Terry Turner

Terry Turner 1942 — 2010

Terry Turner
Terry Turner

The news of the 2010 Bayfair Cup unlimited hydroplane race on San Diego’s Mission Bay filtered slowly back to Seattle. These days, an out-of-town race on the unlimited circuit may merit an inch or two in the Seattle Times, if there is anything at all, and consequently not much was known about this race for weeks afterward. Other less welcome news traveled north even more slowly - Terry Turner of Pomona California, former unlimited hydroplane driver, was dead of cancer at the age of 68. He is survived by his daughter Teryl, brother Tom, grandson Zachery, and life partner Oneva.

Terry’s hydroplane racing resume was lengthy, especially in the faster inboards divisions including the 7 litre and Grand Prix classes. He won numerous regional titles and established many national records, was a member of the Gulf Marine Hall of Fame, and was also inducted into the APBA Hall of Champions. His best year was probably 1977 when he was 7-litre national champion, 7-litre high point champion (winning 14 of 17 races), and Grand Prix National Champion, the latter while driving GP-200 Lauterbach Special.

Terry's unlimited racing career began with the U-70 Such Crust (2) that Brian Keogh had purchased from Gene Benning shortly after the 1976 Gold Cup. Brian named Terry as driver and after the Dayton race Brian brought the boat west for the races at Pasco and Seattle. The boat was underfunded and it ran accordingly. He also dove the boat as Columbia Clipper, R. Mikulski Advertising (1), U-Seventy (’76), O’Grady’s Lake Shore (1), Miss C & H Special (‘77), Miss Detroit (5), and O’Grady’s Lake Shore (2) (’ 78). Later in his career Terry drove the U-5 twin-auto powered Lauterbach unlimited that he and John Dickerson campaigned as co-owners, which raced under several names including Candyman (’79-’80), Barney Armstrong’s Machine (80), Gilmore Chevrolet Special, The Machine, (‘81), Miss Machine Rock Band, Coberly Chevrolet Special, RIC Gunite Special (’82), Richard Buick Special, Risley’s Express (1), Mr. Auto/MS. Radio, and RIC Gunite Special (’83). The boat didn’t have enough speed to race with the top unlimiteds of the day, but the boat was clean and ran respectably in mid-pack. Terry’s best finish in the U-5 was a second in 1982 at San Diego running as Coberly Chevrolet Special.

Terry’s dedication to the sport is summarized in at least two stories, the first of which was told by his racing partner and best friend John Dickerson. Terry was set to be married, invitations had gone out, gifts had been received, and guests were on their way across the country to attend the weekend wedding. Terry’s phone rang, and it was Norman Lauterbach on the other end of the line saying that he needed Terry to drive his GP-200 Lauterbach Special in New Hampshire that same weekend. Terry won the race.

As a sometimes crew member on both the U-70 and the U-5 unlimiteds that Terry drove, I have my own small story. When Brian brought this U-70 Such Crust (2) westward after its purchase in 1976, he did so on a wing and a prayer. The equipment was not in good shape and there was neither time nor money to remedy the situation. After a successful last-chance qualification on Sunday morning in Pasco, we didn’t have a healthy engine, as our only serviceable engine damaged its accessory housing during the qualify run. In fact, the accessory housing was nearly in pieces. We thought there was no way we could make a start, and a start was required in order to earn the desperately needed tow money. Terry simply told us to patch it up as best we could in the time that we had, and he would get it to the starting line.

There wasn’t time to weld the pieces of the accessory housing together, so we did what we could with what we had. And about all we had was duct tape. So we pieced the accessory housing back together, wrapped it in duct tape, then more duct tape, and then even more. We must have used the whole damn roll. As the start of heat 1B approached, we launched the boat. Terry got it started and on plane, and he made it smoothly through the milling period and to the starting line at a good clip with the accessory housing still somehow intact. The housing finally gave up the ghost in the first turn, but we had earned the tow money.

Terry’s willingness and ability to get a crippled boat to the line was largely ignored, and it certainly meant nothing to the fans on the shore or even to the racing community in the pits. But it meant the world to us.

Thanks Terry, and rest in peace. Matt Devine

[Reprinted from Unlimited NewsJournal, November/December 2010]