1988 Budweiser Columbia Cup
Unlimiteds' Points Battle Heating Up
Crews Aim For Races Here
Just like their celestial counterparts, the real stars of the 1988 unlimited hydroplane season do their most spectacular work at night.
Crew Chiefs Dan Heye of U-8 Mr. Pringle's and Ron Brown of U-1 Miss Budweiser rarely get the glory or the headlines, but they are the main reasons why their boats top the national points standings as the unlimited fleet comes to Washington.
Sixteen boats are expected for Sunday's Columbia Cup on the Columbia River, the first of two races on Washington waters. Qualifying begins tomorrow and is through Saturday. The Seafair race is Aug. 7 on Lake Washington, with qualifying next Thursday and Friday.
While it's unlikely the national points title will be settled in the Northwest races, the Pringle's and Budweiser teams will battle for every point.
"We're in the second half of the season," said Heye. "Every race, every heat will be important. These two (Pasco and Seattle) will set the tone for what's to come."
Mechanics, not drivers, took center stage during the unlimiteds' Eastern stops, where blowovers and collisions marred the first five races of the season.
Five different boats have won this season, a stark contrast to the previous two years when the Budweiser and Miller teams won all but two races. This year, Chip Hanauer is the only driver who has won more than one race, but he needed two boats to do it.
He won the June 12 race in Detroit driving U-00 Miller High Life, then drove a patched-up U-31 Miss Circus Circus to his seventh straight Gold Victory June 26 in Evansville, Ind.
Mechanics on the unlimited circuit have had almost as many after-hours rebuilding jobs this summer as midnight auto supply.
Heye, 32, and his crew had to work overtime on major damage after their boat collided with Miss Budweiser in the championship final of the Miami race.
Brown and the Bud team have "rebuilt" their boat twice, after the Miami collision and after a blowover during the Gold Cup.
Mr. Pringle's, a new boat completed just before the start of the season, has a 254-point lead over the Budweiser with four races remaining. After Pasco and Seattle, the action will shift to San Diego (Sept. 18) and Las Vegas (Sept. 24).
U-2 Oh Boy! Oberto is within striking distance, 518 points behind Mr. Pringle's, but the piston-powered boat would need major collapses by the turbine-propelled leaders.
Despite a victory in the July 3 Indiana Governor's Cup race, Heye said the Miami accident set back the team's development plans.
"We're still getting over that. It cost us a lot of equipment and time," he said. "But the Budweiser's in the same position.
They've had to rebuild twice. We expect them to come out shooting."
Last year, Budweiser driver Jim Kropfeld set one-lap course qualifying and race records over the fast 2½-mile Columbia River layout.
Kropfeld, who has not raced since suffering a neck injury in Miami, fired off a 155.172 mph qualifying lap and 146.460 race lap en route to winning last year's Columbia Cup.
Tom D'Eath, who replaced Kropfeld after his injury, piloted the Bud to victory in Syracuse, N.Y., July 17.
Both teams are anxious for face-to-face competition in the remaining races and figure luck will determine the national point winner.
"It comes down to the luck of the draw," said Brown. "We need to draw them in our heats and beat them."
Heye said, "If we are just splitting the points (by running in separate preliminary heats), we can't gain any ground on them. In order to win the national title, we need to race them and beat them."
Both teams enjoyed the two-week lull between the Syracuse and Pasco regattas.
|1988 HYDRO WINNERS
-- June 5 (Miami) - U-2 Oh Boy! Oberto, George Woods.
-- June 12 (Detroit) - U-00 Miller High Life, Chip Hanauer.
-- June 26 (Gold Cup, Evansville, Ind.) - U-31 Miss Circus Circus, Hanauer.
-- July 3 (Madison, Ind.) - U-8 Mr. Pringle's, Scott Pierce.
-- July 17 (Syracuse, N.Y.) - U-1 Miss Budweiser, Tom D'Eath
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, July 27, 1988)