1988 Season Summary
|1.||June 5||Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Championship||Miami, Florida|
|2.||June 12||Budweiser Thunderboat Championship||Detroit, Michigan|
|3.||June 26||Budweiser's Thunder on the Ohio APBA Gold Cup||Evansville, Indiana|
|4.||July 3||Budweiser Indiana Governor's Cup||Madison, Indiana|
|5.||July 16||Miller High Life Thunderboat Classic||Syracuse, New York|
|6.||July 31||Budweiser Columbia Cup||Pasco, Washington|
|7.||August 7||Seafair Budweiser Cup||Seattle, Washington|
|8.||September 18||Miller High Life Thunderboat Regatta||San Diego, California|
|9.||September 25-26||Budweiser Las Vegas Silver Cup||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|6/5||Oh Boy! Oberto (6)||Jim Harvey||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Rolls Merlin|
|6/12||Miller High Life||Danny Walters||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Lycoming|
|6/26||Miss Circus Circus (4)||Arty Ross||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Lycoming|
|7/3||Mr. Pringle's (2)||Dan Heye||Jones-Heye||Jones-Heye||Lycoming|
|7/16||Miss Budweiser (17)||Ron Brown||Jones-Brown||Jones-Brown||Lycoming|
|7/31||Miss Budweiser (17)||Ron Brown||Jones-Brown||Jones-Brown||Lycoming|
|8/7||Miss Budweiser (17)||Ron Brown||Jones-Brown||Jones-Brown||Lycoming|
|9/18||Oh Boy! Oberto (6)||Jim Harvey||Jim Lucero||Jim Lucero||Rolls Merlin|
|9/25||Miss Budweiser (17)||Ron Brown||Jones-Brown||Jones-Brown||Lycoming|
|Built||Boat High Points||Total||Team High Points|
|1.||(1987)||Miss Budweiser (17)||8394||(1-8821)|
|2.||(1988)||Mr. Pringle's (2)||7794||(2)|
|3.||(1982)||Oh Boy! Oberto (6)||6826||(3)|
|4.||(1987)||Miller High Life (2)||5919||(4)|
|6.||(1979)||Miss Paddock Pools||3790||(8)|
|7.||(1984)||Miss Circus Circus (5)||3425||(9)|
|8.||(1984)||PocketSavers Plus (1)||3330||(6-4024)|
|10.||(1973)||Holset Miss Madison (1)||2528||(5-4245)|
|11.||(1988)||Holset Miss Madison (3)
|12.||(1988)||Holset Miss Madison (2)||1027||—|
|13.||(1982)||Miss Rock KISW-FM (3)
PocketSavers Plus (2)
|14.||(1988)||Miss Stroh Light||789||(12)|
|15.||(1984)||Miss Budweiser (16)||427||—|
|16.||(1980)||Pietro Pizza (2)||394||(13)|
|17.||(1984)||Miss Mid Mark||127||(15)|
|18.||(1984)||U.S. West Cellular||000||—|
|Driver High Points||Total|
|14.||Jack Schafer Jr.||394|
In a move to concentrate power in those who contributed most to Unlimited Racing the Unlimited Contest Board was replaced by a Board of Directors 16 strong. Under the previous scheme, an owner with a small investment would have as much power as an owner with a large one. Thus individuals prepared to make a large commitment would be discouraged from entering the sport.
For a number of years advocates of auto power had sought to enter Unlimited Racing. They had been daunted since the turbines they would race against had too favorable a power to weight ratio to allow them to compete. How turbines would be required to be significantly heavier to encourage auto power participation.
Miss Budweiser had won the High Point Championship in 1987, but went over twice. In the off season the Budweiser team had made a move to eliminate their hull's flying tendencies by allowing the air underneath the boat to spill out more easily.
Fran Muncey would run two boats for two different sponsors in 1988. Primary would be last year's Gold Cup champion which would run as Miller High Life. It would not have an enclosed cockpit due to complications in balancing the hull.
The Miller that made her debut in 1987 and was pretty much of a failure would be Miss Circus Circus. This was due to the fact that John Prevost's four auto engined hull did not work out. Prevost had the Circus sponsorship and needed a representative entry. Muncey, who had received significant help in 1987 from Prevost and his crew chief Artie Ross, returned the favor in offering her #2 hull.
Steve Woomer lost his sponsor of 1987 and would run only at selected regattas in 1988. Larry Lauterbach, one of the great Grand Prix drivers, continued in the seat with Jim Lucero as crew chief. Like Miller High Life an argument could be made that te-10 was as fast as Budweiser - albeit a rather tenuous one.
A new kid on the block with regard to potential contenders was Mr. Pringles. The hull was new, had Ron Jones sponsons like the Budweiser, and a major commitment from Duncan Hines. Owner Bill Wurster had come up through the ranks as had driver Scott Pierce. The duo had won two races with inferior equipment.
Another newcomer was Richie Sutphen, who had purchased Steve Woomer's backup hull - the former high flying Pay 'n Pak - which had been modified to have a deeply recessed bow as the major contenders. Mike Hanson would do the driving. Like Steve Woomer, Sutphen's boat was unsponsored.
In the opening regatta at Miami an accident occurred that well could have been fatal to Budweiser driver Jim Kropfeld but for the enclosed cockpit. In the final heat Miss Budweiser headed into the initial turn and then swapped ends right in the path of Mr. Pringles who drove over the Budweiser. Both drivers survived. Scott Pierce was to drive the next weekend, however Budweiser's Jim Kropfeld was out for the season having to wear a medical halo for his injured neck.
The other turbines were unable to start the re-run and the Rolls-Merlin powered Oh Boy! Oberto,owned by Jim Harvey, was able to prevail over Holset Miss Madison. The Oberto was the former Squire Shop purchased from Bob Steil. It began its career as the 1982 Atlas Van Lines.
Bernie Little, Budweiser owner, was in a bad way. He had lost his #1 hull for a race and his champion driver Jim Kropfeld for the season. He then hired Tom D'Eath to replace Kropfeld and brought back his 1986 hull for the one regatta.
D'Eath had won races in the Miss U.S. and Squire Shop although he had never really had a top ride. At the time he was viewed as a driver with untapped potential.
For the next regatta at Detroit, Miss Circus Circus and Steve Woomer's Competition Specialties joined the sub Miss Budweiser, Miller High Life, Mr. Pringles and Sutphen Spirit to give the Motor City a full compliment of six turbines. Miller High Life had speed on the field and won all three of her heats to annex the Budweiser Thunderboat Championship.
The sub Bud had handling problems, Miss Circus Circus failed to qualify and Mr. Pringles suffered mechanical woes. Sutphen Spirit and Competition Specialties could not run with Miller High Life. Heading into the Gold Cup at Evansville Miller High Life was the favorite although the repaired Miss Budweiser was probably faster. Budweiser's Tom D'Eath had won the Gold Cup before. The other turbines just didn't rate.
Miss Budweiser easily won heat 1-A and Miller High Life was put out of the race due to a collision damaging her tail fin. In heat 2-A virtually the same thing happened to Miller teammate Miss Circus Circus. Miss Budweiser won heat 2-B posting a lap of 138 m.p.h. - 6 m.p.h. better than Circus Circus' best.
Then owner Fran Muncey made the decision to replace John Prevost in Miss Circus Circus with Chip Hanauer for the balance of the contest. Prevost had distinguished himself in the limiteds, but had never done the same in the Unlimiteds. On the other hand Chip Hanauer had won numerous Unlimited events.
In heat 3-B Budweiser and Circus Circus met. At this point Miss Circus Circus was #8 in points and needed all she could get to enter the six boat final heat. Miss Budweiser overwhelmed Circus Circus on the first lap by 14 m.p.h. to lead by six seconds. In the next lap Budweiser blew over ending her bid for the Gold Cup. Miss Circus Circus easily took the re-run to make it into the championship heat.
The other turbines in the final - Mr. Pringles and Sutphen Spirit now an ersatz Miss Budweiser - were five m.p.h. short of Miss Circus Circus. As a result it was Chip Hanauer's race to lose. Hanauer did not lose it and in the minds of some chalked up his seventh consecutive Gold Cup. However he, had to share the spotlight with John Prevost without whose first heat points Miss Circus Circus would not have made the final heat.
Prior to the Madison Regatta’no entry had been able to defeat the 1987 Miss Budweiser in boat to boat competition. Miller High Life was the leading candidate to turn the trick being her main challenger last year. Fortunately for the sport there were five turbines within 3½ m.p.h. of each other for the Indiana Governor's Cup. The Hughes Plan would be the format for the race.
Miss Budweiser, who had gone over three times in her career, was run conservatively at Madison and was defeated by Miller High Life in heat 2-A. She entered the championship heat along with the Miller, Pringles, Competition Specialties, and Miss Circus Circus.
In the heat's first running Competition Specialties and Circus Circus dueled up the initial backstretch. Then in the battle for first place Competition Specialties on the inside got caught in Circus Circus' roostertail, which resulted in the heat being stopped.
In the re-run Miss Budweiser got out in front and led until the fourth lap when Miller American took over first place. However Miller slowed coming off the last corner of the final lap and Miss Budweiser and then Mr. Pringles went by. Miss Budweiser had 25 seconds on Mr. Pringles, but was penalized a lap for bearing out on Miller High Life in lap three. Hence Mr. Pringles won the race. Miss Circus Circus was late at the start and ran last all the way.
Syracuse was next and Bernie Little had not captured his first victory of the year. This situation was remedied when Miss Budweiser swept all three heats.
Miss Budweiser beat Miss Circus Circus twice in the preliminary heats. Miller High Life had nothing but trouble in the elimination heats, however she made the final anyway when it was re-run. In the initial running Budweiser was clearly out in front of Pringles when the third place Sutphen Spirit executed a classic blowover which halted the heat.
Miss Budweiser prevailed in the re-run., although Miller High Life, recovering from a bad start, was only 100 yards back at the finish. Miss Circus Circus, who had challenged Budweiser during the first lap, was third.
At the Tri-Cities Miss Budweiser had four m.p.h. on the field, but was given a hard battle in heat 1-A by Miller High Life until the Fran Muncey entry went dead in the water. Miller failed to start her heat two and thus missed the final.
Miller driver Chip Hanauer then switched to the Circus Circus again and gave Budweiser all she could handle in the championship heat failing to win the regatta by one second. This performance established a parity between the Fran Muncey contenders. Vantage Ultra (Steve Woomer landed a sponsor) and Mr. Pringles were not quite as fast as the Muncey contenders when driven by Chip Hanauer.
Miss Budweiser took on Miller High Life in all three heats at Seattle and triumphed each time. In the last heat Miller came off the last turn with Budweiser, but driver Chip Hanauer again fell one second short. Mr. Pringles had turned a lap within one m.p.h. of the best Miss Budweiser could muster, however she was fourth in the final heat behind Miss Circus Circus.
For the Miller High Life Regatta at San Diego the Miller became Circus Circus and the Miss Circus Circus became Miller High Life. This was done to facilitate the installation of an enclosed cockpit on the "new" Miss Circus Circus. The problem was a Miller High Life had to be in Milwaukee and there was not enough time to send the original Miller to Milwaukee and install an enclosed cockpit before San Diego.
It was a good thing this safety capsule had been installed or else driver John Prevost might have been killed. No one ever imagined that a blowover would surpass the spectacle of Slo-mo-shun V in 1955, however in heat 1-B at San Diego not one but two boats went over almost simultaneously in pursuing the leading Oh Boy! Oberto. In addition to the Circus Circus the new Holset Miss Madison was involved.
The race was an anti-climax after this. All the turbines had trouble and Oh Boy! Oberto won her second regatta of the season. Nevertheless Mr. Pringles posted the fastest lap which turned out to be a course record by two m.p.h.
Miss Budweiser had an 852 High Point lead on Mr. Pringles before the final event of the year at Las Vegas. Consequently Budweiser was driven conservatively and lost two heats before the championship heat. At this point Miller High Life had won all three of her preliminary heats. Vantage Ultra and Mr. Pringles had also won elimination heats.
Mr. Pringles had beaten Miss Budweiser in heat 3-A and although the Boat High Points had been determined in the latter's favor, Pringles driver Scott Pierce was only 69 points behind Bud pilot Tom D'Eath for the driving championship. If Pierce could defeat D'Eath in the final heat in a sufficiently high position, he would have the championship.
Before the start of the crucial final heat heading up the back-stretch Pringles was in lane one. Miller in lane two and Miss Budweiser in lane 3. Suddenly Budweiser dove to the inside wetting down Miller High Life and taking lane one from Mr. Pringles. All referees and course judges were unfortunately not in a position to see the incident thus it was unclear whether Budweiser had the required five lengths to move over. The video of the incident was also inconclusive.
Thereafter Miss Budweiser won the heat by 10 seconds over Vantage Ultra. Mr. Pringles was second until the last turn when she had to go wide to avoid a trailing boat and Vantage was able to sneak by for the runner-up position. Needless to say Tom D'Eath won the driving championship. He had the fastest competition lap of the regatta by four m.p.h. over Mr. Pringles.
[Statistics and comments from Greene, V.2]