Air National Guard abandons powerboat-race sponsorship after budget cuts
by Johnny McDonald
Aug 15, 2013 | 3693 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Military cutbacks have forced the Air National Guard to drop its sponsorship of the thunderboat races known as Bayfair along the waters of Mission Bay. Photo by Jim Grant
Military cutbacks have forced the Air National Guard to drop its sponsorship of the thunderboat races known as Bayfair along the waters of Mission Bay. Photo by Jim Grant
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The Defense Department’s budget cutback has forced the Air National Guard to withdraw its title sponsorship of the H1 Hydroplane series on Mission Bay, but local officials say the withdrawl won’t alter plans for the 49th Bayfair races Sept. 13-15.

The Air National Guard was hit by the same circumstances that forced cancellation of Miramar’s Air Show — at least involving military aircraft — and presumably will curtail sponsorships in other sports areas.

Bayfair board of governors spokesman Gregg Mansfield said he anticipates a representative field of 10 hydroplanes, headed by driving champion Steve David. Chief challengers this year should be Jimmy Shane, Kip Brown. J. Michael Reilly and Jon Zimmerman.

The race will be without the sport’s win-leading pilot, Dave Villwock, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

However, there were mixed feelings about that since the owner of the Spirit of Qatar said he released Villwock’s contract after a race accident in January.

Villwock was disqualified in a heat race after veering off course, causing the boat to hit several corner buoys and damaging the hydro.

“Dave Villwock has retired from our team,”said Erick Ellstrom, owner of the Spirit of Qatar. “We had a great run together and celebrated many victories together. We are not aware of his future plans, but we wish him nothing but the best.”

Villwock won 11 national titles and broke Bill Muncey’s all-time career record with 64 victories.

“I think I'm all done with it,” Villwock said last month when asked if he would be back. “It's just another reason I’m not excited about it (Unlimited Hydroplane racing) anymore. I don’t think I’ll be there.”

Mansfield said there would be a few changes in the three-day format.

“The Lucas Oil Series drag boats will not be returning to Crown Point,” he said. “They decided to move to Firebird Raceway in Phoenix, performing the same day as Bayfair.”

He said negotiations are under way to schedule a freestyle motocross that he hopes will be a mainstay in that location for several years.

Meanwhile, Grand Prix West, a small hydroplane division, will see action this year, as well as an armada of other racing craft.

In another change, a stage will be added at Crown Point. So, with the other stage at the main entrance, Mansfield said he anticipates 50 bands will entertain during the three days.

In the past, Mansfield said Bayfair has received $80,000 from the tourism industry to help run the event.

“I believe that money has been diverted to the planning for the 2015 Centennial in Balboa Park,” he said.

However, he said the hydroplane event’s sales venues have held up pretty well.

Bayfair has attracted sizable crowds over the years, reaching 100,000 visitors at times. Last year’s event drew a reported crowd of 98,000.

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