1958 Sahara Cup

Maverick, Miss US 1 Win Heats

Bardahl Trails / Vegas, Detroit Hydros Score in Sahara Race

by John Romero, Review Journal Sports Editor

Las Vegas based Maverick, driven by Reno’s Bill Stead, and Detroit-based Miss US 1, piloted by Don Wilson, won opening heats in the Sahara Cup race this morning and became hot favorites for the championship finals to be held at 2:35 p.m.

Maverick set a Sahara Cup heat record when Stead clocked 107.655 mph to win easily in the first section of the first heat. Miss US 1 was pressed by Thriftway Too and Miss Burien, but finished 300 yards in front of the second section boats.

The big unlimited hydroplanes were scheduled for two more heat races at 12:15 p.m. and 1 o’clock with the 30 mile final scheduled for 2:35. Maverick and Miss US 1 were thrown together by the luck of the draw in the 12:15 heat.

The red-headed Wilson said he "just took it easy" in winning his heat. "The ‘1’ had plenty of power left," Wilson said. "I used only acceleration. I don’t think I went over 140." Wilson averaged 101.55 mph.

Thriftway Too, with Brien Wygle driving, was as close as 100 yards on the fourth lap, but Wilson quickly pulled away to a safer margin. Miss Burien, driven by Bill Brow, trailed the two closely but slipped back in the last two laps.

Miss Pay’n Save, driven by Al Benson, had mechanical difficulty but finished fourth. Miss Spokane blew a quill shaft and Breathless II had fouled spark plugs. Both boats were forced out on the first lap.

In the first section, Maverick was never seriously threatened after taking the lead on the first straightaway from Mira Slovak in Miss Bardahl. Slovak eased up and was content to finish second. Nitrogen, driven by Fred Alter, challenged Slovak on the fourth lap of the 15 mile heat but did not have the speed to catch Miss Bardahl. Alter finished about 150 yards back.

Miss Seattle which got a poor start and trailed badly early in the race passed Miss Moses Lake on the third lap and finished fourth with Chuck Hickling driving. Norm Evans, in Miss Moses Lake, was fifth and Gale V, driven by Bill Cantrell, went dead in the water at the first turn and did not finish.

"I went hard for about a lap," said Stead. "I was going maybe 160 top speed, but only about 145 or 150 in the back stretch. I had to run fast because the engine is set up that way. The boat ran perfectly."

Slovak said he found the water "gluey" throughout the race. "I was content to finish second," said Slovak. "I wanted to save the equipment for the final heat. Slovak clocked 97.702 mph for the heat. Nitrogen averaged 96.965. Miss Seattle 90.270, and Miss Moses Lake 81.917.

Fascination, which qualified at 9 o’clock this morning at 92.055, could not get its batteries to turn the engine in the second heat and was disqualified when it drifted onto the course.

The opening heats were postponed from Wednesday’s scheduled start because the course had only 13 of 20 required marker buoys. The course had been established late Tuesday but several of the buoys mysteriously disappeared during the night.

American Power Boat Association commissioner Bill Boeing asked drivers and owners if they wanted to race late Wednesday afternoon after the course was repaired, but only Maverick and Miss Pay’n Save voted "yes."

"In late afternoon you can’t see a thing because of sun on the far turn," said US 1 driver Don Wilson. Other drivers echoed his feelings.

Some drivers complained because no starting cannon was available, and Wilson said he clocked 4 ½ minutes by his watch before officials sent up red warning flares when a driver was dumped in the water during a heat of 225 cu. in. hydroplanes.

At dusk puzzled Sahara Cup officials were still trying to find out what happened to their buoys placed in line on the straightaway Tuesday night, and were sending air freight for a starting cannon from the Southern California Speedboat Club.

A crowd of about 6,000 saw only four official races Wednesday – all in the limited classes.

If Fascination, the Seattle hydroplane owned by Bob Gilliam and driven by Dick Short, qualified Thursday morning at 8 a.m., the race will be run in one seven-boat heat and one six-boat heat. Sahara officials say they have a sanction which will allow them to run as many as seven boats in one heat.

"We’re going to give it a try," said Fascination driver Dick Short. The big hydroplane got out for one trial run Wednesday and went dead in the water with oil in the magneto. After an engine change, Short went out about 3:45 and promptly blew a piston through the side of the block. "I was going good, about 135, when she blew," Short said. "I had to grab a fire extinguisher to put out the fire." Fascination was scheduled to change engines Wednesday night for a final try at qualifying on Thursday morning.

The majority of drivers in the field were in favor of postponement, and anticipated no major mechanical difficulty. Under APBA rules no engine changes can be made during the day – which means that the winner might have to go as far as 60 miles in three separate heats with no engine change.

"We didn’t really plan to change engines anyway," said Bill Stead, driver of Maverick, "so we’d just as soon have it this way."

Miss Moses Lake which developed carburetor trouble in a trail run Wednesday, will be ready for Thursday. "We don’t anticipate much trouble," said driver Norm Evans. All other boats – Miss Bardahl, Miss US 1, Maverick, Miss Spokane, Gale V, Thriftway Too, Breathless II, Nitrogen, Miss Burien, Miss Pay’n Save and Miss Seattle – were set.

(Reprinted from Las Vegas Review-Journal, October 23, 1958.)

[Note: The 1958 Sahara Cup was run on Lake Mead, Nevada on Thursday, October 23. The first two heats were planned for Wednesday, but some missing buoys resulted in all five heats being run on Thursday. ]

[Thanks to Ted Shenenberg for help in preparing this page]