gold Cup was also lost during the incident, did not feel like he was given enough room.

"We were rolling into the Oberto, and he (David) was supposed to have seven boat lengths on us before he could turn," Shane told the Detroit Free Press. "He clearly didn't."

Twenty-four hours later, David struck a more conciliatory tone and posted on his team's Facebook page in an attempt to quell the growing tide of discontent among Oberto supporters and others.

"It's Monday, Kip Brown won the Gold Cup fair and square, please folks, let's move on from the verbal assaults from all sides," David wrote. "There are no conspiracies, there is no one out to get any team, it's racing, stuff happens. The kid did an awesome job of pursuing his win, and it's his. Tri-Cities and the rest of 2013 will be just as competitive, and just as challenging for officials to oversee the high level of competition and do their best."

It is unclear whether the Miss Madison Racing team has filed an official appeal of the penalty. H1 owners voted to change the rules in the offseason to make all on-water calls - calls such as this one - immune from the appeals process.

However, Miss Madison Inc. President Bob Hughes said the team will appeal the decision, but David said that there was no recourse for the team.

"I asked the drivers' rep but they're not going to change it," David said. "It isn't really an appeal. You ask the driver's rep to explain your side of the story. They say it's under discussion, which is the same as your mother saying no."

The penalty in the final heat was the third in five heats that David incurred over the weekend. He hit a buoy in Heat 1B and was called for encroachment in Heat 2B when the boat came unhooked and skipped out a lane.

Both of the previous penalties came when David had control of those heats and was well on his way to easy wins. David took the blame for both of those calls and prior to the final, he chalked the mistakes up to nerves.

"I was putting too much pressure on myself," David said. "I was just driving way too hard and I needed to chill back."

There has been much speculation on whether the 59-year-old David would retire if he finally won his first Gold Cup. Still upset after the call, David was noncommittal on whether he would be back next year to go for the Gold Cup a 24th time.

"I don't know. If they don't change the officials in the sport it just takes the fun out of racing," David said. "You race your heart out and you just do super and then you have these clowns that make these kind of calls it just zaps all the fun out of it."

Despite the pain from once again not winning the Gold Cup, David can take solace in the fact that he moved back into first place in the National High Points standings. He now leads Shane by 183 points.

2013 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Series

National High Points Standings

(After 3 of 7 races)

Driver, Boat-Points-Points Back


1. Steve David, 1 Oh Boy! Oberto-4,715-0

2. Jimmy Shane, 5 Graham Trucking-4,532-183

3. Jon Zimmerman, 9 Jones Racing-3,957-758

4. Kip Brown, 95 Spirit of Qatar-3,814-901

5. J. Michael Kelly, 37 Beacon Plumbing-3,124-1,591

6. N. Mark Evans, 57 Fedco-2,609-2,106

7. Tom Thompson, 11 Peters & May-2,190-2,525

8. Mike Webster, 22 Rocky Mt. Tint-1,491-3,224

9. Greg Hopp, 14 Centurion Racing-1,350-3,365

10. Ryan Mallow, 100 Leland Unlimited-563-4,152

11. Brian Perkins, 21 Snoqualmie Casino-265-4,450