H1 career wins leader Villwock announces retirement
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 11:00 AM
Dave Villwock, who won more races and championships than any other driver in history, has announced his retirement.
The announcement came via a press release from H1 Unlimited on Monday.
"I don't plan to drive again but I will always be around boat racing. If someone is trying to figure out why they don't go fast, I might be able to help," Villwock said. "I want to thank the Ellstrom family for the tremendous opportunity they gave me to be part of a great team with great equipment. They shared my drive to be the best and there were many weekends when we were. We had great times and a lot of great wins. I wish them all the best."
Villwock has 67 career wins, five more than the late Bill Muncey and six more than Chip Hanauer. He has also won 10 Gold Cups, second only Hanauer's 11, and 10 drivers championships.
Most of that success came with the Bernie Little-owned Miss Budweiser team. Villwock took over the wheel of the storied Beerwagon in 1997 and steered it to 37 wins, four Gold Cups, six national championships and set a world straightaway kilo record. The team disbanded in 2004, a year after Little's death.
Prior to joining the Miss Budweiser team Villwock made his name as a national championship crew chief for Chip Hanauer and the Miss Circus Circus in 1990 and as a champion racer of flat-bottom boats.
While acting as Hanauer's crew chief, Villwock qualified for his unlimited driver's license and at San Diego in 1992 and made his debut as an Unlimited driver with an experimental two-wing boat owned by Ron Jones Jr. Villwock scored an upset victory and, in so doing, became the first driver since Howie Benns in 1974 to win his first-ever Unlimited race.
Villwock won eight more races while driving Fred Leland's PICO American Dream, including the 1996 National Championship before joining the Miss Budweiser team as both driver and team manager in 1997.
"Dave made every team he ever joined competitive and in some cases dominant. On the rare occasion you were fortunate enough to beat him on the water, you felt like you had really accomplished something," said Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison driver Steve David. "There is no doubt that history will remember Dave Villwock as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport."
Villwock spent the last eight seasons driving for the Ballard, Wash.-based Ellstrom Manufacturing team where he produced 21 wins and national championships in 2005, 2007 and 2011.
Villwock's last Unlimited race is probably one he would rather forget. He was disqualified in one preliminary heat for intentionally destroying course buoys at the 2012 season finale in Doha, Qatar, in January. Later, his Spirit of Qatar caught fire after engine mountings broke when the boat took a large hop on the water.
"We had a great run together and celebrated many victories together," said Erick Ellstrom, team owner and crew chief for the Ellstrom's Spirit of Qatar entry. "We are not aware of his future plans, but we wish Dave nothing but the best in his future endeavors."