All eyes will be on Steve David and the Oh Boy! Oberto this weekend when the unlimited hydroplanes return to Lake Washington.
That’s what happens when you are the three-time defending champion of the Albert Lee Appliance Cup and last week’s winner at the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup in Kennewick.
“The target on our back is bigger than the boat,” he said. “It’s funny, when you’re the underdog everybody cheers for you, when you’re finally on top everybody’s shooting at you.”
But much to his fellow drivers’ displeasure, David, like a good slice of cheese, or a fine glass of wine, gets better with age.
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David, who turns 60 in January, will have a fleet of the world’s fastest boats gunning for him this weekend.
The National High Points leader has become one of the sport’s best. A win Sunday would tie David with legendary Bill Muncey as the only drivers to win this event four consecutive times.
“That would certainly be an exclamation point in my unlimited career, tying the late Bill Muncey,” he said.
It’s no secret that his opponents will be asking the same question: “How do you beat Steve David?”
One of David’s top threats this weekend will be 29-year-old Brian Perkins, who used to idolize the much-older David.
“People like Steve David, I used to go around asking him for buttons and autographs,” Perkins said.
A Black Diamond native driving the U-21 Miss Albert Lee Appliance boat, Perkins isn’t exaggerating when he says he grew up in the Seafair pits.
“My parents used to have their boat in the pits so we’d stay in the pits. We’d never leave,” he said.
And Perkins may have the secret to beating his childhood hero.
“You can plan a scenario on the beach all you want, nine times out of 10 it won’t go that way,” Perkins said. “You have to be able to change and mold your strategy on the water, as it’s happening.”
Also gunning for David will be Jimmy Shane in the U-5 Graham Trucking boat, who was right behind David in much of last week’s final before finishing second. Shane’s team is second to David’s on the points list and may be the champion’s toughest challenger.
“Jimmy says he’s pleased to be following the Oberto around the race weekend,” said Rob Graham, the owner of the U-5 during Tuesday’s news conference.
Graham’s comments are indicative of the lighthearted, yet ultra-competitive nature of the sport.
“The rest of them are a bunch of punks,” David joked. “If we were in the street we would be beating them up. No, they’re great racers. … At the end of the day, we will all go have a soda pop together.”
It is fun and games for hydro drivers, but the driver wearing the Oh Boy! Oberto suit knows who the others are all chasing.
“I think you’re going to see some of the closest races in Lake Washington, behind us, we’ve seen, ever,” David said.
Theo Lawson: firstname.lastname@example.org