Bill Muncey Defends Hydro Racing [1968]

NEW YORK (AP) — Bill Muncey of Seattle, world-champion hydroplane pilot, is certain that no sport has progressed as much since the Second World War as his own despite a lengthening death list.

"And that means," explained the four-time winner of the famed Gold Cup, "in both the technological advancements and in providing safety and protection for the driver.

"In fact, I can think of only one driver in recent years who has lost his life because of speed and that was Don Campbell in England last year when he was trying for the world record. In other cases, they were accidents, pure and simple."

Muncey, here to narrate the commentary on the television showing of the 1968 Gold Cup race, was answering a charge made by Guy Lombardo, orchestra leader and former Gold Cup winner, that the sport was committing virtual suicide because sponsors and pilots were adding speed-increasing gimmicks to their boats and engines.

Lombardo said he had "lost an average of one close friend a year the past 10 years in accidents."

Muncey, who lost in the Washington election for lieutenant-governor last Tuesday, said that in his estimation, the cause for most of the fatal accidents was the shortening of the courses from a minimum of three miles to a maximum of three miles.

This was done, he said, to give spectators a better chance to watch the race.

"When you have six or eight hydroplanes warming up on a two-mile or 2½-mile course, the waves are terrific. The impact they impart to a boat is fantastic. Water is our friend but it also can be a foe to the racer. The impact of a wave is so great that you might call hydroplane racing a brutal sport."

Muncey said that not until a driver has reached 30 does he mature enough to become a good driver.

"That's when he is smart enough to handle his boat and its speed and also smart enough to know he doesn't want to learn how to handle death."

(Associated Press, November 10, 1968)