"We'd like to put the number one back on the boat (in 2007), said FormulaBoats.com driver Mike Allen. The rookie-of-the-year in 2006 guided his team to the National High Points team championship, earning his boat the U-1 designation for 2007.
That's a big change in the sport. Dave Villwock's carried the U-1 designation for a decade. He first won it in 1996 and held it until 2006. "I'm happy to see someone else with a giant bullseye on their back," said Villwock.
It didn't hurt that Allen was running in one of the old Budweiser hulls that Villwock had used in previous years to pick up that U-1 designation. But still, for a new owner, an experience - but new to the team - crew, and a rookie driver, it was a heck of a feat.
"We were very surprised," said Allen. "None of us on the team expected that." Allen said it certainly wasn't their goal at the start of the season. They just wanted to race hard and be competitive.
For 2007, Allen said they'd "like to win some hear races and not just put points up on the board."
It's going to be a tough run this year. The competition's stronger and the teams are plentiful - maybe as many as 15 boats running for the West Coast race sites. Drivers and owners say that there are as many as six boats that can win at any time.
And Allen says he's still got a lot to learn as a driver. "I'm looking forward to working with props and gearboxes and learning the nuances of Unlimited Hydroplane racing," he said.
Is there extra pressure carrying the U-1 designation? "No more than we put on ourselves," said Allen. "I don't think the other drivers and see the number one. The competition is good and strong today and I don't know that anyone could put a finger on the winner for a certain race."
Allen says they were happy with the 2006 season and excited about 2007. He also knows 2007 will be tougher. In many cases, it may come down to "the team with the fewest mistakes," said Allen; "or you have something drastic happen and it's how fast you can get it back in race shape."