Byline: Taylor Hill
SAN DIEGO — Mission Bay roared with fast boats and excited crowds Sept. 16-18, as both the Air National Guard Hydroplane series and the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing series came together to participate in this year’s San Diego Bayfair.
Around 85,000 spectators were in attendance to see the top two most popular national boat racing series hit the water — and to watch hydroplane racing legend Dave Villwock take first place aboard Spirit of Qatar with an average speed of 154.09 mph.
Fans watching the drag boat action were given a scare Sunday morning when driver Mark Porter, 50, endured a “blowover.” The boat flipped over, causing it to be ripped apart.
The capsule section of the boat — where the driver sits — was tossed in the air, separating from the rest of the boat. It was reported that Porter suffered a minor concussion, and was taken to a local hospital for further examination.
Despite the scare, the rest of the event went off without a hitch, said San Diego Bayfair organizer Gregg Mansfield.
“We were thrilled with the event and thought it went really well,” Mansfield said. “We had nice crowds throughout the weekend, with Saturday being our best day of the three.”
Mansfield added that both the Air National Guard hydroplane series and Lucas Oil drag boat series could potentially start looking into long-term commitments at specific locations, instead of the current year-to-year uncertainty.
Last year, only the hydroplane series made it to Bayfair, and this year marked the first time since 2008 that both racing series attended.
“We also have received feedback that we need to look into attracting more series to the event overall,” Mansfield said. “We’ve heard some folks saying there was a little too much downtime in between races on the water, and we could use the smaller boat races to keep people entertained.”
Some racing series that have been included in past years that were not involved in the Bayfair this year were the FSP-45 class and the Cracker Boxes.
For Villwock, the victory marked his second consecutive Air National Guard Championship at San Diego Bayfair, sweeping all of his heats and closing in on Spirit of Qatar’s first national championship in four years. With the win, Villwock has already wrapped up the series driver’s point title, and he will be looking to notch the boat’s series points title at the final tour stop in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 17-19.
Villwock won for a record ninth time on Mission Bay and as a result, his Spirit of Qatar boat has more wins than any other hull in the sport’s history. Villwock also became the sport’s all-time most winning driver earlier this season in Detroit.
“I was just hoping to get one more win on this boat, and I didn’t know if lady luck would give it to us,” Villwock said. “I can’t say I wasn’t thinking about getting the Ellstrom boat (Ellstrom Racing is the team’s owner) into the history books.”
He left little doubt that Spirit of Qatar boat would make history in the five-lap final on the 2.5-mile Bill Muncey Memorial Racecourse. Villwock got a strong start and led from start to finish — averaging 154 mph, despite driver Kip Brown pressing him late in the race.
“I think my boat needed another 10 mph out there to catch Dave,” Brown said. “He had too much speed for me to pass him.”
Villwock and his boat are a rare combination in sports history; both at the top of their sport. The Ellstrom-built boat has 25 wins and was previously tied with three other hulls before the Bayfair win. While Villwock said the boat, built in 2001, is showing its age, it still can perform.
“I wanted to get the record for the Ellstroms,” Villwock said. “Because if they ever build a new one or it gets put aside, I wanted them to have that record.”
With the North America leg of the Air National Guard Hydroplane Series complete, the tour concludes its season with the world championships in Doha, Qatar, November 17-19.
Final Results of the Air National Guard Championships at San Diego Bayfair are: 1st: Dave Villwock, Spirit of Qatar, 154.109 mph; 2nd: Kip Brown, Miss Red Dot, 148.149 mph; 3rd: Steve David, Oh Boy! Oberto, 146.951 mph; 4th: Scott Liddycoat, Valken.com, 146.393 mph; 5th: J. Michael Kelly, Degree Men, 140.597 mph.