KENNEWICK — Dave Villwock may have the most career victories of any unlimited hydroplane driver with 67.
But he can be a very polarizing figure too.
There is even a Twitter account called Darth Villwock.
People up and down the Lampson Pits shoreline were definitely talking about him on Sunday.
“I imagine they have been,” said Villwock, who was driving for the U-37 Cost Less Carpet presents Beacon Plumbing.
It started in heat 2B.
Villwock was leading in lane 2, ahead of Jeff Bernard in the U-17 Our Gang Racing in lane 1 and Jon Zimmerman in the U-9 Les Schwab Tires-Team RedDot in lane 3, as the trio headed into the east end turn of the course.
At that moment, Villwock had the required seven-boat lead when he went to the apex of the turn.
Bernard slid out of his lane, crossed through the skid fin wake of Villwock’s, and kept going out until he hit the roostertail of Zimmerman’s.
The water lifted the U-17 up into the air, sideways, and the boat landed hard on the right sponson.
It stopped the race, but Bernard was OK.
It caused enough damage for U-17 team owner Nate Brown to withdraw from the Columbia Cup.
But even though Bernard and Brown say what Villwock did was legal, neither of them were happy with him in what many racers considered a volation of an unwritten racing rule.
“The 37 had a boat length that was legal, but it didn’t need to be done the way it was,” said Bernard. “He had almost a full roostertail lead. It was legal, but he went straight to the pin. When you’re racing someone, and you have them covered, you don’t need to do that to help save other teams’ equipment. We weren’t a factor at that point.
“It’s an unfortunate situation that didn’t need to happen,” said Bernard. “I forgot who was driving the boat. I’m kind of used to it. But that’s why no one likes him.”
H1 officials reviewed the video, and they ruled that there was room in the turn for Bernard.
Villwock fired back.
“We had a little meeting,” said Villwock. “I said ‘Do you want to make it 10 boat lengths?’ I tried to leave him room. This is the same guy a few years ago in Doha that turned into my roostertail and it rolled the boat over. Then he blamed me for that.”
Brown estimated the damage at $50,000.
“That’s all on Villwock,” he said. “But I’m not mad at him. It was legal. But his narcissistic personality won’t allow him to be wrong. It’ll never be his fault. He doesn’t give a s—- about anybody else on the race course, and you can quote me.”
Later in the day, in heat 3B, Villwock lost control of the boat on the first lap from the inside lane.
His boat hit Jimmy Shane’s front left sponson hard, lifting the Oberto off the water before the defending national high points champion was able to regain control of the boat before if went onto the Kennewick shoreline.
It took a 4-foot chunk out of the boat.
Villwock was automatically disqualified from the heat, and the team was docked 150 points, which put them out of the finals.
Video showed that Villwock had clipped a buoy with the back of his boat, and then he said he lost something off the boat.
Villwock said it wasn’t intentional. And the move would seem silly for someone who put too much time into the boat in the offseason.
“Why take myself out of a race?” he said. “Something fell off.”
It was enough that some other race team members were yelling at H1 officials in the pits, complaining about Villwock.
And a number of drivers were meeting after the second incident to discuss the 60-year-old veteran.
One owner said the drivers were discussing what they wanted to do at Seafair if Villwock was going to drive.
But when Kip Brown was asked about those discussions, he replied with what many people think about what goes on at the race course and in the pits.
“Drama,” Brown replied. “It’s boat racing drama.”