“We can go a lot faster, that’s for sure. We like to start out slow and work our way up while the other boats like to start fast, get N2 and work slow. I’m confident we’ll be one or two tomorrow.”

Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison driver Steve David

(Staff photos by David Campbell)
“We can go a lot faster, that’s for sure. We like to start out slow and work our way up while the other boats like to start fast, get N2 and work slow. I’m confident we’ll be one or two tomorrow.” Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison driver Steve David (Staff photos by David Campbell)
SAN DIEGO - Like the proverbial tortoise, Steve David knows that slow and steady will win the race. Well, maybe not that slow.

David steered the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison to the third-fastest average lap speed on the first day of qualifying for the San Diego Bayfair Powered by the Union-Tribune Friday. The Oberto's speed of 156.214 mph was two mph behind leader Jeff Bernard and the U-5 Formulaboats.com, which clocked in at 158.612. In all, six of the eight boats that qualified were within three mph of each other.

And although David wasn't the fastest qualifier - yet - he was quick to note there is plenty more horsepower in the green and silver shark boat.

"We can go a lot faster, that's for sure," David said. "We like to start out slow and work our way up while the other boats like to start fast, get N2 (violations) and work slow. I'm confident we'll be one or two (in qualifying) tomorrow."

Working slow, or deliberate if you prefer, is David's plan as the final race of the season unfolds. The team enters the weekend 678 points away from its first national championship and the veteran driver has only that title in his immediate sights.

"We ask our fans to be patient because in these preliminary heats, we're going to be running conservative, picking up points and try to lock in the national championship," David said. "And in the final, just let it all loose."

While David was playing it conservatively, Bernard was letting the dark-red U-5 stretch its legs on the 2.5-mile Mission Bay course.

Bernard cranked out a lap in excess of 163 mph early Friday morning, but had that speed disallowed because of an engine violation. His 158.612 lap, set later in the day, still led all qualifiers.

Bernard and the Formulaboats.com are in third place behind David in the points chase and still mathematically alive. But Bernard allowed that his chances at the crown were a longshot at best and the team's goal this weekend is to focus on getting the race win

"We're really not focused on the Oberto, it's really the 37 (Miss Beacon Plumbing). We're 89 points behind them," Bernard said. "Come final heat time, she's going to go or blow."

Bernard, who picked up his first career win at Madison earlier this year, also has personal reasons why he wants to win. Kim Gregory, co-owner of the U-10 USA Racing Partners team, died two weeks ago and Bernard is close friends with Gregory's children.

Bernard also wants to win because of his boat's association with George Stratton, a Gregory driver who was killed in a blowover accident on this very course in 2000.

"We want to win this one real bad for the Gregory's," Bernard said. "We wear the U-5 number which was George's old number and both of my uncles (Mark and Mike Weber) were teammates with him and Sunday, we really want to win the final and that's all that really matters."

Bernard's current teammate, Mike Allen, would also like to win the race but the 2006 National Champion is just happy to be back in a boat.

Allen suffered injuries when his U-7 Formulaboats.com II went over at Detroit earlier this year - severe-enough injuries to force him to the beach for two months. On Friday, Allen took the newly-repaired U-7 back on the water and ran the fourth-fastest speed at 155.483 mph.

"It was unbelievable. The boat got here yesterday with absolutely nothing in it. In less than 24 hours, the entire Formula team put it together and we ran a 155 lap," said Allen. "I'm doing well. (My) ribs and knee are fine. Tonight, we'll read the data and see what we can do to tweak it for tomorrow. It felt sluggish, but I think we can get at least another 1 mph. We'll run one time in the morning and then we'll be ready to race."

Jean Theoret, who trails David by 1,023 points, was second-fastest at 158.083 mph in the U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing. J. Michael Kelly and the U-13 Graham Trucking/Spirit of Detroit and Jimmy King in the U-3 Grandview Resorts Presents Hoss Mortgage Investors were fifth and sixth, respectively, both at over 155 mph.

The only boat present in the pits to not post an official speed was the U-100 Mirageboats.com. Driver Greg Hopp took the boat out on the course but brought it back in before completing a lap.

"We had a fuel shutoff control that wasn't adjusted right," said U-100 owner Fred Leland. "It's all set now."

Testing and time trials resume at noon EDT today with the first set of heats scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. today. The championship heat is scheduled for an 8:15 p.m. EDT start on Sunday.