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Madison’s city-owned Unlimited hydroplane U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto, driven by Steve David, capped a near-perfect weekend by winning the 60th running of the Indiana Governor’s Cup Race over the July 4th weekend.
The defending National High Points Champion was the weekend’s fastest team in qualifying, won two of three preliminary heats and streaked away from the rest of the pack during the championship heat to seal a popular win in the Madison Regatta. David and the Oberto had last won at Madison in 2001.
David had accumulated the highest total of points after the three elimination heats were concluded giving the 56-year-old driver the first lane choice among the four drivers who would line up on the front row for the start of the final. David chose lane two, tucked in between J.W. Myers and the U-37 Miss Peters & May in lane one and J.Michael Kelly in the U-7 Graham Trucking in lane three. Brian Perkins started from lane four in the U-21 Albert Lee Appliances.
Kelly had the early lead and Myers had the inside lane but David was able to reel them in down the backstretch of the first lap of the five lap race.
“I really knew I could win this race leaving coming out of that turn,” David said. “All I wanted to do is keep the rpm’s high and have the momentum after the start the first set of turns. I needed lane two to have the momentum to get out of there (turn one) and to beat them down the straightaway. If I’d have took lane one I wouldn’t have had momentum so you could have been the hero or zero and thankfully it worked out. Once I had that going for me, I knew I was going to win it.”
Kelly and Myers kept the pressure on, battling side-by-side throughout before Kelly and the Graham Trucking put a nose in front at the finish line for his second straight runnerup finish. Both men were pumped with excitement following the duel.
“It was an exciting run,” Kelly said. “You get to race against one of your best friends and man! What a fight! You got his bright, fluorescent boat on the inside and you’re stuck on the outside. What a great feeling to come out number two and put on a great show for these fans here. Two seconds in a row in this Graham Trucking boat. I think it likes Madison.”
“You know, Mike and I race outboards together,” Myers said. “I’ve had so many battles like that with my buddy in the outboards but not too many of them at 200 miles an hour. Those guys (U-7 crew) did a great job and our guys did a great job.”
Defending champion and co-favorite Dave Villwock in the U-96 Spirit of Qatar failed to start the third elimination heat after crewmen failed to remove a cover for the turbine engine before it pulled away from the dock. The resulting fire heavily damaged the Lycoming engine. Failure to score points in that heat relegated the former Ellstrom’s Elam Plus to a second row starting position for the final and eliminated any hope of a repeat win.
Although Villwock’s absence from the front line provided some relief for the Oberto team, David said he was confident he had the boat speed to beat the Qatar in any event.
“We really didn’t worry about him because we had faster lap speeds than him and out-qualified him so we were going to beat him no matter what,” he said.
David, who survived a 360-degree flip last November during the Oryx Cup Race in Doha, Qatar, said some people may have been wondering, “Does the guy still have it in him, and hopefully today proves that he does.”
A crowd estimated at 50,000 lined the shores of Madison, Ind. and Trimble County, Ky. to cheer the hometown favorite on.
“This is a regional win,” David said as he acknowledged the fans along the Kentucky shoreline. “This is an Ohio valley win for all of the cities that are along this river here. Everybody was part of this effort.”
Perkins finished fourth, Villwock took fifth and Mike Webster finished sixth in the locally-sponsored U-22 Miss Broadway Tavern.
Elizabeth Wolfe, Chicago, Ill., won the National Modified championship in her “Desperado” hydroplane.
“This is my first time here,” Wolfe said. “It’s a pretty neat venue. It’s great to be here with the Unlimiteds. The people here are fantastic, the festival is really awesome. We’ve had a great time!”