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After Teacher Crashes, Protege Is Winner : Hydroplane racing: Hanauer flips in a heat and suffers nine cracked ribs. Villwock drives to unlimited victory.

September 21, 1992|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — For the second time this year, six-time national champion Chip Hanauer suffered painful rib injuries when his 6,000-pound Miss Budweiser boat flipped during a heat in the Budweiser Cup unlimited hydroplane race Sunday on Mission Bay.

Hanauer was hospitalized overnight at UC San Diego Medical Center in good condition with nine cracked ribs. There was no internal bleeding, doctors said. He broke four ribs his earlier crash at Seattle.

With Hanauer's boat out of the championship final, rookie driver Dave Villwock--a Hanauer protege--drove Coors Dry to victory in one of the most competitive races in recent unlimited hydroplane history. There were four lead changes among three boats before Villwock took command on the third of five laps.

Villwock, 37, of Henderson, Nev., was racing an unlimited boat for the first time. He was a crew chief for two years when Hanauer drove Miss Circus Circus to national championships in 1989 and 1990.

"Chip taught me so much," Villwock said. "I can't give him enough credit."

Miss T Plus, driven by Steve David, finished second, with Miss Hanalei Hotel and Nate Brown third.

The Coors boat, which has a revolutionary all-graphite hull, was built in 57 days during midseason in the Seattle shop of Ron Jones and had raced only once before Sunday. It was only the fourth-fastest qualified boat and never finished better than third in three heats.

"We saved our one strong engine for the final," Villwock explained. "Our engine man, Jay Leckrone, built it from nuts and bolts and told us it would work. I can't believe what he accomplished in such a short time."

Jones said when Hanauer crashed it was the first time he thought his boat could win.

Hanauer dominated the first two days here, just as he had the entire season in clinching the Unlimited Racing Commission championship after seven of nine races. The only previous race Miss Budweiser had lost was when Hanauer was injured in a crash while qualifying for the Rainier Cup on Seattle's Lake Washington on Aug. 1.

As a festive crowd estimated at more than 90,000 peered through a low-lying fog for the start of the first of six heats, Hanauer's red and gold boat was skimming along through the first turn when suddenly there was a break in the seven-ton roostertail that follows unlimited hydroplanes.

"I was setting up to pass (George) Woods in the Tide boat when some air got underneath the right sponson and the boat sort of rolled on its side," Hanauer told team spokesman Scott Patterson. "The boat didn't climb as high as it did in Seattle, and the crash wasn't near as violent."

As the boat lifted, it turned sideways and tried to swap ends before the rear end smacked the water and the boat flipped upside down. Hanauer, secure inside his F-16 jet fighter capsule, remained conscious and helped rescue workers.

Both Hanauer and Mark Tate, the heat winner, believed the five boats would take a parade lap before the start, but the URC starter waved the green flag even though the boats were not lined up.

"I don't know what the officials did at the start," Tate said. "They might be to blame. I was out in front, slowing down to let the pack catch up, when I saw the Tide and Coors Dry shoot by me and (radioman) Curt Tavenner was shouting, 'Go, go, it's green.' I never saw the green flag. Chip and I were already way behind going into the first turn."

Hanauer said he saw the green flag but was surprised because he thought there would be another lap before the start.

After what remained of Hanauer's 30-foot boat was towed back to the dock, crewmen swarmed over it in a frantic effort to repair it in time for a last chance qualifier. However, after more than an hour's work, Little called off the effort when it became apparent that Hanauer would not return.

Rather than use a substitute driver, as Little did with Scott Pierce at Seattle, he elected to pack up. The broken boat will return to Seattle for repairs and another boat, in which Hanauer ran an unofficial 170-m.p.h. lap Friday, will head for Honolulu and the final unlimited race Oct. 11 at Pearl Harbor.

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