1967 UIM World Championship
The Chrysler Crew Breezes
By Joe Dowdall
Kentuckian Bill Sterett's Chrysler Crew blew her bigger rivals right off the Detroit River Sunday as the only automotive-powered hydroplane won the $44,000 World's Championship boat race.
Chrysler Crew's two Chrysler hemi engines spotted the bigger Rolls Royce and Allison engines almost 1,000 horsepower. But Sterett beat everyone into the turns and in the straightaways.
It was the first time in 12 races Chrysler Crew has hung together to finish a race. Sterett couldn't have picked a more opportune time.
Chrysler Crew's first victory came before 130,000 fans jammed around the three-mile course.
Jim Ranger's dependable My Gypsy was second and Jim McCormick's Notre Dame third. Detroit's Mike Wolfbauer enjoyed his greatest day in powerboat racing when his Savair's Probe and Savair's Mist finished fourth and fifth in the 15-boat field.
Sterett's victory couldn't have been more deserved.
He beat every boat in the race, including some of the favorites twice.
In the third elimination heat, which matched five of the favorites, Sterett led Bill Muncey in Miss U.S., Col. Warner Gardner in Miss Lapeer and Ed O'Halloran in Miss Madison into and out of the first turn.
His little 29-foot, 6,000-pound racer bounced all over the lower turn, but Sterett never eased up and was never headed.
Sterett turned in the fastest lap of the day at 104.046 miles an hour and the rest of the million-dollar field tried to play catch-up all day.
"I never saw driving like that in my life," said Gardner. "Sterett was inside me on the buoy and Muncey and Miss U.S. were alongside me on the other side.
"We usually go into that first turn at about 130 miles an hour. I looked at my instruments and saw we were doing 150. I'm not chicken, but I backed off. That's too fast for an old boat like mine.
"Then Muncey backed off, too. But that dang Sterett just kept going and he never let up. At one time I saw his Chrysler Crew standing right up on her tail."
Chrysler Crew averaged 100.671 for the 15 miles as he beat Miss U.S. by a mile with Miss Lapeer another half-mile back. Miss Madison blew an engine and Bill Schumacher's starter on Miss Bardahl broke and would not start.
In the re-draw, Chrysler Crew was thrown right back in with Miss U.S., Bardahl, Madison and Chuck Hickling's Harrah's Club, last year's national champion and Gold Cup winner.
This time Sterett needed only a 102.5 mph lap on the second time around to shake his rivals and he beat Harrah's Club by a quarter of a mile. Miss Bardahl was third and Miss U.S. finished fourth with a broken magneto.
That put Chrysler Crew in the final heat with unbeaten My Gypsy, which had bested Notre Dame and the rest of the fleet in her two elimination heats.
Buy no one was about to stay with Chrysler Crew Sunday. Sterett's final heat was his easiest, cruising in at 99.155, a mile ahead of Miss Gypsy and another mile ahead of Probe and Notre Dame.
Sterett's boat is the smallest and lightest in the fleet. His engines have only 426 cubic inches to the Rolls Royce's 1,650 and the Allison's 1,710.
He was the national seven-litre champion with his Chrysler powered Crazy Thing when he convinced the Chrysler Corp. to sponsor a "blown-up" version Gold Cupper for him.
Californian Keith Black set the engines up, each valued at $6,000. Sterett has four sets ready to go. He owns the boat, Chrysler the engines.
The victory was worth $10,100 to Sterett.
Rough water, especially at the Belle Isle Bridge end of the course, kept the speeds down. All the drivers, including Sterett and the other frontrunners, complained of the rolling swells along the Detroit shoreline.
Ranger credited the heavy seas with helping him win his two heats against Notre Dame.
"McCormick had more boat speed and beat me to the starting line twice," Ranger said. "But man, his boat was flying all over the place. He hit a hole off the Whittier Hotel and I had to look up to the bottom of his boat when I went by him.
"Notre Dame must have been 15 feet off the water. I could have counted the rivets on its bottom."
Rough water took a heavy tool in equipment. Bill Cantrell's Miss Smirnoff was knocked out of the race in a pre-race warmup.
In addition to Miss Madison, Miss Budweiser, Harrah's Club, Mariner Too, and Savair's Probe blew engines.
Miss U.S. and Atlas Van Lines limped into the pits.
The race was a crowd-pleaser with the battles for field positions behind the leaders. Bob Fendler's Wayfarer beat Bob Miller in Savair's Probe right at the finish line for third place in the first elimination heat.
In the sixth elimination heat, Red Loomis moved from third to first and Gardner brought Miss Lapeer from fourth to second.
Loomis roared back to win the Horace E. Dodge Memorial race by beating Wayfarers Club, Atlas Van Lines, Harrah's Club and Miss Smirnoff.
The race was blessed without a mishap, although Ranger suffered a bruised chin when he hit the windshield during the final heat.
1. Chrysler Crew 1,200
2. My Gypsy 1,100
3. Notre Dame, Savair's Probe 769
5. Savair's Mist 625
6. Miss Lapeer and Miss Wickman 525
8. Miss U.S. 469
9. Wayfarer 394
10.Harrah's Club 300
11.Atlas Van Lines 296
12.Miss Bardahl 225.
(Reprinted from Detroit Free Press July 3, 1967)