1976 APBA Gold Cup

Boat Trials Pack Thrills

by Joe Dowdall

Veteran Bill Muncey and newcomer Tom D'Eath provided all the speed and chills yesterday in the opening round of qualifying trials for the 69th Gold Cup race on the Detroit River.

The high speeds were expected. The chills were not.

D'Eath, who jumped to the unlimited powerboat ranks two years ago as the pilot of Detroiter George Simon's Miss U.S., opened the trials with the first thrill of the day.

After a mild warmup lap of 105 miles an hour on the three-mile course between Belle Isle and the mainland, D'Eath suddenly cut into the pits with his $100,000 racer engulfed in smoke.

D'Eath scrambled from his cockpit as crewmen leaped aboard the gleaming red and white boat and smothered the smoldering exhaust stacks.

"Something caused the boat to lose power and when it did, the engine and exhaust system overloaded with oil," Simon said. "We didn't suffer any damage but it was a scare.

"The boat burned to the waterline in the Gold Cup race at Seattle just two years ago."

Muncey, a five-time Gold Cup winner and the dean of powerboat drivers at 48, came up with the other scare on the final lap of the day.

Having qualified earlier in the day with the help of a 122.033 mph lap, Muncey was well on his way to raising his qualifying speed when his Atlas Van Lines spun and hooked as it roared out of the fourth turn at the upper end of the course.

"Whew," exclaimed Muncey. "Will I ever get that turn right? I went in too hot at about 150 miles an hour. The boat was running just beautifully and I guess I got carried away. I tried taking a right turn on the buoys like I usually do at about 105 miles an hour. I guess I hit my own hole and, wham, she hooked and spun out."

In between thrills, Atlas Van Lines and Miss U.S. became the first to qualify among the 12 entries in the $76,760.76 Gold Cup race to be run Sunday.

Muncey qualified without even trying.

"I took one slow shakedown lap and then one fast one just to test the boat," Muncey said. "When I came in they told me I had qualified at 107.036 and 122.0333 for a 114.534 average.

"After the President's Cup race in Washington three weeks ago, we took the boat back to Seattle and tore it down to get it ready for the Gold Cup.

"We found wood chips in our water-alcohol system which cost us the President's Cup race. This was the first chance I had to run the boat since and I was just shaking it down."

Muncey admitted he may have been going for the Gold Cup three-mile record of 126.760 when the boat hooked on him.

D'Eath had four consistent laps in his two qualifying runs in Miss U.S.

He ran 114.528 and 116.756 for a 115.642 average his first time out and then increased his speed to 116.950 with laps of 116.254 and 117.647.

A boat has to average 105 miles an hour for two consecutive laps to qualify for the 10-boat field.

Both Muncey and D'Eath praised the course, which was stretched out to an "official" three miles by surveyors.

"They extended the turn down near the Belle Isle Bridge and you can go into it much harder," Muncey said. "I was running as fast today on the mainstretch as I was on the backstretch along Belle Isle.

"That's how much difference there is. Usually we do 140 or 145 on the Detroit side and 155 to 165 on the Belle Isle side when the water is right.

"But myself and every other driver have lost more races than we won on the Detroit River. It is the biggest challenge in boat racing. Nobody has this race wired."

Muncey has won seven of his 34 victories on the Detroit River, including two of his five Gold Cup races, and he proved once again it still has him stumped.

Olympia, driven by defending national champion Billy Schumacher, and Myr's Sheet Metal, last year's Atlas Van Lines, to be driven by Milner Irvin, were ready to make their first qualifying runs today.

The other entries are Mr. Fabricator, Gemini, Miss Madison, Miss Budweiser, Probe, Just-A-Pest, Miss Vernors and Sunny Jim.

The trials are being run from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.

The Gold Cup race is scheduled to start at noon Sunday.

(Reprinted from Detroit News, June 23, 1976)