2008 Detroit APBA Gold Cup

Gold Minus Orange Equals Zero: A "No Contest" in Detroit

By Mac Clouse

The 2008 Chrysler Jeep Superstores Gold Cup in Detroit was promoted as the 100th running of the Gold Cup. The winner’s name would be engraved on the 100th oval on the Cup. The big question as the fleet arrived in Detroit was what would be the color of the winning boat? With the Ellstrom family choosing not to bring their defending National Champion orange boat to Detroit, a more competitive race was expected.

Would the winning boat this year be yellow, red, green and red, blue and yellow, green and yellow, or white with orange and blue? The answer was: none of the above! Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for the weekend. Saturday’s two heats were completed between thunderstorms, but 20 to 30 mph winds against the Detroit River’s current prevented the completion of any heats on Sunday. At 6:30 pm, race officials reluctantly surrendered to Mother Nature and declared the 2008 Gold Cup a no contest.

Testing and Qualifying

Nine boats were in Detroit to compete. Friday morning, eight were in the pits. Dave Bartush’ s locally sponsored Miss DYC/Dick Scott’s Automotive Group arrived in the afternoon after many hours of work to repair the damage to the bottom from the broken propeller in Evansville. “We were well prepared in Evansville,” said Dave. “It’s a shame the prop went; it was well under its run time. The crew worked 10 straight days, 10 to 12 hours per day, even through the July 4th holiday. We fixed it here in Detroit, and Detroit area people helped. Detroit’s interest level passed with flying colors. Normally this repair would have taken 2 months. Now we need to go out and test combinations.”

Both Formulaboats.com boats were in the pits, but not both drivers. “Mike Allen has been stuck in the Atlanta airport since 2:00 pm on Thursday,” said Team Manager Mark Hooton. “He should be here this afternoon. This morning we plan on having Jeff (Bernard) qualify both of our boats.” When asked how he was enjoying his new position as team manager, Mark said “I’m having fun. My regular job with General Motors involves organizing projects and buying parts. That’s part of what I do for the team. It’s been fun dealing with all our sponsors. Here’s something ironic. My first “crew” job was in 1997 with Jim Harvey’s U-2 (now Ken Muscatel’s boat). I scrubbed the deck and did anything they told me to do. This weekend, Jim is here working for me doing some work on our gearboxes; our roles are now reversed.”

U-5 Formula driver Jeff Bernard was coming off an impressive win in Madison. “I don’t know if that makes us the favorite here. I still don’t have much time on this river. We’re trying to get points and finish in one piece. Compared to this time last year, things are 10 times better! I’ll qualify both boats this morning. TheU-5 is more flighty; the U-7 sticks to the water more. I’ve only been in U-7 once, last year when I drove it to qualify on Friday morning.”

The Gold Cup qualifying speed is the average of 2 consecutive laps. At the end of the first round of qualifying, 3 boats had speeds. Steve David did 158.001 in Oh Boy! Oberto. Steve thought his speed would increase later. “The river’s a little sloppy this morning.” Jean Theoret did 156.326 in the Miss Beacon Plumbing, and David Bryant’s Miss Dover Environmental did 155.633. Bernard’s 153.737 in the U-5 Formula were taken away due to an N2 violation.

Kim Gregory’s boat had some changes and a new sponsor. “We changed our right side runner, like the way the new Oberto was built. None of these boats can go slow, but now we can go as slow as anyone else for the start.” The new sponsor for Detroit was Dover Environmental, a Detroit area firm that designs and implements environmental programs for hazardous waste material and removal. They also are involved in demolitions, which often have hazardous material issues. Associated with the firm is the Simon family, who owned the Miss U.S. boats.

David Bryant was pleased with his first time on the Detroit River course. “We’ll go back out soon. This was just a basic setup. We’ll get more speed. I need seat time on this river. This course is similar to Madison, but rougher. It is always important to set the boat up for the turn, but it is more important on this course. If you don’t set up right with the hydros, they come unhooked. With flat bottoms, you rolled over.”

Jimmy King took Master Tire out three times but came in each time without completing a lap. “The first two times out, we were being cautious, just checking things out. There were no major changes done over the winter that would have caused the blown engines we had in Evansville and Madison. The oil pressure is looking good. The last time out, we lost power at about 140 to 150 mph. So we’re checking that out now.”

Finally in Round 3, King took the boat out and it performed. He ended up the third fastest qualifier at 156.516. “Mr. Cooper pulled his magic. We finally got some turbos that worked. We’ll test another engine tomorrow morning.”

After an afternoon of trading the top qualifying speed, the top spot finally went to David in the Oberto at 159.888. “We still have some more speed. This was a good set up. We’re going to put more wedge in the skid fin and try a different prop.”

Theoret was second fastest at 159.150, but then shut things down due to gearbox problems. Bryant increased Dover’s speed to 156.465, and Bernard did a legal 155.340 in Formula. Bernard did not take out the U-7.

Mike Allen got to the pits at about 12:30 p.m. “I had to spend Thursday night in the Atlanta airport. My flight here was cancelled, and there was no space in the hotels. It’s nice to be here. We need to work on speed. All we’ve been doing is repairs, but everything is supposed to be ready now. We’ll see soon.” Allen qualified Formula II at 155.218, but was not happy. “The ride isn’t there. The strut is ok, and the alignment is ok, but the boat is flat and sluggish. It won’t get up and get nimble like it used to do.”

Brian Perkins qualified the U-50 Michigan Mortgage/Spirit of the Navy as Brian’s first experience on the Detroit River. “The Roostertail turn is intimidating from the beach, but it is not so bad when you are out there. Our motor is down on power, and we are working on that now. We also cracked our strut so we’re fixing it. We qualified, but we know we can be faster. We’ll try to compete with the fast guys.” Later with the help of Beacon’s crew chief Scott Raney, the Navy crew discovered a loose high pressure control for the fuel line that was preventing a full flow of fuel to the engine. When it was tightened, power went up. The original plan was for David Williams to drive this boat in the Gold Cup, but the plan changed. “I was supposed to drive,” said Williams. “But Brian is doing so well there is no reason for me to disrupt their team rhythm. Navy is okay with the decision for me not to drive. This boat is Brian’s boat now. I’ll wait 2 weeks and drive my boat (U-48) in Tri-Cities.”

Ken Muscatel’s Miss Jarvis Fire & Water Repair did a speed of 148.596 but lost it due to an N2 violation. Many hours of work were devoted to Ken’s boat over the winter. “It’s a new boat. We changed the rear end a lot. We shortened the transom, and we are now using an E-Lam-type strut. We now have a 19 inch rudder bracket instead of a 14 inch. We also shortened the right side shoe. We took 300 pounds out of the boat by removing all the extra stuff that was necessary when it was originally built as a 2-wing design. We moved the engine back 21 inches which enabled us to shorten the long shaft. We’re still searching for the ride; it’s running uphill now and it is walking from sponson to sponson.” When asked about the blue and orange color, Ken said “Those were the colors of crew chief Jay Leckrone’s shoes. We’ll add some black pin stripes later.”

Ken’s Detroit sponsor was the same as last year; Jarvis Construction is a Detroit area firm that specializes in repairs due to fire and water damage. They just received a major contract to clean up flood damage in the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Owner Bill Jarvis was excited about the sponsorship, and there were many people in Miss Jarvis's T-Shirts. “We have 300 employees and we’ve invited all of them and their friends to be here. Ken is great to work with; he is doing anything we ask. I have a deposit check for him in my pocket for next year’s sponsorship. We’re having a lot of fun.”

J. Michael Kelly and the DYC ’s only appearance on the water was late in the afternoon. DYC did one lap of 157.364 and then came in. Because it didn’t do two laps, it did not get a qualification. Kelly was pleased to be racing again. “The boat ride was great. We tested with a slower motor. We’ll switch to a faster motor and be ready to go. It was tough to miss the Madison race last week. I watched it from home on my computer; it was weird being home not able to race. We could have maybe been in Madison with a quick repair, but we wanted to do it right to be able to put on a good show in Detroit for the DYC and Dick Scott. The boat is faster this year, but we still need some testing. At Evansville, the steering was really fighting against me; my right arm had some nerve damage from the way I had to hold the steering wheel. We’ve fixed it now, and my arm is okay. We still can’t go slow. I can’t fight for the inside lane, but maybe I can leap frog some people to get lane 1.” Kelly’s opportunity to leap frog was reduced when it was announced that the starting procedure would be the same as was used in Madison. The boats could not be past the Belle Isle turn exit buoy prior to the one minute gun. Because of the shallow water at the end of the course, a boat that violated this rule would be penalized one lap; it couldn’t just cut across the course and redo the turn as was the case in Madison. The score up buoy was the entrance buoy to the Roostertail turn. After the last Friday qualifying session, race officials also announced that there would be no qualifying on Saturday morning, just testing. All heats on Saturday would be four laps, and all Sunday heats would be five laps.

Like Friday, Saturday’s temperature was in the low 80’s. However, the forecast for Saturday called for a nice morning, but afternoon thunderstorms. A sign that Saturday might not be a good day for Beacon was in one of the Detroit newspapers. On the front page of the sports section was a large, nice picture of Beacon in the Roostertail turn. However, the caption identified the boat as the “U-10 Miss Ahern Rentals driven by David Bryant.” Wrong boat, wrong sponsor, and wrong driver! Things got worse for Beacon in the morning testing. After doing one lap, Theoret shut the boat down exiting the Roostertail turn. From the pits, you could smell oil. There was oil all over the deck of the boat, and the gearbox was fried. With their other gearbox damaged on Friday, Beacon would only be able to race on Saturday if the Friday gearbox could be repaired with parts that had just arrived from Seattle.

Heat 1

Heat 1A was originally scheduled for 12:05, with 1B at 12:20. Because of the possibility of afternoon storms, officials decided to schedule 1B for 11:10 and 1A for 11:50. Since Beacon was in 1A, this would also give them a better chance to have their gearbox ready. However, Mother Nature surprised everyone.

The “afternoon storms” started at 9:50 am! Because of the storm delay, the heat was reversed to the original order with 1A at 1:10 and 1B at 1:35.

In 1A, Beacon entered the Belle Isle turn early to get lane 1. Oberto was in lane 2, Jarvis in lane 3, DYC in lane 4, and Navy in 5. Oberto crossed the starting line first, but Beacon was first in and out of the turn. At the end of lap 1, Theoret led David by one-half a roostertail. DYC was third, with Jarvis fourth, and Navy fifth. The order stayed the same for all four laps, with Beacon winning by four roostertails over Oberto. DYC was one-half a straightaway back in third, with Jarvis and Navy trailing. After crossing the finish, Theoret again shut Beacon down when he saw that he was losing oil pressure in the newly repaired gearbox; a fitting had come loose.

Theoret was happy to be able to race and to win. “The new parts for the gearbox came in this morning. We put them in the gearbox we damaged in Madison.

The crew thrashed to get it done; the rain delay helped us. I shut it down at the end, but Scott said everything is okay. I was surprised at how easy it was for me to get lane 1; Steve let me go to the Belle Isle turn by myself. Lane 1 is the only way to go if you want to win.”

David saw things a little differently. “I knew the other boats were going to be early into the Belle Isle turn so I stayed back a bit. There were three boats not on a plane in the Belle Isle turn, but no penalty calls were made.” Kelly was pleased. “We did what we wanted to do, get good points towards the final. I didn’t have any time to learn about the new start technique. I was early to the Belle Isle turn and had to do another whole lap to catch up with everyone on the backstretch for the start. I was a little stressed, but it worked out okay.”

For Muscatel, it was another opportunity for his “new” boat. “It was like a test run for us. We just haven’t had much time on the water. We’re still working on things.” In 1B, Bernard and Formula entered the Belle Isle turn very early to take lane 1; the other 3 boats were still going through the Roostertail turn. Dover was in lane 2, Formula II in 3, and Master Tire in 4. Both Formula boats crossed the start line together, with Bernard first to the turn. Dover was third across with Master Tire back a bit at the start.

Bernard led Allen down the backstretch, with Dover third and Master Tire fourth. The boats were close with only two roostertails separating the first and fourth places. In lap 2, Dover passed the Formula II in the Belle Isle turn. At the end of the lap, Bernard led Bryant by two roostertails. Allen was one and one-half roostertails behind Bryant and King was one roostertail behind Allen.

This is the way the boats finished the heat. In lap 4, King went hard into the Roostertail turn to challenge for third place, but Allen’s inside lane enabled him to hold off the challenge.

Bryant was pleased with his first Detroit heat. “It is a good start for the day. I had a good boat. The water is rough, but not horrible. I would love more seat time, especially on this course.”

Heat 2

At the 1:45 mark before the start of 2A, Oberto and Beacon were single file near the entrance to the Belle Isle turn. As they formed in the turn, Oberto got lane 1, with Beacon on lane 2, Formula II in 3, Master Tire in 4, and Navy in 5. Beacon was first to the turn at the start, but Oberto pulled even down the backstretch and at the end of the lap, Beacon led Oberto by about 1 second. Master Tire was in third, with Formula II fourth, and Navy fifth.

In lap 2, Oberto passed Beacon and used the inside lane to slowly pull away, eventually winning by one roostertail over Beacon. Master Tire finished third, while Formula II and Navy were way back in fourth and fifth. At the end of the heat Oberto died in the backstretch. A fuel filter backed out and shutoff the fuel to the engine.

While pleased with his win, David did have some opinions about the new starting procedure and rules. “The race actually started 3 minutes before the start. It's all about getting lane 1. There are no options now; whoever gets lane 1 wins. Every heat winner this year has come from lane 1. There is no racing anymore. We just need to let everyone do whatever they want.”

There was some racing in 2B, but again the boat in lane 1 was the winner.

At the 2:00 mark before the start, Formula, Jarvis, and Dover were going slow near the Belle Isle turn entrance. DYC stayed back to keep speed. Formula was in lane 1 when the boats passed the Belle Isle exit buoy. Dover was in lane 2, with Jarvis in lane 3; both were going slow.

Dover then died at the beginning of the backstretch and Jarvis died shortly after. Both Muscatel and Bryant restarted, but Dover died again. By the time Bryant restarted again, the other 3 boats were exiting the Roostertail turn to the start. From the outside, Kelly used this opportunity to move into lane 2, with Muscatel trailing in lane 3.

Formula and DYC crossed the start together and were side-by-side down the backstretch. Bernard used lane 1 to lead Kelly by five boat lengths at the end of lap 1. Muscatel was in third, with Bryant fourth.

In laps 2 and 3, DYC used great speed to pull even with Formula in the backstretch, but the inside lane in the Roostertail turn enabled Formula to pull ahead. In lap 3, Dover challenged Jarvis for third. In the Roostertail turn, Muscatel went very wide, pushing Bryant towards the outside of the course. To stay away from the seawall, Bryant had to drive in Jarvis' roostertail, following directly behind in Jarvis ’ wake. Bryant backed off and didn’ t challenge again, but it wasn’t necessary as Muscatel was penalized one lap for bearing out. Bernard finished one and one-half roostertails ahead of Kelly for the win. Muscatel did his extra lap to finish fourth, with Bryant in third.

Bernard was the leader with 800 points after the first day. “I wouldn’t have believed that I would be the leader. Everyone out there is real close. It will be a battle for lane 1 in each heat.”

DYC owner Bartush was smiling. “That heat makes all the team’s hard work worth it. We still have a little left. I know J. Michael wants to compete with his good friend Jeff. J. Michael kind of went against our conservative strategy, but it was nice to see smiles on everyone’s faces when the boat came in.”

Bryant explained his eventful heat. “I was too early, going too slow, and it just died. I restarted at the same time Ken did and got into his spray and it died again. So when I restarted again, I was out of the competition. Ken told me his radio was not working, and he didn’t know I was outside of him in lap 3. It was either go into his roostertail or hit the wall; I chose the roostertail. The boat ran well in the rough water. This heat gave me seat time with some new experiences.”

At the end of Saturday’s racing, the clouds were gone and the sun was out.

However, the wind was getting a bit stronger and was now blowing up the river. The first two heats had good competition; everyone was looking to more good racing on Sunday.

Heat 3

Sunday’s weather report was for sunny weather with a temperature of about 80°, but there was the possibility of strong winds from the west blowing against the river’s current.

3A started as scheduled at 11:00. Beacon and Formula II raced up the front stretch to get lane 1. Theoret was on the inside and got lane 1, as they entered the Belle Isle turn at the 1:25 mark. Master Tire was in lane 3, with DYC in 4. Jarvis died in the backstretch, but restarted and took lane 5. As the boats rounded the Roostertail turn. Master Tire and DYC came within an inch of hitting.

Beacon was first across the line and to the turn with Master Tire about one boat length behind. Formula II was in lane 2 about one boat length behind Master Tire. Master Tire moved in as the boats neared the apex of the turn, and Formula II went up Master Tire's skid fin spray and roostertail. The right side of the boat rode up the spray and then the boat rolled to the left. The transom hit the water first and hit the bottom of the river. The boat then ended up upside down.

It took a while to get Allen from the boat. He was taken to the hospital and released later that afternoon. He suffered a concussion, two broken ribs on his left side, cuts and abrasions, a right knee injury, and a sore left shoulder from where the seat belt strap dug in. He was in pits talking to well-wishers late in the afternoon.

The boat suffered serious damage to the left sponson and left rear. The sponson was broken from the hull near
the spar, and the sponson was pointing downward. The Formula crew concluded that the boat did hit the bottom of the river. This would be consistent with Mike’s injuries, which could come from a sudden stop associated with hitting the bottom. Mike’s #2 and #3 ribs on his left side broke when his back slammed into the seat when the boat hit the bottom.

The race officials disqualified King, but he did not agree with the call. “It was racing. There was a tight line, but he couldn’t get through it. They disqualified me, but they are now reviewing some new pictures.”

In the time it took to tow the boat the long distance to the pits, the wind picked up dramatically. It was now blowing 20 to 30 mph up the river. There were large waves and whitecaps.

The winds put the hydroplane heats on an indefinite hold. Meanwhile inflatable and offshore boats entertained the crowd. At about 3:00, an offshore boat rolled over in the Roostertail turn. It was turning, it hit a roller, the left side went up, and the roller and the wind pushed the boat over. The two crew members were unhurt and crawled out through the escape hatch. With water that even an offshore couldn’t handle, was there any hope for the hydroplanes?

To be an official Gold Cup race, one more set of heats and a final were necessary. Race officials announced a 6:30 start time for 3A, with a hope to get 3A, 3B, and the Final completed by 8:30, their curfew for the river. Unfortunately, the wind and water did not get better, and at 6:20, Race Director Mark Weber announced that no further racing was possible and that the event had been declared a no contest. Finishing on Monday would have been logistically and financially impossible. Finishing the heats at a western race site was discussed, but dismissed to keep the integrity of the Gold Cup event. So the 100th running will now be in 2009. It was originally announced that none of the points from qualifying and Saturday’s heats would count. On July 16, ABRA announced that its Board decided that the points earned in Detroit would count.

The drivers were disappointed but agreed with the decision:

Ken Muscatel - “It was the only call we could make. It was rough this morning and now it is worse. The 100th running deserves good racing. I was going to take my boat out to test the water, but the people in the patrol boats at the Belle Isle end said the water was awful and to not even try coming out. It’s just not realistic to try to run in these conditions. Who would have thought that yesterday would have been our best racing conditions?”

Steve David - “God had other plans today. We have hurt some boats already. In these conditions, it would be a contest of survival, not of the fastest boats.”

Jean Theoret - “Absolutely, it was the right decision. It is better this way than to have anyone get hurt.”

Jeff Bernard - “It will be a long year to wait for 2009. It would have been cool to win a Gold Cup at 23. Billy Schumacher won a Gold Cup at 24. I hope I can do the same next year. We are all disappointed; we wanted to win the race for Mike and the U-7 team.”

While there was no 2008 Gold Cup winner, there may have been some winners. All the people who bought shirts, hats, tacks, and buttons that say Gold Cup 100th Running 2008 now have items that will be unique collector items from the 100th Running that never was! Will next year’s items say 100th Running - Second Attempt?

[Reprinted from Unlimited NewsJournal, August 2008]