"The biggest thing this year is we've got things in place," said Mike Allen, driver of this year's U-1 and 2006's national high point team champion during the weekly ABRA conference call with media. "Last year, Ted Porter only owned the team for 45 days." Getting things in place, Allen said, means props, engines being gone through, stockpiling parts and pieces. The FormulaBoats.com team runs two boats, the U-5 & U-7, both old Budweiser hulls. "Running two boats again, it takes a toll." said Allen. "By the end of last year, we were out. This year, we'll have complete backups in all aspects."
The first time the FormulaBoats.com team will hit the water will be qualifying in Evansville. But it won't be the first time on the water this year for last year's rookie-of-the-year Mike Allen. Mike took part in a poker run in New Orleans recently. "We were going 70 miles an hour," he said. "A little more relaxed."
While Mike was taking the time to "slow down" to 70, U-16 Ellstrom Elam Plus driver Dave Villwock was using some of his time off to speed up. At a recent flat-bottomed boat event in Yelm, WA, Villwock set a couple of speed records for fastest in a competition heat. Villwock now owns the Super Stock record and the Pro Stock record. And he beat them by 10 mph. "That's pretty impressive," said Allen, a veteran flat bottom driver; "those have stood for a while." Villwock said the records were set in 1979 or 1980. "It was time we did something," Villwock said.
For the U-16 team, the off-season was "more of the same," said Villwock. Engines re-built, put back together, the boat re-painted, stocking up and re-tooling spare parts.
The U-16 team is planning on testing the boat on Lake Washington in Seattle later this week. "Really, we want to get things going and make sure the computers are working and the engines are set for fuel level," said Villwock. "Gear boxes that have been re-built - we just want to make everything run." It's also good training for the driver, he said.
And then there's the props. "We've done a lot of work building propellers for most of the fleet," said Villwock. The Ellstrom crew has been providing props for other crews. "Just boxed up four for Mike Allen," he said.
When the props arrive, they'll be going back into the red boats of the FormulaBoats.com. Since the boats were acquired right before the season started last year, there was no time to re-paint from the "Budweiser Red" color and there was some talk they might change that in the off-season. Allen says they're sticking with it. "Everything's identical to last year."
That's okay with former-Bud driver Dave Villwock and the winningest active driver on the ABRA circuit. "It was always the red boat that people said was causing the trouble on the course. I want to keep it that way."