2000 Season Summary
|1.||May 20-21||Empire Power Mohave Hydrofest||Lake Havasu City, Arizona|
|2.||June 25||Budweiser Thunder on The Ohio||Evansville, Indiana|
|3.||July 2||Belterra Indiana Governor's Cup||Madison, Indiana|
|4.||July 8-9||Chrysler Jeep A.P.B.A. Gold Cup||Detroit, Michigan|
|5.||July 29-30||Budweiser Columbia Cup||Kennewick, Washington|
|6.||August 6||Seafair General Motors Cup||Seattle, Washington|
|7.||September 16-17||Bayfair Bill Muncey Cup||San Diego, California|
|5/21||Miss Budweiser (20)||Mark Smith||Brown-Jones||Ron Brown||Lycoming||2 Miles||28 Miles|
|6/25||Miss Budweiser (23)||Mark Smith||Dave Villwock||Mark Smith||Lycoming||2 Miles||28 Miles|
|7/2||Miss Budweiser (22)||Mark Smith||Leland-Villwock||Ron Brown||Lycoming||2½ Miles||35 Miles|
|7/9||Miss Budweiser (22)||Mark Smith||Leland-Villwock||Ron Brown||Lycoming||2½ Miles||42½ Miles|
|7/30||Miss E-Lam Plus (2)||Erick Ellstom||Leland-Dryden||Tom Ellstrom||Lycoming||2½ Miles||35 Miles|
|8/6||Miss Budweiser (22)||Mark Smith||Leland-Villwock||Ron Brown||Lycoming||2 Miles||28 Miles|
|9/17||Miss Budweiser (22)||Mark Smith||Leland-Villwock||Ron Brown||Lycoming||2½ Miles||35 Miles|
|Built||Boat High Points||Total||Team High Points|
|3;||(1997)||Miss Budweiser (22)||5731||(1-9576)|
|4.||(1990)||Appian Jeronimo (4)||5591||(3)|
|5.||(1995)||Miss E-Lam Plus (2)||5543||C||(5-5318)|
|6.||(1988)||Oh! Boy! Oberto (9)||5103||(6)|
|11.||(1988)||Llumar Window Film||3232||G||(10-3137)|
|16.||(1997)||New Kid In Town||750||(13)|
|Penalty points deducted:
A - 400
B - 300
C - 225
A - 600
E - 996
F - 596
G - 95
H - 296
|Driver High Points||Total|
In 1997 Bernie Little hired Dave Villwock to drive Miss Budweiser and run his team. That year with Villwock driving Budweiser won 80% of their races. The next season Villwock and Budweiser also captured 80% of the events scheduled. Last year against Chip Hanauer and Pico, Dave and Bernie were in the winner's circle 66% of the time -- overall they were 73% against the Miss Picos. In contrast with Dave Villwock out of the cockpit in the last half of the 1997 season Budweiser only won 20% of the regattas entered.
Pico was purchased by FIAT in the fall of 1999. FIAT did not share Pico's enthusiasm for Unlimited racing and cancelled Fred Leland's sponsorship. Chip Hanauer, who depended on Pico's technological support to Team Leland, decided to withdraw as driver when this technological assistance was no longer the factor it was before.
Fred Leland decided to move his #2 chauffeur Greg Hopp into Hanauer's vacant seat. Hopp had shown potential in 1999, but had made losing mistakes in several final heats. As a result it was certainly possible that Budweiser had an overwhelming advantage heading into 2000. All of their chief antagonists during the 90's had either lost their sponsorship or quit the sport.
In 1999 except in the Gold Cup the U.H.R.A. made an attempt to equalize the competition by requiring a consecutive winner to start in lane two, a threepeater to lane three and so on. By their own account this did not work as planned although 1999 was a more competive season than 1997 or 1998.
Now a winning boat would lose .1 gallon per minute in fuel for each contest in which they triumphed. A loss would correspondingly regain .1 gallon per minute. The lane penalty rule had been abrogated.
Four races of 1999 dropped off the circuit. They were: Honolulu (10 years on the schedule), Kelowna (4 years), Norfolk (3 years) and Barrie, Ontario (1 year). Four events had gone away before over the winter in 1991 and 1961.
The season started on Lake Havasu. Budweiser brought their 1995 boat - Turbine III [T3] - to the line. Fred Leland countered with the former Pico 98 which had three m.p.h. on Pico 96 and another two m.p.h. on Pico 99. Budweiser had five m.p.h. on the field and won all heats easily. Leland's entry ran as Project X.
In 1962 Miss U.S. 1 - not an especially competitive boat at the time - set a mile record of 200..449 m.p.h. She made one pass at 204.550 m.p.h. In 1966 Tahoe Miss and Miss Budweiser tried to top this record on Lake Tahoe and failed. Three years later the outrigger Pay N' Pak made an unsuccessful attempt at the mile in Guntersville. Then Jim McCormick's Red Man could not get the job done at the same site in 1974. Finally Miss Budweiser flipped at Seattle in 1979 trying to eclipse Miss U.S.'s 200 m.p.h.
For 20 consecutive seasons no one even tried to set a new mile record, which at one time was the greatest achievment in motorboat racing. Then this year Miss Freei came along. Owner Ken Muscatel wanted to give his sponsor the publicity of setting the mile record as he toured the circuit for the races of 2000.
Miss Freei had been built for the 1999 season. Her design was a collaboration between Fred Leland and builder Rick Campbell. The closest she could get to the leaders was 16 m.p.h. and the new Ken Muscatel entry did not have a reputation as a particularly good riding hull.
Nevertheless off Sand Point - the same locale as Slo-mo-shun IV made her 160 m.p.h. run in 1950 and Hawaii Kai III her record of 187 m.p.h. in 1957 - on June 15 Miss Freei set out for her rendezvous with destiny. After a day of rough water Miss Freei, driven by rookie Russ Wicks, got her chance on a smooth course one hour before the sanction would expire.
The first run through the trap from south to north produced a speed of 207.735 m.p.h. The return run was timed at 203.735 m.p.h. The average was 205.494. m.p.h. - five m.p.h. better than the Miss U.S. I of 38 years ago. With short courses of 2 and 2½ miles the Unlimiteds of 2000 did not need the straightaway speed of those of so long ago that ran on at least three mile ovals. This would account for some of the reason that the U.S. record stood for so long - in fact the longest tenure of any record in motorboat racing history.
Nine days later the triumphant Miss Freei arrived at Evansville to do battle with nine other teams for Thunder-On-The-Ohio. Reverting to form Miss Freei was 14 m.p.h. behind the leader during the regatta.
Fred Leland, now sponsored by Znetix, brought out his new hull, which was similar to his most recent designs, but lighter having a cockpit set off to the left. Budweiser also had a new entry - Turbine VI [T6] - which resembled Turbine V - however having a differently configured afterplane not as easily handicaped by reduced horsepower.
Miss Budweiser 2000 at 4.2 gallon per minute still had the fastest lap of the Evansville regatta leading the field by three m.p.h. as opposed to 5 m.p.h. at Havasu. She won all her heats to capture the Thunder-On-The-Ohio trophy. The new Znetix was her closest competition losing elimination heats to Budweiser by about 2 seconds and then the final by six seconds.
Fred Leland's Znetix was cited for a flagrant fuel violation and decided to skip the next two regattas. This left the door wide open for Miss Budwieiser 1997 that was to run at Madison. She would be down to 4.1 gallon per minute for the event. Still she posted the fastest lap of the regatta by three m.p.h. taking all her heats to annex the Indiana Governor's Cup.
As mentioned the fuel flow restriction did not apply to the Gold Cup at Detroit. Miss Budweiser 1997 was at full fuel, but curiously was 2 m.p.h. slower than Kim Gregory's Appian Jeronimo 2000 and Jim Harvey's Miss Chrysler Jeep. Nevertheless Miss Budweiser again triumphed in all her heats by a clear margin to win yet another Gold Cup for Bernie Little. This was Budweiser's tenth consecutive win breaking the old record of nine by Bill Muncey in 1979.
Budweiser was down to 3.9 gallons per minute for the Tri-Cities as a consequence of all her success. Bernie Little therefore chose Turbine VI - Miss Budweiser 2000 - as his standard bearer as this hull was built for less horsepower.
At the Tri-Cities there were five boats within four m.p.h. of each other - contending range. They were in order Appian Jeronimo the former #2 Woomer hull built in 1990), Znetix I, York International ( the former #1 Woomer hull built in 1987), Miss Budweiser and Madison's Oh Boy Oberto. All except Miss Budweiser were victorious in the preliminary heats. Budweiser in heat 2-A was rammed by Miss Freei and crashed into Mike Jones' Miss Go Bowling. This put Miss Budweiser out of the running. Some said due to her fuel flow restriction she didn't have the acceleration to get out of the way of the errant Miss Freei.
Thus the favorites for the final heat were Znetix I and Appian Jeronimo 2000. Three m.p.h. back in the next echelon were York International and Oh Boy Oberto.
Znetix and York got off plane before the start and were disqualified. Znetix I, however, was in front all the way closely pursued by Miss E-Lam Plus, who got the checkered flag. E-Lam might have beaten Znetix cold if she had not backed off after learning of the disqualification. During the Columbia Cup Mark Evans and Miss E-Lam Plus had gotten the better of superior or equal entries -- Appian Jeronimo and Oh Boy Oberto.
For Seattle's Seafair General Motors Cup the competition became more intense with five boats within three m.p.h. of each other. Znetix I, Miss Budweiser 1997, Miss E-Lam Plus, Znetix II (ex Pico 9 ) and Jim Harvey's Freddie's Club comprised the top contenders for Seattle. Miss Budweiser at 3,9 gallons per minute at the Tri-Cities had lost her first boat to boat competition. She would have 4.0 for Seafair.
Of the contenders again all except Miss Budweiser won preliminary heats. All except Freddie's Club made the chanpionship heat.
Znetix I, the fastest boat in the field, got inside at the start, nevertheless she was wet down in the first turn. In contrast Miss Budweiser in lane two got a good start and led out of the initial corner. She had about 5 m.p.h. on the second place Miss Go Bowling and exploited this advantage to win the time honored Seafair Trophy.
Death visited the Unlimiteds in San Diego after staying away for 18 years. Many potential accidents had been averted due to the safety capsule that first appeared on an Unlimited in 1985. Yet in 1993 the capsule shattered on the Winston Eagle when she went over at Seattle. Luckily driver Mark Tate escaped with his life.
The same thing happened when Appian Jeronimo 2000 blew over on a test run the morning of the second day of the San Diego regatta. Driver George Stratton was not so lucky and died instantly. George Stratton was a rookie, but was looked upon as having good potential as an Unlimited driver. He was a contender at the Tri-Cities and finished second in the final heat.
The Turbine V Miss Budweiser was down to 3.9 gallons tor San Diego as Turbine VI was at the Tri-Cities. Again there were five boats within four m.p.h. of each other - Miss Budweiser, Miss E-Lam Plus, Mike Jones' Sun Harbor (Coors Dry sponsons with a new center section), Znetix I and Oh Boy Oberto. Three of these entries won elimination heats, yet Miss Budweiser - who posted the fastest lap of the regatta - was not one of them. Miss E-Lam Plus and Sun Harbor appeared the most promising contenders in the determinative heat as each had taken two preliminaries.
Once more Miss Budweiser driven by Dave Villwock made a great start inside his major opposition and was ahead at the end of the first lap. Thereafter Miss Budweiser improved her position and defeated Sun Harbor by four seconds.
At the end of the season Miss Budweiser 2000 was rated at 148.3 m.p.h. for a 2½ mile competition lap with Budweiser 1997 coming in at 148.0. Other contending entries during the season were: Appian Jeronimo 151.8, Znetix I 151.5, Freddie's Club 149.0, York International 148.6, Oh Boy Oberto 147.1, and Miss E-Lam Plus 147.0. Seven of the 13 teams were within contending distance of each other at various imes during the year, yet the Budweisers - not the fastest boats out there won six of the seven regattas. For the first time in his long career Bernie Little had come within one victory of the perfect season like Bill Muncey in 1962, 1972 and 1978. Perhaps the restricted Bernie Little was at his very best in 2000.
[Statistics from David Greene]