1974 Desert Thunderboat Trophy

Miss Budweiser Roars to Regatta win

Storm delays windup before huge crowd

by Frank Gianelli

Right after a storm had delayed the windup by two hours – and sunk a couple of shoreside patrol boats…
And sand and wind peppered patrons, estimated variously between 50,000 and 90,000 overthronging Lake Pleasant’s primitive shorelines had quit pelting rocks a shuttle buses which couldn’t transport them back to parking lots 1½ miles distant because walkers wouldn’t unclog the road…

Miss Budweiser roared to victory in closing darkness to take the victory heat of the Desert Thunderboat Regatta Sunday, beating Atlas Van Lines by 25 points in the day’s overall total, 1025 to 1000. The showdown payoff was as tight as a boat race can get.

Four boats were in the final heat, delayed until 6:45 p.m. – past sunset and with the lake in semidarkness making buoy markers hard to spot.

Miss Budweiser, Atlas Van Lines, Miss Technicolor and national champion Pay 'n Pak earned their way to the runoff with top showings in six earlier heat races.

Driver Howie Benns got a good jump on the start and had the Miss Budweiser in the lead all the way, but almost lost it all going into the next-to-last turn when his boat started to broadside and the Atlas pulled nearly even.

The boats raced hull-to-hull up the straightaway, made the final bend and then waged a drag race to the finish line with the Miss Budweiser packing the payoff punch. Miss Technicolor finished third in the final heat and Pay 'n Pak flamed out and did not finish.

The last heat and the runoff were delayed two hours after the storm hit. The course buoys were blown down to the face of Waddell Dam and had to be reset for competition.

Faithful fans who put up with storm and delay saw a tremendous windup race. The lowering darkness lent emphasis, accenting the flame shooting from 4000-horsepower engines as drivers squared them around corners and up the straights. Unfortunately, three fourths of the vast crowd had departed by the time the final heat was run – driven off by the storm and fatigue.

The race was well run, the ground supervision was good. But Lake Pleasant, physically, just can’t cope with such an overthrong. The access road was clogged back to Black Canyon as early as 11 a.m. – 11 miles from the race site. Deputies cut off traffic around 2 p.m. Getting out was a big a hassle, cars remote in teeming dust.

Miss Budweiser piled up her points winning heat 1A and finishing third in her second heat to earn a slot in the final. Pay 'n Pak won heat 1B in fastest time of the day, 117.835 over the 2.3 mile course*, Miss Technicolor heat 1C; Pay 'n Pak heat 2A; Miss Technicolor heat 2B; and Atlas Van Lines heat 2C.

Heat Results
1A 1 Miss Budweiser
2 Valu-Mart
3 Lincoln Thrift U55
4 Red Man
1B 1 Pay 'n Pak
2 Atlas Van Lines
3 Kirby Classic
1C 1 Miss Technicolor
2 Sunny Jim
3 Lincoln Thrift U29
2A 1 Pay 'n Pak
2 Valu Mart
3 Miss Budweiser
2B 1 Miss Technicolor
2 Kirby Classic
3 Red Man II
2C 1 Atlas Van Lines
2 Sunny Jim
Final 1 Miss Budweiser
2 Atlas Van Lines
3 Miss Technicolor
DNF Pay 'n Pak


*Both this speed and and this course length is suspect.

(Transcribed from The Arizona Republic, September 16, 1974 )

[Editor’s Note: The first of two "Desert Thunderboat Regattas" was held on September 15, 1974 on a triangular course arranged on Lake Pleasant, a desert lake located some 30 miles Northwest of Phoenix, Arizona. 1975 race was moved to Firebird Lake.]

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