1996 Las Vegas Exhibition (no points)
Not the Goat Anymore
Chip Hanauer used to say that unlimited hydroplane racing was the easiest sport in which to go from a hero to a goat rapidly. Lately, the more likely scenario has been to go from goat to hero. Today, at the exhibition stop on Ralph's Thunder Tour 1996 Presented by Las Vegas, Mike Hanson accomplished that transition in the DeWALT Tools by holding off Mark Evans in the Miss Budweiser in a three-lap sprint on Lake Mead, just northeast of Boulder City NV.
Running out of lane 2, Hanson led nearly the entire distance, establishing a solid lead coming out of the first turn and then fending off a challenge from Mark Evans in the T-5 version of the Bud. Just last week, the DeWALT had been upside down after a very bizarre incident in which the yellow boat spun out of control. Upon returning to the beach, a nearly out-of-breath Hanson said little more than, "It feels a LOT better," before returning to work in the pit area. The DeWALT wounded its left sponson once more in the victory, peeling off some of the repaired skin.
Scott Pierce used his inside lane to run third in the U-99 Miss Vons, while Dave Villwock came back after a late start to finish fourth in the older PICO American Dream. Mark Tate, in the backup Smokin' Joe's (which has not appeared in any sort of competition since Kansas City in 1992 when it ran dubbed as the Winston Select) stayed with the Budweiser for about three-quarters of a lap before kiting badly and changing to a conservative run, ending up fifth.
The exhibition went off about a half-hour early because winds in excess of 20 mph had necessitated the cancellation of the Formula I qualifying session. The winds had died a little when the unlimiteds took to the course, but whitecaps were still visible.
Mark Evans may have run a solid race in nearly catching Hanson from the outside just as he did pass Mark Tate in the Smokin' Joe's last week in San Diego, but he had trouble returning to the pits. Unable to find the fuel shut-off valve, he nearly ran in to the beach, and in fact only the rudder digging in to the bottom of Lake Mead kept him from beaching. The rudder was damaged in the incident.
Relatively few fans were on hand at the National Recreation Area, but they all seemed to suddenly perk up when the unlimiteds took to the course, even for testing. After a half-decade hiatus, the fans of unlimited hydroplane racing haven't left the desert.
PLEASE NOTE: All times are estimated. The course has not been surveyed as an official 1.5 mile course, and there is no start/finish buoy per se.
SATURDAY EXHIBITION (2:00) (3 Laps Due to Poor Water Conditions) Ln Boat # Name Driver Pos Speed (Unofficial) 2 U-6 DeWALT Tools Mike Hanson 1 93.906 3 U-1 Miss Budweiser (T-5) Mark Evans 2 93.302 # 1 U-99 Miss Vons Scott Pierce 3 90.817 5 U-100 PICO American Dream (L-2) Dave Villwock 4 88.166 4 U-10 Smokin' Joe's (Backup) Mark Tate 5 78.989 # - Fast Lap: U-1 (2nd), 94.182 mph MORNING TEST LOG (Session started about 11:20) Again, please note all times are unofficial... U-99 115.859 120.160 U-100 121.196 L-2 Hull (ID 9399) 119.205 U-6 122.150 104.651 U-10 122.116 Backup Hull (ID 9010) 121.149 99.053 U-1 122.482 T-5 Hull (ID 9601) 122.615 109.890 ESTIMATED SCHEDULE FOR SUNDAY (Subject to serious change) 8:00am- 8:30am Formula 1 Drivers Meeting, Lake Mead 9:00am- 9:45am Formula 1 Consolation Race, 10 laps 10:00am-10:45pm Formula 1 Semifinals, 15 laps 11:00am-11:45am Unlimited Hydroplane Testing 1:00pm- 2:00pm Formula 1 Final, 30 laps 2:30pm Unlimited Hydroplane Exhibition 3:00pm Awards Ceremony 7:30pm Formula Cocktail Hour, Showboat Hotel 8:30pm Formula Year-End Banquet, Showboat Hotel