1968 San Diego Cup

The San Diego Cup Race: Schumacher National Champion

A rookie, Tommy "Tucker" Fults, stepped from the cockpits of automobile racing and speedboat drag racing into the veteran U-15 My Gypsy and won the Fifth San Diego Cup Race away from favorite Miss Bardahl.

Billy Schumacher of Seattle, in the 1968-model Miss Bardahl, brought more fame to the Ole Bardahl boathouse: The 800 points gained at the Mission Bay Park course, the next to the final race over the 1968 national circuit, while not enough to win the S.D. Cup on Sept. 22, pushed the Schumacher-Bardahl season total to 8300 points. None can now approach this total. This national driver title is Billy's second in succession. It will bring many honors and emblematic awards from across the nation. And leading off, a moment wonderfully timed for San Diego fans who are very loyal to the hydros and who are growing each year in number, was the award of the San Diego Union (newspaper) Driver-of-the-year Perpetual Trophy to Billy Schumacher -- all "officially" photographed in the hand-over from blond Miss Aquaweek of '68.

And, proving further that San Diego's two-harbor love for any activity on sun-drenched saltwater is equal to its pro-sports complexes, it geared up to see if it can challenge Seattle or Detroit for the 1969 Gold Cup for Unlimited Hydroplanes. This will be San Diego's 200th Anniversary Year series of celebrations. The combined San Diego city and the live Mission Bay Associates know that it takes gold to get the Gold Cup. The amount of the required bid, plus the cost of staging the biggest water racing spectacle of all, may be insurmountable. But there could be much sentiment around the circuit to let them have it for such a special year. It is a great course, great weather and a great setting.

San Diego's Mission Bay September Sunday race boiled the nitro charges right down to this: The U-1 Miss Bardahl, Seattle-built and powered with a Rolls-Royce V-12 was easily the smoothest, fastest and best-driven boat of any of the 11 lining up for one of the first three heats. Miss Bardahl drew into Heat 1-A and led the pack for nearly three laps before a gear box failed on the number four corner of lap three. She gained no points for the first heat and therefore did not get a chance at total victory.

Miss Bardahl has remarkable acceleration coming out of the turns. She handled briskly during the turns. Billy Schumacher shaped up for the final minute before the starting gun in near-perfect fashion. He was in the pole position each time. He controlled the pace of the others in each heat as they roared for the starting line. He took no chances on being across early because, with the inside position, the acceleration at his command and the fine turning qualities of the hull, he came out of every first turn, into the back stretch out in front.

Heat 2-B was the fastest of the day. Bardahl duelled for a few minutes with Miss Smirnoff and tooled around for the day's fastest lap of 112.21 mph then dropped back to a comfortable range of 108-to-105 mph, a range that none of the other heat victors ever attained. This was the fastest heat at 107.441. Schumacher then took the final race at a steadier and more comfortable pace of 101.126 mph average for the five go-grounds; Smirnoff, second at 97.932; My Gypsy in third at 94.422 while riding the rough wakes.

My Gypsy ran a steady race, stayed in for all three heats, had two firsts and that third for 1025 points for the day. My Gypsy had won the Seafair Race in 1966, this now making two, big wins. Jim Ranger, owner, did his own driving at that time. My Gypsy ran a good race in Mission Bay. She had a number of lap duels, several fine ones with Atlas Van Lines, the elongated, low-profile jobby with Bob Miller at the wheel. My Gypsy and Fults earned the honors of this day, but they set Jim Ranger to pondering that he may retire the craft before 1969.

The new Notre Dame suffered hull damage, probably a prop letting loose, and sank before lap one was complete.

There were breakdowns and the sinking, but no injuries nor near-mishaps. The drivers drove hard with sense.

Tragedy of a different kind again struck at the lives of the people who keep the unlimiteds at the top of competition; this time into the family of Lee Schoenith, the Commissioner of the Unlimiteds, famed as driver and owner of the various Gale hydros and the most familiar figure at every West Coast race since Stan Sayres brought the cup contests to Seattle at the turn of the 1950's. Lee had just arrived in San Diego on Saturday, luggage unpacked, to receive the message that his five-year-old son had drowned in the family swimming pool at his Detroit area home.

(Reprinted from Sea and Pacific Motor Boat, November 1968, p.11)