1959 Lake Mead Cup

Slovak, Wahoo Grab Title

Maverick makes it close, but Wahoo too fast…

by John Romero / Review-Journal Sports Editor

Operating the Gold Cup race here next year should be a cinch after the efficient and well-organized Lake Mead Cup race yesterday. At least the APBA’s official representative feels that way.

"I was well pleased with the way the race was handled yesterday and you have my endorsement for another event," said Harry Woods, ranking APBA representative from Spokane, Washington. "It’s not advisable for me to speak for the Gold Cup Committee," Woods told the Review-Journal, "but I never had finer support from a race committee than I did here." Woods’ inference was that the APBA could not help but grant Las Vegas the 1960 Gold Cup race.

Maverick, the Gold Cup champion for 1959, already had asked for permission to defend the Cup on Lake Mead.

Mira Slovak, a smiling, long-haired Czech, who escaped from his communist-dominated country in 1953 by eloping with an airliner, sped to victory yesterday with the fastest unlimited hydroplane performance of the year.

The 29-year-old Slovak drove Bill Boeing’s brutish Wahoo to two heat victories and then won the final heat when Maverick of Las Vegas jumped the starting gun. Maverick, driven by Bill Stead, led the field across the line in the final heat but was forced to take a penalty lap and Slovak in Wahoo won easily.

Maverick however finished second in overall standings, followed by Miss Seattle Too, Miss Bardahl, KOLroy and KOLroy Too.

A crowd of about 15,000 on a calm and beautiful day saw Wahoo blast through the fastest unlimited hydroplane heat in two years when Slovak won heat 1B with an average speed of 110.316, a Lake Mead Cup record. Slovak had a record lap of 114.431 during that heat.

Slovak’s amazing speed in the first heat almost cost him the race. He slowed down to 105.201 in winning heat 2B and clocked only 103.686 in the final, running with a sick engine.

"If we had to go another lap, we could never have made it," shouted relieved and elated owner Boeing.

"I pushed the boat too hard," Slovak admitted, "and I couldn’t have made another lap."

The win was an early birthday present for Slovak who will be 30 on October 5. "I wanta get married," Slovak said candidly, but the handsome bachelor failed to convince many people.

Stead was completely dejected by his failure to win. "It’s one of those things," the Reno-based driver said. "I looked at that clock in the final heat and all of a sudden it seemed to stop five seconds before the start. There was nothing I could do about it then."

Maverick poured across the starting line bout three seconds too early, closely followed by Miss Seattle Too and Miss Bardahl. All three ran an extra penalty lap. Only Wahoo and the two KOLroy boats made legal starts, and both KOLroys were later lapped.

Ironically, Stead won at Lake Tahoe a week and a half ago when three boats jumped the gun and left him an easy victory in the final heat.

Slovak and Wahoo were pushed to the outside at the beginning and Slovak said he had no idea Maverick, Seattle Too, and Miss Bardahl had illegal starts. "I didn’t lay back at the start on purpose," Slovak said. "I was pushed back." That turned out to be Slovak’s best break of the day.

Maverick crossed the finish line in the final heat about 20 seconds ahead of Wahoo and had the Las Vegas boat started legally, that would have been enough margin to win. A win by Maverick in the final heat would have tied her with Wahoo in final points standings and given the cup to the fastest boat.

"It would have been close if I hadn’t jumped," Stead said. He estimated he needed to win the final test by "about twenty seconds" over Wahoo to overcome the advantage in time Slovak had scored in his 110.316 mph heat.

Dallas Sartz, the Spokane Air National Guard jet pilot, who brought Miss Seattle Too in third, said he thought the start was legal. "I thought we had it," the downcast Sartz said. "I knew it was close, but I thought we made it." Sartz said he "almost lost it" in the first turn of the final heat. He bounced around in the turn and finally gained control of his boat.

Miss Bardahl, driven by George McKernan, was up close at the start but lost ground in the turns and fell back. KOLroy, driven by Bob Larsen, and KOLroy Too, driven by Bob Gilliam, were never contending factors in the final heat.

Maverick’s second place speed in the final heat – computed for six laps – was 89.596. Miss Seattle Too hit 83.857 and Miss Bardahl did 82.304, also on a six lap basis. KOLroy did 80.071 and KOLroy Too ran 80.000.

Miss Bardahl’s fourth place finish in the Lake Mead Cup earned her second place in the final national point standings. Maverick clinched the title before the race and emerged with a total of 2,525 points. Miss Bardahl, which won the title last year and was running third this year, earned 219 points yesterday and finished second (in total points) with 1,559.

Nitrogen, second when the day started, failed to score when it blew a gear box, but still wound up third in the national points race with 1,398. Miss Thriftway, driven by Bill Muncey, twice blew blowers yesterday and failed to finish a heat, also scored no points (for the race) and was fourth in the national list with 1,350.

Wahoo’s victory earned her 450 points and jumped her from ninth to sixth with 1,169. KOLroy was fifth in the final points race with 1,215.

Wahoo outsprinted Maverick in their head-to-head meeting in heat 2B. Wahoo led all the way by distances up to 200 yards, but Maverick closed quickly in the backstretch and caught her tormentor. Slovak eased Stead and Maverick far to the outside in the final turn and won easily. "I had the inside and was in better position," was the way Slovak explained it.

In heat 2A, Sartz pushed the Miss Seattle Too to a wide margin over Miss Bardahl, clocking 104.388 in the heat to 102.798 for Miss Bardahl. KOLroy was third and $ Bill did not finish.

The heat however was somewhat of a moral victory for $ Bill and owner Lawrence Schuyler. It was the first time all season the boat had even crossed the starting line in a heat. Driver Ray Crawford got her started late, went dead twice, but finally completed a lap only to go dead for good.

Maverick won the first heat (1A) of the morning when Nitrogen’s big gear box exploded on the third lap. Nitrogen, driven by Norm Evans, was leading at the time and had done an unofficial 110 m.p.h. lap. Maverick was a close second and had no competition when Nitrogen went dead. Maverick won "eased-up" with an average speed of 106.290.

Heat 1B saw sentimental favorite, Hawaii Kai III, make its first and last appearance of the race. The Kai, two time winner of the Sahara Cup, was close behind Wahoo all the way and clocked 109.267 behind Wahoo’s great 110.316. But just as driver Ron Musson started his cooling-off lap, a rod exploded through the side of the engine. That finished the Kai for the day. "It probably started to go on the last lap," Musson said sadly.

1959 Lake Mead Cup Heat Summaries
Heat 1A Heat 1B Heat 2A Heat 2B Final Points
1 Maverick 1 Wahoo 1 Miss Seattle Too 1 Wahoo 1 Wahoo 1200
2 Miss Seattle Too 2 Hawaii Kai III 2 Miss Bardahl 2 Maverick 2 Maverick 1000
3 KOLroy 3 Miss Bardahl 3 KOLroy 3 KOLroy Too 3 Miss Seattle Too 925
DNF Nitrogen DNF Miss Thriftway DNF $ Bill DNF Miss Thriftway 4 Miss Bardahl 694
DNS $ Bill DNS KOLroy Too   5 KOLroy 577
  6 KOLroy Too 320
-- Hawaii Kai III 300

 

The 1959 Lake Mead Cup was run over two days (October 20-21) on Lake Mead, Nevada. APBA officials watched the race arrangements carefully, since Las Vegas-based boat Maverick, winner of the Gold Cup a few months earlier in Seattle, had asked for permission to defend the Gold Cup the following year (1960) on Lake Mead. Headlines following the 1959 race noted that the "1960 Gold Cup Race a Cinch after fine Lake Mead show."

(Transcribed from the Las Vegas Review-Journal / Thursday, October 22, 1959.)

[Thanks to Ted Shenenberg for help in preparing this page]