1968 Season Summary
|1||June 2||Dixie Cup||Guntersville, Alabama|
|2||June 16||Wisconsin Cup||Madison, Wisconsin|
|3||June 30-July 1||APBA Gold Cup [postponed]||Detroit, Michigan|
|4||July 7||Indiana Governor's Cup||Madison, Indiana|
|5||July 21||Atomic Cup||Pasco, Washington|
|July 21||Mira Slovak Trophy Race [no points]||Pasco, Washington|
|6||August 4||World Championship||Seattle, Washington|
|7||August 11||Diamond Cup||Coeur d'Alene, Idaho|
|8||August 24-25||Presidents Cup||Washington, D.C.|
|August 24-25||[Consolation]||Washington, D.C.|
|9||September 8||APBA Gold Cup||Detroit, Michigan|
|10||September 22||San Diego Cup||San Diego, California|
|11||September 29||Arizona Governor's Cup||Phoenix. Arizona|
|02-Jun||Miss Eagle Electric (2)||Jack Cochrane||Les Staudacher||Staudacher||Rolls Merlin|
|16-Jun||Miss Bardahl (5)||Jerry Zuvich||Ed Karelsen||Karelsen||Rolls Merlin|
|07-Jul||Miss Bardahl (5)||Jerry Zuvich||Ed Karelsen||Karelsen||Rolls Merlin|
|21-Jul||Miss Eagle Electric (2)||Jack Cochrane||Les Staudacher||Staudacher||Rolls Merlin|
|04-Aug||Miss U.S.||Dave Seefeldt||Les Staudacher||Staudacher||Rolls Merlin|
|11-Aug||Miss Bardahl (5)||Jerry Zuvich||Ed Karelsen||Karelsen||Rolls Merlin|
|25-Aug||Miss Eagle Electric (2)||Jack Cochrane||Les Staudacher||Staudacher||Rolls Merlin|
|08-Sep||Miss Bardahl (5)||Jerry Zuvich||Ed Karelsen||Karelsen||Rolls Merlin|
|22-Sep||My Gypsy||Graham Heath||Dube-Cantrell||Dube||Allison|
|29-Sep||Miss Budweiser (6)||George McKernan||Ed Karelsen||Karelsen||Rolls Merlin|
|Built||Boat High Points||Total|
|1||1967||Miss Bardahl (5)||9300|
|3||1962||Miss Eagle Electric (2)||6600|
|4||1968||Miss Budweiser (6)||6551|
|6||1968||Notre Dame (7)||5107|
|7||1967||Miss U.S. (3)||4925|
|8||1968||Atlas Van Lines (2)||4910|
|10||1965||Gale's Roostertail (1)||3288|
|13||1960||Miss Madison (2)||1792|
|14||1967||Parco's O-Ring Miss||1725|
|Driver High Points||Total|
After the conclusion of the 1967 racing season, Bardahl Champion driver Billy Schumacher retired citing a lack of monetary consideration for his services as the reason. Schumacher was not retired for long as owner Ole Bardahl met his demands and made him an employee of the corporation as well as his driver. Previously Schumacher had worked in his father's bakery and attended the University of Washington.
Before the dawn of the professional era, drivers for the most part were honored to drive an Unlimited and at most got their expenses. But with the advent of prize money this had changed and drivers with sufficient performance leverage could demand some money. Prior to Schumacher/Ron Musson had held a position at Bardahl and Bill Muncey was a grocer for Thriftway.
Heading into 1968, Miss Bardahl was an overwhelming choice to win the majority of the events on the circuit and consequently the National High Point Championship. Bill Muncey's Miss U.S. was as fast as Bardahl, but was unstable on rough water and had trouble finishing. Budweiser owner Bernie Little cancelled his order with Les Staudacher and bought a new hull from Ed Karelsen patterned after the Miss Bardahl.
The Bardahl won her preliminary heats at the first race at Guntersville and appeared to have 5 m.p.h. on Miss Eagle Electric which also won both of her prelims. However in the last heat the Eagle got off first and Miss Bardahl was back in the pack. The now checkerboard comet as opposed to the yellow comet worked her way up to second place, but then blew her engine thus giving Eagle owner Dave Heerensperger his first win after three seasons of losing.
Miss Budweiser won the other heat at Guntersville, nevertheless she was 6 m.p.h. off the Bardahl pace. Miss U.S. was not a front runner and Notre Dame with Jack Regas on board ran ahead of her in heat 2-B. Notre Dame was a new Jon Staudacher hull. His father Les had temporarily ceased building new boats.
Shortly after the opening regatta of 1968, Presidential candidate Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated. The Presidents Cup scheduled for the next weekend was thereby postponed until August.
After taking a week off, the hydros trekked to Madison, Wisconsin for a new event on Lake Monona in the heart of the city.
This time Miss Bardahl won all three heats to annex the Wisconsin Cup. However in the third heat Notre Dame led the Bardahl although jumping the gun. The Shirley McDonald entry ran a lap of 105 m.p.h. in the process which compared favorably with the Miss Bardahl at 107.
Miss U.S. also headed into the final heat with 800 points, but could only manage a lap of 101.1 m.p.h. during the regatta and went dead in the water when she needed to challenge Miss Bardahl. Dixie Cup winner Miss Eagle Electric scored no points and could not get within 2 m.p.h. of Bardahl in lap speeds.
Two weeks later the A.P.B.A. Gold Cup was scheduled for Detroit. Fifteen entries showed up for the race, but it was blown off the course by high winds both Sunday and the back-up date on Monday. Jack Schmale of the San Francisco Chronicle had picked Notre Dame and Jack Regas to win the regatta.
Madison, Indiana was next on the schedule. Miss Bardahl won again, however she was defeated by Notre Dame in heat 2-C. This was a prelude to the championship heat when Notre Dame again got in front of the Bardahl and,headed for the race win led into the next to last lap. Miss Bardahl then went by and Notre Dame spun out - a recurrent problem for the new Jon Staudacher hull.
Both Miss Bardahl and Notre Dame managed 105 m.p.h. laps at Madison. Miss Eagle Electric was 5 m.p.h. behind the leaders and a second place boat. Miss Budweiser was close to Bardahl and Notre Dame in competition lap speeds and defeated Miss Eagle Electric in heat 1-A, nevertheless she was back in the pack when confronted with the leaders. Miss U.S. was 4 m.p.h. off the pace winning an easy heat 1-C, but was. torn assunder by a house boat prior to her scheduled heat 2-A and was out for the day.
At Tri-Cities, Washington on the west coast Miss Budweiser and Miss Eagle Electric turned competition laps of 109.7 and 109.4 respectively as opposed to Miss Bardahl and Notre Dame at 108.4.
Miss Eagle Electric was the most consistent of these entries and won all of her heats to win the Atomic Cup. Miss Bardahl also came into the final heat with 800 points and like at Guntersville blew her engine while chasing the flying Eagle. Miss Budweiser lost to Notre Dame in heat 2-C and could not match Eagle Electric in the championship heat.
Miss Eagle Electric, now winner of two of the first four events on the circuit, was the former $ Bill which showed some potential in 1966, but never had much power in her hull until Dave Heerensperger got ahold of her. Heerensperger took the hull to Spokane, Washington after the 1967 season, installed a Rolls-Merlin engine, and then hired Jack Cochrane as crew chief and Warner Gardner as driver. None of these ingrediants had been associated with a winner except Warner Gardner who had won two races when driving for Jim Herrington. After two years of sponsoring the old Miss Spokane and a year as an owner, Heerensperger was now serious competition for Ole Bardahl.
Next to Seattle for the U.I.M. World Championship. Harrah's Club had changed her configuration to a deep pickle fork before the season and installed a Rolls Griffon engine instead of her Allison to provide more horsepower for heir heavier than average hull. Mira Slovak returned as her pilot after a salary dispute with Harrah in 1967. Unfortunately Slovak crashed his plane shortly before the start of the season and was replaced by Burnett Bartley Jr., a noted 7 Litre driver from the 1950's
Bartley was unable to duplicate his limited record in the Bill Harrah entry and Jim McCormick took over the boat for the Tri-Cities. McCormick got more out of the situation than Bartley, but still was handicapped by the bow pickle fork design. When the bow was filled in, McCormick had a very competitive entry and won both his preliminary heats at Seattle.
Harrah's Club ran ahead of Miss Bardahl twice, Miss Eagle Electric once and Notre Dame twice in her first two heats. Unhappily she blew her engine after narrowly defeating Miss Bardahl in heat 2-B and having already made an engine change was prohibited from making another under the rules.
This left the door wide open for the Miss Bardahl. Miss U.S. had 700 points, but was running eight m.p.h. behind the Miss Bardahl. Miss Eagle Electric, Miss Budweiser and Notre Dame had eliminated themselves with low point scores. As insinuated in the previous paragraph Ole Bardahl's checkerboard comet had 600 points.
Miss Eagle Electric had the lead over My Gypsy as she flashed over the start-finish line at the end of the first lap of the third heat. Then Notre Dame spun out throwing driver Jack Regas in the water. This stopped down the heat. Miss Bardahl had thrown a rod in the first turn.
With Bardahl out, all Miss U.S. had to do to win the World Championship was to finish second in the final or at least stay in front of My Gypsy. She failed to do either, but fortunately Miss Eagle Electric stayed in first place to deny Gypsy the points she needed for a tie. It wasn't pretty, but owner George Simon got his first win at Seattle.
Coeur D'Alene was back on the circuit and drew 13 entries in addition to high winds that delayed things for a number of hours.
At dusk -- 8:15 p.m. -- the boats came out for the final heat of the day. Miss Bardahl won the heat and consequently the regatta when her chief antagonist Miss Eagle Electric, which had won her two preliminaries, blew her engine exiting the first turn. Surprisingly My Gypsy had swapped heat wins with Miss Bardahl and was tied with her at 700 points prior to the last heat. Notre Dame now driven by Leif Borgersen, Miss U.S. and Harrah's Club all had turned in sub-par performances. Miss Budweiser had trashed her engine for the fifth time in six races.
Ten Unlimiteds showed up for the Presidents Cup on August 24-25. Three of the original field in June decided to pass up the re-scheduled regatta. Madison and Parco couldn't afford it and Shirley McDonald with her Notre Dame was an uncertain participant on the second eastern swing.
Miss Eagle Electric had mechanical trouble in heat 1-A and was handily defeated by Miss Budweiser. The Eagle however came back in the second heat to beat Miss Bardahl. Then for the fourth time in 1968, Miss Bardahl lost an excellent chance to take a trophy by blowing in the championship heat. This was all the Eagle needed as she took a second behind My Gypsy to secure an overall win. Miss U.S. and especially Harrah's Club were clearly off the pace.
The Gold Cup was next in Detroit and was reduced from 60 miles to 45. Miss Bardahl and Miss Eagle Electric had each won three races, but also had blown their engines several times when the going got hot. Miss Budweiser was fast, however she was even more adept at trashing her powerplant at inopportune times
Perhaps the My Gypsy with her stock Allison could sneak in for the win. Gypsy had defeated the mighty Miss Bardahl in one heat at Coeur D'Alene. Miss U.S., Harrah's Club and Notre Dame had not run fast enough in recent races to win. This was the first time in his career that U.S. driver Bill Muncey was not a real contender for the Gold Cup. Muncey had won four Gold Cups at the time.
Miss Bardahl led the field with 800 points approaching the championship Gold Cup heat having had two easy draws. Miss Budweiser and Miss Eagle Electric had run close to each other in two preliminary heats and were tied with 700 points. Due to the elapsed time factor either Miss Bardahl or Miss Budweiser could win the Gold Cup by taking the final heat. Miss Eagle Electric had to win the final and beat Miss Bardahl by nine seconds to emerge victorious.
Miss Budweiser broke in front at the start and led at the end of the first lap. Miss Eagle Electric was charging in second place with Miss Bardahl a poor third. With Bardahl behind her Miss Eagle Electric went after Miss Budweiser for the win. However on the second lap in front of the Detroit Yacht Club she caught a sponson and was flipped over the water a number of times which resulted in the death of her driver Warner Gardner the next day.
In the re-run Miss Budweiser and Miss Bardahl hooked up in a terrific duel for the Gold Cup. They went at it for two laps at record 115-116 m.p.h. speeds and then Miss Bardahl prevailed with Miss Budweiser going dead in the water. Miss Bardahl breezed through the remaining laps to give owner Ole Bardahl his fifth Gold Cup victory.
Six drivers had now died in 25 races spread over three years. Previous to this only two drivers had died in the 20 years of racing after World War II.
Bill Muncey made the judgment that the shorter courses were causing the problem due to undissipated wakes that would not be a problem on the longer three mile course. Four of the six fatalities came on a 2½ mile course. Others had suggested that drivers drove too fast for conditions due to the pressure of commercial sponsors.
Before Thomas Whitaker and Orth Mathiot were killed in 1951 and Bob Hayward in 1961, there were three fatal accidents in the 1930's -- Henry Segrave (1930), Bill Freitag (1933) and Joe Schaefer (1939). Before the 30's a crew man was blown off the deck while repairing a boat at the 1916 Gold Cup and drowned in the pits. Two others were killed in 1906 since they went overboard and drowned in their oilskins. Another two met their fate while preparing for the 1910 Gold Cup. This record pales in comparison to what has happened in the last three seasons.
Miss Bardahl headed west once again after losing her main antagonist Miss Eagle Electric but gaining another in Bernie Little's Miss Budweiser. However both broke in the first heat of the San Diego Cup and My Gypsy came through to win the regatta. Lesser lights Miss U.S. and Harrah's Club also had mechanical failures and thus lost an good chance for a victory.
The season ended at Phoenix, Arizona at Lake Carl Pleasant north of town. Miss Budweiser finally put it all together to capture the Arizona Governor's Cup winning all her heats. Bardahl pilot Billy Schumacher was out-driven by Budweiser's Bill Sterett although the defending National High Point Champion ran well. Harrah's Club was competitive for the first time since Seattle.
The speeds at Phoenix were inflated since the course was short with the inflation amounting to about 8 m.p.h. in increased speed. Thus at the end of the season Miss Budweiser was rated at 112 m.p.h. instead of 120. Miss Bardahl had an unquestioned 112.219 world record for a competion lap on a 2½ mile course. Other top competition speeds on a 2½ mile course were: Miss Eagle Electric (109.489), Notre Dame (108.434) and Harrah's Club estimated at 108 m.p.h. due to her lap of 116.883 at Phoenix.
This put five entries within.a 113-117 mile range on a three mile course as the extra half mile generally added 5 m.p.h. to a boat's speed. This signalled a return to the halcyon era of speed in Unlimited Racing which stretched from 1963 to 1965. In 1967 Miss U.S. was pegged 116 m.p.h. and Miss Bardahl at 115 m.p.h.
[Statistics from Greene, V.2]