Bob Hayward

Bob Hayward Remembered

By Fred Farley - Unlimited Hydroplane Historian

Bob Hayward
Bob Hayward

Robert D. ("Bob") Hayward raced Unlimited hydroplanes from 1957 to 1961. In all but one of his race appearances, he drove for J. Gordon Thompson's Miss Supertest team of Sarnia, Ontario.

A quiet humble man who never tried to draw attention to himself, Bob didn't match the traditional stereotype of the brash outgoing "Thunderboat" pilot. Hayward, a chicken farmer (that's right, a chicken farmer!) from Embro, Ontario, joined the Thompson organization in May of 1957 as a crew member for Miss Supertest II, a Rolls-Royce Griffon-powered craft, driven at the time by Art Asbury.

Bob was allowed to take the wheel of the “II” in a couple of competitive heats in 1957 as Asbury's relief driver and clearly demonstrated the "right stuff." When Art left the team prior to the start of the 1958 racing season, Hayward was promoted to full-time driver for Miss Supertest II. It was with the “II” at the 1958 St. Clair International Regatta at St. Clair, Michigan, that Bob scored his first victory as an Unlimited hydroplane pilot.

It had long been the goal of Supertest owner Thompson to win the Harmsworth Trophy, the bronze plaque traditionally emblematic of the speedboat championship of the world. The Harmsworth is technically a race between nations rather than individual boats. J. Gordon had challenged for the Harmsworth in 1956 with Miss Supertest II and driver Bill Braden but had been defeated in a best-two-out-of-three-heat contest at Detroit by the U.S. representative Shanty I and driver Russ Schleeh. The Miss Supertest team retired in mid-season 1958 to better prepare for a 1959 Harmsworth challenge with a new Miss Supertest III.

In the meantime, Hayward accepted a one-race assignment piloting Sam DuPont's Nitrogen at the 1958 Madison Regatta in Madison, Indiana. The boat was brand new and had never been water-tested prior to arrival in Madison. But Bob nevertheless drove her to an overall second-place with a victory in Heat Three.

The new Griffon-powered Miss Supertest III of 1959 was to become one of racing's most respected champions. It was undefeated in competition with victories in all four of the races entered between 1959 and 1961 with Bob Hayward driving.

The “III” debuted at the 1959 Detroit Memorial Regatta and scored an impressive victory. Later in the season, she became the first non-U.S. winner of the Harmsworth Trophy in 39 years. Hayward and Miss Supertest III emerged victorious in a best two-out-of-three-heat contest at Detroit against Bill Stead and Maverick.

Miss Supertest III defended her Harmsworth title against the U.S. delegation in 1960 and 1961 at Picton, Ontario, and won hands-down both times. Hayward and the “III” outran Bill Cantrell in Gale V, Norm Evans in Nitrogen, and Ron Musson in Nitrogen Too in 1960 and Chuck Thompson in Miss Detroit in 1961. On the first lap of the first heat of the 1960 Harmsworth, Miss Supertest III set a world lap speed record of 126.226 miles per hour on a 5-mile course.

Having won three Harmsworths in three years, J. Gordon Thompson announced his intention to send Miss Supertest III to Seattle in 1962 to challenge Bill Muncey and Miss Century 21 for the APBA Gold Cup. But alas, this plan never reached fruition. There had been considerable pressure on the Supertest team to appear at the non-Harmsworth races on the Unlimited hydroplane circuit. Not wishing to risk Miss Supertest III, they reluctantly re-activated the previously retired Miss Supertest II a few times in 1960 and 1961.

It was while driving the “II” in the Silver Cup at Detroit on September 10, 1961, that Bob Hayward suffered fatal injuries. The boat barrel-rolled while sprinting toward the first turn of Heat 2-A, trying to outrun Muncey in Miss Century 21, Don Wilson in Miss U.S. I, and Bud Saile in Thunderbolt.

This brought down the curtain on the Miss Supertest saga. Crushed by the loss of his driver and close friend, J. Gordon Thompson retired from racing.

In Bob's honor, the Canadian government has renamed a bay in Lake Ontario near Picton. It is called Hayward Long Reach.