"The drinks are good," joked U-1 FormulaBoats.com driver Mike Allen during the ABRA's weekly media call, talking about the heat in Evansville. But it's the heat racing that will be focus. There's increased competition this year and then, there's the river itself.
"The river's interesting. I love this site," he said. But Mike knows the water conditions are what makes for some difficult racing. "You have your competitors, but you're racing the river as well."
Last year, the river won against a number of race teams at Madison and Evansville. High water levels and a lot of debris damaged 60% of the fleet. So far, the river levels look good for racing this year and the projections are to stay that way.
"You try to adjust your boat through the day and stay ahead of the river," said Allen. "It's a battle on conditions and current and river levels that mother nature throws at you." The changes change how the boats are set-up for racing. U-16 driver Dave Villwock said it's experience that can make the difference. "Knowing what's going to happen and anticipate that (in the set-ups)," Villwock said.
With eleven boats in the field for Evansville, it won't just be the river to deal with. "I think competition will be up another notch," said Villwock. "Lots of quality boats out there and quality teams - they all have good equipment." He says it will be even more competitive than last year all season. And that's saying a lot. Last season ended with a showdown in San Diego where three teams could lay claim to titles and, in a number of heats, there were two and sometimes three boats finishing within a boat length of each other. More competition can mean better racing and a better show for the fans. Even the winningest active drive in ABRA history says that's good for everyone. "It's no fun racing when it's a parade," he said.
"I said for a long time...the sport needed to be one of competition, looking for and building stronger teams, better crews," said Villwock. "We needed to focus on doing better instead of restrictions." After going backwards for a number of years, Villwock says we're on the right track now as a sport.