Dave Villwock led the Spirit of Qatar team to its first national high points championship in four years by winning the first heat of the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship on Friday. Villwock is putting the exclamation mark on a storybook season that already includes a driver high points championship and becoming the sport’s all-time winningest driver. “It’s been a difficult season and that’s what championships are supposed to be about,” Villwock said. “If it was easy, everybody could do it.”
The Spirit of Qatar snapped Oh Boy! Oberto’s three-year run as national high points champion. The team was essentially eliminated from the points race in September at the Air National Guard Championship in San Diego, Calif. Only the Miss Red Dot team had a chance to catch Spirit of Qatar but even with a first-place finish in Friday’s opening heat they fell out of contention. Erick Ellstrom has won four national championships as Spirit of Qatar team owner. He says the team chases race wins and not overall titles. “The first championship we won we really raced to win it,” Ellstrom said. “We didn’t race to win the championship this year, we just raced hard and luck went our way.”
Villwock won his first two heats on Friday and is looking to win back-to-back Oryx Cup UIM World Championships. He’ll likely face off against driver Steve David, who also won his two heats on Friday. While disappointed the Oh Boy! Oberto team couldn’t make it four national championships in a row, he’s hoping the team can finish second overall in the point standings. It would be a notable finish considering the damage the boat sustained in the crash. And if he won the Oryx Cup, he and Villwock would split the season’s six race victories. “Obviously after the accident and not having our lead boat in Detroit, that pretty much set the stage for what was to follow and then our goal was to win races,” David said. “We still accomplished some of the goals we wanted. Hat’s off to them, they were able to capitalize on our misfortune.”
Also winning a heat Friday was Jeff Bernard in the Graham Trucking boat. He held off driver Jimmy Shane in the Formulaboats.com boat in the day’s final heat. In an earlier heat, Bernard had a second-place finish.
“I think it’s fantastic that we’re going to again crown our champion in Doha,” said H1 Unlimited Chairman Sam Cole. “I want people to start planning now. It’s becoming a great tradition in unlimited hydroplane racing.” Mona Nasser, race and event coordinator for the Qatar Marine Sports Federation said “We are delighted to be hosting the Oryx Cup again in 2012 for the fourth successive year and seeing the champion driver crowned in Qatar.”