1966 Seafair Trophy Race
My Gypsy Wins Seafair Trophy Race
By Harry Monahan
What could have been an afternoon of haunting memories turned into a regatta of surprises, most of them pleasant, which made the victory of rookie driver Jim Ranger a logical climax to the Seafair Trophy Race for unlimited hydroplanes on Aug. 7.
Seattle needs no reminders of the tragic shadow which has pursued the 1966 unlimited season, but it took due note by dedicating the race to the memory of the five drivers who have been killed this year, four in racing mishaps and one, Bill Stead, in an airplane crash.
Appropriately, Ole Bardahl and Mrs. Shirley Mendelson McDonald took the occasion of the Seafair race to announce that the Miss Bardahl and the Notre Dame racing teams, both victims of early season tragedies, will be back on the circuit next year.
Bardahl announced that he is prepared to build a new conventional hull unlimited and has signed young Bill Schumacher of Seattle to drive. The new boat will replace the unique cabover Miss Bardahl which disintegrated during the second regatta of the season killing driver Ron Musson.
A former Notre Dame, which had been renamed the Shu-Shu, will be brought out of storage and refurbished for the 1967 season, Mrs. McDonald said. No driver had been selected to succeed the late Rex Manchester, who was killed this year in a race mishap, the announcement said.
Most of the disappointments of the Seafair were experienced by Bernie Little's Miss Budweiser racing team from Tampa, Fla. The day before the race, the unlimited contest board met and upon its adjournment Miss Budweiser had lost 1,494 points and first place; in the boat national championship standings. The board ruled that a previously approved scoring change could not go into effect until Nov. 1. This meant that the current Miss Budweiser was not entitled to the points earned by the Miss Budweiser which was destroyed (and driver Don Wilson killed) in the President's Cup. The ruling also tumbled Gale Enterprises' Miss Smirnoff down the ladder when it lost the points scored by the boat in which Chuck Thompson was killed during the Gold Cup Race at Detroit.
Miss Budweiser's driver Bill Brow was well on the way to recoup some of the point loss the next day when the big red, white and gold boat did a slow roll coming out of a turn in the second lap of the final heat and had to retire for the day. Fortunately, Brow suffered only a cold bath in the experience and both boat and driver were back in action the next weekend in the Diamond Cup at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
But while problems mounted for Little's crew, everything fell into place for the bright, metallic orange and black boat resting next door in the pits, Ranger's My Gypsy, and the Dodge family entry found itself the first Detroit-based boat to win on Lake Washington since Lee Schoenith won the 1955 Gold Cup with Gale V.
In the exhilaration of victory, Ranger sought out Wild Bill Cantrell and gave the burly veteran of auto and speedboat racing a crushing hug.
"Cantrell taught me everything," Ranger said. "I owe it all to him.
"He's damn good learner," the very pleased Cantrell commented.
Cantrell had a hand in designing and building My Gypsy, which was a Gale Enterprises project. Then he undertook the task to teach My Gypsy's 27-year-old owner the tricks of the trade. Although the Allison installed in My Gypsy is virtually a stock model and not as hopped up as most of the others on the circuit, Ranger has scored well in all of this year's regattas just by being consistent. Through the three heats of the Seafair race, My Gypsy completed 14 of 15 heats in which she started.
Before the Seafair victory, Ranger had a heat triumph in this year's Gold Cup to savor.
Ranger did not start his Seafair venture looking anything like a winner however. My Gypsy drew Harrah’s Tahoe Miss and Miss Chrysler Crew as opponents in Heat 1A, but Bob Gilliam shocked the estimated 300,000 spectators by grabbing the lead out of the first turn with the ancient Hilton Hy-per-lube. When Gilliam pushed the Hilton Hy-per-lube past the judges' stand at the end of the first three-mile lap, My Gypsy was mired in last place in the five-boat field.
But Gilliam's bubble popped on the backstretch and the Hy-per-lube died and was not seen on the course regain that day. Mira Slovak had the persimmon and green Tahoe Miss in position to take over the lead which she held through the next three, laps until her supercharger blew and slowed her to steerage way. Bill Sterett suddenly found himself the leader with Miss Chrysler Crew, but it was only a few moments before she too died in the water. While the leaders were knocking themselves out, Ranger eased ahead of Jim McCormick in Miss Madison and coasted to victory, with Tahoe Miss limping home third.
Brow had Miss Budweiser under a full head of steam in heat 1B, and was pushed by Cantrell and Miss Smirnoff to a new season high of 106.215 miles per hour for the 15-mile race. Cantrell never let rip on Brow and was only six seconds astern of Miss Budweiser at the finish.
Displaying a startling aggressiveness at the start, Bob Fendler's Wayfarers Club Lady beat off challenges from Red Loomis in Savair's Probe to win Heat 1C, which was virtually an all-California battle. Three of the four boats in the heat are California-based, and Loomis is from Baldwin Park.
Brow made his intentions plain in Heat 2A by ripping off one lap at better than 110 mph and posting the season's fastest heat at 108.870. Again it was Cantrell dogging Miss Budweiser's wake until the third lap. Just as Miss Smirnoff started her fourth circuit, less than 50 yards behind Brow, her supercharger exploded like a shotgun blast and Cantrell became a spectator for the rest of the day.
Cantrell devoted the rest of the afternoon to his duties as "coach" for Banger. The young horseman-turned-speedboat-driver added a second victory in Heat 2B despite the efforts of Fred Alter in Laird Pierce's Dixi Cola.
Slovak finally got Tahoe Miss up to top speed for the full race distance and scored a relatively easy triumph in Heat 2C.
Befitting the surprise theme of the regatta, Wayfarers Club Lady and Dixi Cola got the jump on their four rivals in the final heat and Fendler came out of the first turn spray on top. It was a wasted effort, however, because Miss Budweiser was headed for a dunking in the second lap. Brow, running third, made a sharp turn coming out of the north turn and the slap of the wakes of the two boats ahead of him, Tahoe Miss and Wayfarers Club Lady, sent Miss Budweiser into a slow roll, tossing Brow clear, while the boat ended upside down. Brow was quickly pulled from tile water by a Coast Guard helicopter and found to be uninjured when examined by doctors ashore.
"Well, I needed a bath anyway," Brow was able to quip afterward, but for a few interminable minutes 300,000 people held their breath, fearing the unlimited jinx had struck again. The waterlogged Miss Budweiser was salvaged and Savair's Probe replaced her in the restart of the final beat.
Fendler and Slovak again began dueling at the front of the pack, but the scrap lasted only two laps before Ranger pushed My Gypsy into second place behind Tahoe Miss and paraded home to victory, second place being good enough for the regatta championship. Fendler's effort to keep rip with Tahoe Miss cost him third place overall when Wayfarers Club Lady gave out only a half lap from a third place finish in the heat. With Wayfarers Club Lady's demise, the soggy Miss Budweiser took third in the regatta.
|Heat 1A: My Gypsy (Jim Ranger), 100.148 mph; Miss Madison (Jim McCormick), 96.2.56; Harrah’s Tahoe Miss (Mira Slovak), 87.904; DNF: Miss Chrysler Crew (Bill Sterett) and Hilton Hyperlube (Bob Gilliam).
Heat 1B: Miss Budweiser (Bill Brow), 106.215 Miss Smirnoff (Bill Cantrell), 105.017; Miss Tri-Cities (Bob Miller), 91.993; Miss Lapeer (Col. Warner Gardner), no time available; DNS — Savair's Mist (Walt Kade).
Heat 1C: Wayfarers Club Lady (Bob Fendler), 102.389; Savair's Probe (Red Loomis), 101.656; Dixi Cola (Fred Alter), 98.540; $ Bill (Bill Muncey), 94.109.
Heat 2A: Miss Budweiser, 108.870; Miss Lapeer, 100.896; $ Bill, 94.971; DNF — Miss Smirnoff; DNS — Miss Chrysler Crew.
Heat 2B: My Gypsy, 101.772; Dixi Cola, 99.118; Miss Madison, 95.338 Miss Tri-Cities, 88.235 DNF – Savair’s Mist.
Heat 2C: Harrah's Tahoe Miss, 102.935; Wayfarers Club Lady, 93.264; Savair's Probe, 88.524 DNS — Hilton Hy-per-lube.
Heat 3: Harrah's Tahoe Miss 100.185 My Gypsy, 97.087; Dixi Cola, 90.030; Savair's Probe, 88.000; Miss Madison, 87.000; DNF — Wayfarers Club Lady.
FINAL STANDINGS: My Gypsy, 1100 points; Harrah's Tahoe Miss, 102.5; Miss Budweiser, 800; Dixi Cola, 750; Wayfarers Club Lady, 700; Savair's Probe, 694; Miss Madison, 652; Miss Lapeer, 469; $ Bill, 394; Miss Tri-Cities, 394; Miss Smirnoff, 300.
(Reprinted from Sea and Pacific Motor Boat, October 1966, pp.26, 106)