`Dream' Wide Awake For Cup -- True Sleepers: Villwock Leads Leland's Team To Seafair Win
If the length of an unlimited hydroplane's name is an indication of a team's financial clout, Fred Leland's U-100 Performance Mortgage / Sunset Chevrolet / American Dream would be the most powerful in the sport.
But it isn't. In fact, the U-100 would not have made it to Seattle if not for a last-minute infusion of cash and another sponsor's decal.
Leland's team is a basement operation compared to the sport's more well-known and better-funded teams, such as Miss Budweiser and Smokin' Joe's. Each spends more money on uniforms and snacks than Leland spends to run his two-bit - er, two-boat - outfit.
But as the glamour teams sputtered on the rough, two-mile Lake Washington course yesterday, Dave Villwock piloted Leland's American Dream to a wire-to-wire win in the championship final of the Seafair Texaco Cup.
It was a richly deserved first unlimited win for Leland, who has spent 25 years in the sport as an owner and driver.
"I could get used to this," said Leland, whose boats often spent more time being towed than running, were never taken seriously by fans and were regularly lampooned by reporters.
"I never got frustrated," said Leland, who lives in Kirkland, "but there were a couple of times when I wanted to kill a reporter or two. I'm not saying what they wrote wasn't true, about two-thirds of it was."
Mark Evans, who drove for Leland a season ago, drove Miss Exide to second place in the final, with Nate Brown in The Tide / Taco Time finishing third. Steve David in Miss T-Plus was fourth, Chip Hanauer in Miss Budweiser finished a disappointing fifth and Mark Tate in Smokin' Joe's was a fading sixth.
If yesterday's win was a dream come true for Leland, it was vindication for Villwock, 39, who ran his team a year ago, until Circus Circus withdrew sponsorship just before the 1993 Seafair.
Villwock is one of only three Leland crew members who are paid.
The team relies heavily on 15 volunteers, who all crowded on the victory podium with Leland and Villwock.
Villwock said he and his teammates build every part, large and small, that goes on the team's two boats, the U-100 American and U-99.9 KISW Miss Rock. The crew worked round the clock before qualifying to rebuild the boat's right sponson, which was damaged during last week's race in the Tri-Cities.
That made yesterday's win all the sweeter.
"When we need something, we have to go in Fred's shop and build it ourselves," Villwock said. "Fred built the gearboxes. We build our motors out of surplus parts. We use stuff other people would throw away."
Out of necessity, he said the Leland team is a throwback to the sport's roots, when boats were built in someone's backyard without the computers and other high-tech equipment some teams have.
"Our guys stick their thumbs in the air and say, `I think this will work,' " Villwock said.
The team finished second at the Gold Cup in Detroit and has been a strong qualifier at every stop.
No one in the Leland camp is exempt from chores, and that includes Leland and sponsors such as Jerry Yoder, owner of Sunset Chevrolet, whose name was shoved to second billing when another name was slapped on the boat for the Seattle race.
Everybody gets dirty.
"There aren't any big shots over here," Yoder said. "Most sponsors sit around watching, but I spent a day this week swabbing an inch of oil and gunk out of the bottom of the engine compartment.
"All of our guys bust their rear ends 24 hours a day - for nothing."
Leland, who once talked seriously of installing surplus Packard engines used to power Navy PT boats in his hydros, was smiling but quiet after the race. Most of his answers to the reporters crowding around him were like his haircut - short and neatly clipped.
"I'm happy," he said, when asked why he wasn't mugging for the cameras.
Yoder said Leland was subdued because he isn't accustomed to winning.
"I think Fred's in shock," he said.
He's also still in need of cash. Leland said his team is a probable starter for the next race, in San Diego six weeks from now, but may not run in the season-ending race in Hawaii.
"The sponsors we have are great, but to run with Budweisers it takes really, really big bucks," Leland said.
And a couple more sponsor decals.
------------------ TEXACO CUP RESULTS ------------------
HEAT 1A - 1, Performance Mortgage/Sunset Chevrolet/American Dream (Dave Villwock driver), 138.729, 400 points; 2, Smokin' Joe's (Mark Tate), 136.605, 300; 3, Miss T-Plus Engine Treatment (Steve David), 132.225, 225; 4, Miss Exide (Mark Evans), 126.255, 169; 5, Miss Budweiser (Chip Hanauer), 113.988, 127; International News (Mike Jones), did not start.
HEAT 1B - 1, The Tide-Taco Time (Nate Brown), 126.981, 400; 2, Pete's Wicked Ale (Ken Muscatel), 124.905, 300; 3, KMPS Presents Burien Pit Stop (Scott Pierce), 109.230, 225; 4, KISW Miss Rock (Jack Barrie), 88.923, 169; Spirit of Lake Chelan (Mitch Evans), DNS.
HEAT 2A - 1, Smokin' Joe's, 140.460, 400; 2, The Tide-Taco Time, 129.561, 300; 3, KMPS Presents Burien Pit Stop, 118.821, 225; 4, Spirit of Lake Chelan, 107.511, 169; 5, Miss Budweiser, 107.145, 127 (penalized one lap for interference); Pete's Wicked Ale, DNS.
HEAT 2B - 1, Performance Mortgage/ Sunset Chevrolet/American Dream, 137.214, 400; 2, Miss T-Plus Engine Treatment, 134.250, 300; 3, Miss Exide, 133.992, 225; 4, KISW Miss Rock, 116.478, 169; International News, DNF.
HEAT 3A - 1, Smokin' Joe's, 136.605, 400; 2, The Tide-Taco Time, 130.587, 300; 3, KMPS Presents Burien Pit Stop, 125.982, 225; 4, Pete's Wicked Ale, 105.684, 169; KISW Miss Rock, DNF; International News, DNF.
HEAT 3B - 1, Performance Mortgage/ Sunset Chevrolet/American Dream, 141.585, 400; 2, Miss Exide, 137.988, 300; 3, Miss Budweiser, 132.486, 225; 4, Spirit of Lake Chelan, 100.488, 169; 5, Miss T-Plus Engine Treatment, 98.196, 127 (penalized one lap)
LAST-CHANCE HEAT - 1, Miss Budweiser, 131.406; 2, Spirit of Lake Chelan, 117.066.
FINAL - 1, Performance Mortgage/ Sunset Chevrolet/American Dream, 137.520, 400; 2, Miss Exide, 136.845, 300; 3, The Tide-Taco Time, 133.590, 225; 4, Miss T-Plus Engine Treatment, 131.605, 169; 5, Miss Budweiser, 128.130, 127; 6, Smokin' Joe's, 127.198, 95.
---------------------- SEASON POINT STANDINGS ----------------------
1. Miss Budweiser 8,288
2. Smokin' Joe's 8,222
3. The Tide-Taco Time 6,648
4. Miss T-Plus Engine Treatment 6,051
5. American Dream 5,258
6. Miss Exide 5,020
7. Spirit of Lake Chelan 2,849
8. KISW Miss Rock 2,116
9. Pete's Wicked Ale 1,145 10. KMPS Presents Burien Pit Stop 1,108 11. Powerball Miss Madison 812 12. Miss Exide II 576 13. International News 381
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