1968 APBA Gold Cup
Bardahl Wins; Gardner Badly Hurt as Eagle Flips
Gold Cup Driver Undergoes 2-Hour Operation
DETROIT — (Special) — Warner Gardner today was listed as "extremely critical" following a two-hour operation at the Detroit General Hospital.
Gardner, 52, was injured seriously yesterday when his unlimited-hydroplane, Miss Eagle Electric, exploded on the Detroit River during the Gold Cup race. The hydro suddenly became airborne, flipped on its side and disintegrated as it smacked against the water.
Billy Schumacher of Seattle, who successfully defended his Gold Cup championship driving Miss Bardahl, started to make an effort to help rescue Gardner until he saw a Coast Guard amphibious helicopter swooping in to pluck the unconscious driver from the river.
"I got out of the way in a hurry. I knew they could be of more help to Warner than I could," Schumacher said.
After a delay for regrouping of boats, the third and championship heat in which Gardner and Schumacher had been dueling was rerun.
Gardner's son, Warren, Jr., 17, a member of the Eagle Electric pit crew was among the 70,000 spectators who saw the spectacular crash.
It occurred on the opposite side of the river from where Chuck Thompson, veteran Detroit driver, was injured fatally when his boat disintegrated during the 1966 race.
Miss Bardahl, winner of the first two heats, had a tussle when the accident occurred. Miss Budweiser, with Bill Sterrett of Owensboro, Ky., at the wheel, was in the lead in the third heat. Gardner was running second, with Schumacher in third position and fighting to get back into the race.
Unlimited hydroplane officials were at a loss to explain just what did happen to Gardner's boat. It seemed to lift into the air and flipped on its side into the river while traveling an estimated 130 miles an hour.
The planking on the deck was stripped off and the tail-fins were torn loose and smashed into pieces.
Gardner was tossed clear and landed on his back unconscious in the water.
Dr. Sinclair Finch of Detroit, medical consultant for the American Power Boat Association, said Gardner suffered severe left chest and head injuries.
"Seven ribs on the left side were fractured. But that does not worry us as much as the head injury, which is of some magnitude," he said.
The injury to Gardner took some of the thrill out of the final heat, but it still wound up as a crowd pleaser when Schumacher and Sterett staged a how-to-bow duel.
The two, never more than 15 feet apart in the first six miles of the 15-mile finale, battled on even terms until the Budweiser took on some water from Schumacher's wash as the third lap started and dropped out of contention. The last two laps saw Schumacher pad his lead as he powered home to prove his prerace contention that "this race is going to be won on brute strength alone."
Schumacher picked up a $5,800 check for first place to run his boat's season earnings to $23,200 — high for the tour this year — with two more meets to go.
[September 9, 1968]