By Fred Farley - ABRA Unlimited Historian
A prominent Florida realtor who teaches college classes in real estate, Steve David is also a lifelong boat racer. He has over 250 race victories in the Limited ranks and over 500 heat wins.
Over the years, David has served the sport well both on and off the race course. During 1997 and 1998, he served as President of the American Power Boat Association.
His accomplishments in the Inboard category include four straight National Championship Race victories in the 1.5-Litre Stock Class with the Toyota-powered CONSTANT PRESSURE between 1988 and 1991. He also won the Grand National Hydro Class National Championship Race with the Chevy-powered STEELER in 1990.
Steve made his Unlimited debut in 1988 with Jim McCormick's POCKET SAVERS PLUS team and was named Rookie of the Year.
His Unlimited career shifted into high gear in 1991 when he signed with the Harvey Motorsports team. The association was to last for nine years. Here was a pilot with tremendous driving ability and one who was also great in the publicity department.
According to owner Jim Harvey, "I've had other drivers who would complain to the press when they were upset about something that happened in a race. I had to ride heard on them constantly. But with Steve David, I never had that problem.
"I could walk away and go back to work on the boat, knowing that Steve would always represent the sponsor well and say what needed to be said to the media."
During the Steve David years, the Harvey Motorsports team never failed to finish in the top-5 in National High Points. Their best season nationally was 1998 when they placed second to MISS BUDWEISER and driver Dave Villwock.
In 1992 at Pearl Harbor, they set a world 2.5-mile competition lap record of 166.221 miles per hour that still stands.
The most satisfying campaign for David and Harvey had to be 1993 when they won the first and the last races of the season--at Lewisville, Texas, and Honolulu, Hawaii--with two different boats.
Racing as MISS T-PLUS, the former 1982 ATLAS VAN LINES hull claimed the victory at Lake Lewisville, near Dallas, after starting in the outside lane in the Final Heat.
Harvey and Crew Chief Tim Ramsey introduced a new MISS T-PLUS for Steve to drive in mid-season 1993, a state-of-the-art tandem-wing creation from the drawing board of Ron Jones, Sr. Several races were required to iron out the "bugs" of newness, but everything came together in Hawaii.
At Honolulu, the team ran conservatively in the preliminary heats, but David turned up the speed when it counted in the finale. The result was a clear-cut victory for MISS T-PLUS over MISS BUDWEISER in the Final Heat, as the boat set a world record speed of 154.025 miles per hour for the 12.5-mile distance. MISS BUDWEISER and driver Chip Hanauer also surpassed the record in the Honolulu Final, running 152.445.
Harvey and David accumulated another win for their Hilton Oil sponsor at Kansas City in 1995. The team scored a wire-to-wire victory over Mark Tate in SMOKIN' JOE'S and Hanauer in MISS BUDWEISER.
In 1994, the APBA Unlimited Racing Commission implemented the use of fuel restrictors on all turbine-powered boats. While it’s true that the restrictor slowed the speeds down somewhat in comparison to 1993, the device succeeded in its primary purpose of helping to conserve costly Lycoming turbine engine parts, which tend to quite literally melt in the heat of competition.
The fuel restrictor did have a negative effect on those teams with tandem (two-wing) hulls, which didn’t have quite the power needed to be competitive through the corners. This was especially the case with Jim Harvey’s boat.
With Steve David driving, the two-wing T-PLUS in 1994 managed to turn speeds comparable to pre-restrictor days. The hull, nevertheless, was later converted to a single-wing configuration. And the two-wing concept soon vanished from Unlimited racing.
Every driver has his “up” days and his “down” days. And David had one of his “down” days at the 1995 Madison Regatta on the Ohio River. The start of Heat 1-B saw Steve and the T-PLUS challenging MISS BUDWEISER and SMOKIN’ JOE’S for the lead when T-PLUS blew over backwards at the end of the front straightaway. The recently mandated F-16 safety canopy fortunately protected Steve from serious injury. The boat, however, suffered extensive damage.
At a race in Detroit in 1997, Steve participated in one of the closest heat finishes in Unlimited history.
In Heat 2-A of the Gold Cup, David and MISS DETROIT FORD DEALERS, the Jim Harvey entry, won by three feet on the outside of Mitch Evans and APPIAN JERONIMO, 140.455 to 140.355. They don’t get much closer than that!
Following a brief retirement from the sport, Steve David returned to active duty in 2001 as driver of the community-owned OH BOY! OBERTO/MISS MADISON (U-6) from southern Indiana.
David thus became the latest in a long line of MISS MADISON drivers since 1961. His predecessors included Marion Cooper, Buddy Byers, Jim McCormick, Milner Irvin, Ron Snyder, and Mike Hanson.
This set the stage for a richly sentimental triumph in the 2001 Indiana Governor's Cup at Madison. Steve made a perfectly timed start in the Final Heat and went on to win all the marbles, while holding off a persistent challenge from second-place Greg Hopp in ZNETIX. David averaged 130.074 to Hopp's 128.109 for the final 12-1/2 miles. This marked the first victory on home waters by the U-6 team in thirty years.
On the day following the win at Madison, the headline for the local newspaper consisted of two words: "Oh Boy!"
MISS MADISON had long been a competitive presence in Unlimited hydroplane racing. But not until 2005 did a MISS M pilot succeed in winning the National High Point Driver Championship. Steve David achieved that distinction under the sponsorship of OH BOY! OBERTO.
The championship wasn’t decided until the last day of the season in San Diego. David outscored LLUMAR WINDOW FILM's Jean Theoret, 8455 points to 7892. Steve took first-place at Evansville, and went on to take second-place at the Tri-Cities and Nashville and third-place at Madison and Seattle.
“It all came together for us,” exclaimed a jubilant David. “The crew worked very hard to give me a great ride. In racing, so many little things can go wrong. You need a lot of little things to go right. That’s what I was hoping for. And that’s what we’ve got.”
Of the previous MISS MADISON drivers, the late Jim McCormick came closest to winning the Driver High Points crown in 1971. McCormick won two races that year and was for a time the national leader but was eventually surpassed by MISS BUDWEISER pilot Dean Chenoweth.
Steve David was quick to point out Crew Chief Mike Hanson’s contribution to winning the 2005 championship.
“Our team is most fortunate to have Mike and his brother, Larry Hanson, who is our turbine engine specialist. As a former driver, no one knows the inner workings of a race team better than Mike. He is the perfect communicator over the radio when a race is in progress.”
The highlight of the 2005 season was the U-6 team’s victory at Evansville’s “Thunder On The Ohio”. The winner-take-all Final Heat saw Greg Hopp and RE/MAX (U-100) first across the starting line in lane-one, followed by OH BOY! OBERTO. Hopp exited turn-one with Steve David "on his hip". David stayed within Hopp's roostertail length for two and three-quarter laps until Hopp blew his Lycoming turbine engine.
J.W. Myers in MISS E-LAM PLUS (U-16) inherited second-place when Hopp conked out and took off after OBERTO but fell three-quarters of a roostertail short at the finish line. OBERTO averaged 137.374 miles per hour for the 5-lap/10-mile distance, while E-LAM did 135.977.
Heading into the final race of the year in San Diego, the High Point Boat Championship had already been won by MISS E-LAM PLUS, which had two drivers during the season (Myers and Dave Villwock), but the High Point Driver Championship was still up for grabs. Steve David took care of that on the strength of winning all three of his preliminary heats on Mission Bay.
“A driver victory is really a team victory,” David insisted. “The crew made it possible. I’m just the visual embodiment of their work. Anything that I’ve done on the race course is a direct tribute to the hard work that the crew does on the boat. I couldn’t have done it without these guys."
The 2006 season saw no race victories for Steve but another Driver High Points title was his nonetheless, while the U-6 again finished second in Team High Points. David outscored Mike Allen, pilot of FORMULABOATS.COM II (U-7), 7769 points to 7594.
The OBERTO boat suffered hull damage at the first two races of the 2006 season at Evansville and Madison but rebounded to take second-place at Valleyfield and Seattle and third-place at Detroit, the Tri-Cities, and San Diego.
One of the most dangerous situations in recent memory occurred during Atomic Cup Heat 3-B at the Tri-Cities, Washington, in 2006.
After a blanket start and a tight first turn, the field was chasing Greg Hopp and TODD HOSS AMERICAN DREAM into the second turn of lap-one when J. Michael Kelly and ACURA OF BELLEVUE blew over and nearly crashed on top of OH BOY! OBERTO.
ACURA OF BELLEVUE landed upside-down and was badly damaged, while OBERTO emerged with its rear-wing damaged.
Kelly suffered cuts and bruises; OBERTO's Steve David was unscathed.
The accident was eerily reminiscent of the NOTRE DAME/MISS BUDWEISER crash in Washington, D.C., which took the lives of drivers Rex Manchester and Don Wilson at the 1966 President’s Cup.
With back-to-back High Points titles to his credit, Steve had been driver of OH BOY! OBERTO/MISS MADISON for six years. But the boat was getting tired. Built in 1988 by Ron Jones, Sr., it had been designed to accommodate a big heavy Allison internal combustion engine, rather than a much lighter Lycoming gas turbine.
No one was happier than Steve David with the announcement that a brand new “Floating Chamber of Commerce” for the City of Madison would debut in 2007, thanks to a significant contribution by the sponsoring Oberto Sausage Company.
According to David, "The new boat is over 600 pounds lighter than last year's hull. This will aid in lap times and top end as well as getting a preferential lane at the start. It's also wider between the sponsons, which helps with acceleration and entry-to-exit times. It's built out of the most space age composites on earth, which means structural integrity and rough water readiness."
Steve added, "The new boat is clear evidence of the commitment of the town, its people, and our sponsor. You've given me the right team, the right leadership, and the right equipment."
In 2007, the new OH BOY! OBERTO/MISS MADISON (U-6) finished an overall first or second at five of the six races on the American Boat Racing Association tour and placed runner-up at season's end in National High Points.
At all six races, the OH BOY! OBERTO never failed to win at least one competitive heat. The U-6 was the first new hydroplane in the ABRA Unlimited Class in five years.
The first four races of the season belonged to the Seattle-based MISS E-LAM PLUS (U-16) and driver Dave Villwock. Victory was theirs in the races at Evansville, Madison, Detroit, and the Tri-Cities. The E-LAM team definitely had its act together. People began to wonder, "Is the U-16 going to sweep the season? Can anybody stop Villwock?"
It fell to OH BOY! OBERTO to snap MISS E-LAM PLUS's win streak. After having finished second to the U-16 in three straight races, the U-6 won the Chevrolet Cup at Seattle and the Bill Muncey Cup at San Diego. In both races, driver Steve David made a perfect start where it counted--in the Final Heat.
OBERTO led from wire-to-wire in the Seattle finale and held off a dynamic challenge from second-place HOSS MORTGAGE INVESTORS. Rookie David Bryant made Steve David work for it every inch of the way. The outcome was in doubt right down to the checkered flag.
The finale at San Diego on Mission Bay was a classic. OBERTO grabbed the inside lane before the start and forced the rest of the field to run a wider--and-longer--track. Second-place Jeff Bernard, driver of FORMULABOATS.COM (U-5), went all out after Steve David but couldn't catch the front-running U-6.
David thus increased his victory total in the Unlimited Class to seven at the Bill Muncey Cup--his fourth with the OBERTO team. This was the first time that a U-6 pilot had scored back-to-back victories since Jim McCormick in 1971.
"It can only get better," Steve exulted after the San Diego win. “The difference with our team is our people. From the team’s management, led by Bob Hughes and Charlie Grooms, to the people on the deck, headed by Mike Hanson, we’re blessed with talent. Without a doubt, Mike Hanson is the best in the business. We have a driver/crew relationship that rivals that of the Hendricks 48 and 24 cars in NASCAR. Mike has taken raw talent and experienced crew members and together they’ve created a synergy and methodology that no other team can match.”