Dave Villwock came out of retirement to drive the 37 Beacon Plumbing for a two-week stretch.
He didn’t quite make it that long.
Villwock, the sport’s winningest driver, was suspended Saturday from the Albert Lee Cup at Seafair following a collision with 6 Oberto.
Before Heat 1B, the South Kitsap grad was jockeying for inside position along with Jimmy Shane in the Oberto. When the Oberto turned to cut across the backstretch, the Beacon Plumbing went with it and clipped the back of the left sponson.
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The Oberto team said the damage can be fixed for Sunday’s racing.
Villwock’s team was docked 150 points. The boat could have continued with back-up driver Scott Liddycoat, but the team decided to withdraw.
Villwock’s return has been full of controversy. Last week, he had two incidents in the Tri-Cities.
In Heat 2B, he made a move, ultimately deemed legal, that resulted in damage to the 17 Our Gang Racing boat, which had to withdraw.
In Heat 3B, he collided with Shane resulting in damage to both boats. The Oberto crew rallied and Shane won the final. Villwock was docked 150 points, which kept him out of the finals.
Villwock swears a part fell off his boat and hit the rudder, causing the incident.
The Columbia Cup made it back-to-back-to-back races for Villwock with incidents.
In the season-ending Oryx Cup in Doha, Qatar, in January, 2013, Villwock was tagged with two disqualifications — one from a heat in which he hit several buoys, apparently out of protest for an earlier fuel violation — and a failure to start on the first day of racing while driving the 96 Spirit of Qatar.
On the second day, the boat landed hard and a fire broke out, destroying it.
The Ellstroms and Villwock split ways after the race, and Villwock announced his retirement a few months later. The Ellstroms took the entire 2013 season, and the beginning of this season, to build a new boat.
Villwock joined the 37 team, owned by Billy and Jane Schumacher, as a consultant before the 2013 season. Villwock, 60, took over as team manager and made several changes to the boat before the 2014 season.
The Schumachers decided it would be best if Villwock drove and “sorted out” the boat while it was going through improvements. Liddycoat, who was hired as the driver during the offseason, is still around and will get some time in the boat.
“It’s not really fair to Liddycoat, but … it is what it is,” Villwock said Friday.
Villwock holds records for most wins (67) and national championships (10).
The only unlimited hydroplane record he doesn’t own is most Gold Cups. He’s second with 10 to Chip Hanauer’s 12. He also has more Seafair victories than any other driver with 10.
Villwock only signed on to drive the boat for the race last week in the Tri-Cities and in Seattle. If the team can scrape up the sponsorship dollars, it will go San Diego next month. Billy Schumacher said the two drivers could split time.
After this season?
“We’ll see what they do,” Villwock said. “I don’t know what they want to do and how they want to do it.”
Hanauer also came out of retirement to drive, but he was 44 at the time. Hanauer is 60 now as is Villowck.
“It doesn’t sound like a good idea to me,” Hanauer said. “Dave, I think, loves racing to the marrow of his bones.”
Even if this incident marks the end of his turn at racing, he’ll still be involved.
Being the team manager for the Beacon Plumbing is “a fun thing to do.”
He’s made improvements in several areas making the boat more and more competitive, and there’s still more to do.
“It’s like anything else; the newer the parts, the faster you’re going to go,” Schumacher said. “It just takes money.”
And it gives Villwock something to do during his retirement — puttering around the hydroplane shop.
“Yeah, it keeps me busy,” he said. “Maybe I’ll go after AARP as a sponsor.”
Jon Zimmerman won Heat 1A on Saturday. The 9 Team RedDOT was the only boat in the top five of qualifying drawn in to the heat. … J.Michael Kelly in the 1 Graham Trucking won a Heat 2B that was short of boats once Villwock and Shane collided. … Racing begins again with Heat 2A at 10:10 a.m. Sunday with the championship scheduled for 4:45 p.m.