1979 Spirit of Detroit Trophy

The Spirit of Detroit Race

Bill Muncey and Atlas Van Lines took their third straight victory of the 1979 season over the smallest field of Unlimiteds to appear in Detroit in years as they were easy winners of the Manufacturer's Spirit of Detroit Regatta.

It was Muncey's 53rd career win, as well as his third straight Detroit victory. Muncey and Atlas were also claimed, fastest qualifiers with a Detroit "course record" of 140 miles per hour plus. Race officials admitted later that the 3 mile oval course was "probably" not a true 3 miles in length, due to a severe storm the night before, but the speed was still sufficient as a record for the famed Detroit River.

A grand total of six Unlimiteds showed up at the Horace Dodge pits, and it was agreed that all six would race together in the elimination heats, witl the top five qualifying for the championship heat. The six entrants included Muncey and Atlas; Steve Reynolds in Miss Circus Circus , Jack Schafer Jr. in Myrna Kay (last year's Miss Budweiser); Jon Peddie in Pat O'Grady's My Gypsy Bob Maschmedt in Dr. Toyota, and Brian Keogh in Detroit Radiographics. Missing once again were the brand new Miss Budweiser and Squire Shop hydros, who were reported packing their gear for the Gold Cup Race in Madison, Indiana. Also missing were Candyman, which raced in Miami, and Mike Wolfbauer's Probe, which annually comes out of mothballs in Detroit and finishes in the money.


In a flying start, Circus Circus led across the line too early (Reynolds was assessed an extra lap penalty), followed closely by Muncey in Atlas, with Peddie in Pat O'Grady's My Gypsy, Schafer in Myrna Kay, and Maschmedt in Dr. Toyota right on Muncey's heels. Brian Keogh trailed in Detroit Radiographics. Hitting the number 1 corner, Atlas grabbed the lead with Circus Circus in his roostertail on the outside. Down the backstretch they flew, leaving the rest of the field far behind. Going into the number 3 corner, Muncey tucked in hot and heavy with Reynolds diving harder into the turn on the outside. Suddenly, Reynolds realized that he had miscalculated the tight Roostertail turn and almost had to shut down completely to avoid hitting a breakwall. Muncey went on to win by a wide margin, with Schafer taking second in Myrna Kay. Reynolds lapped the rest of the field and nipped Peddie at the finish line to take third. Peddie took fourth and Brian Keogh broke a 13 race scoreless jinx by bringing Radiographics home fifth.

Bob Maschmedt took sixth in Dr. Toyota, sponsored locally by the Detroit Toyota Dealers. Muncey's first lap was the fastest, 123.995, with his heat average at 112.523.


Only five boats appeared for the second go-round, as the U-70 Detroit Radiographics suffered some sponson damage in the first heat. Another flying start materialized as Circus Circus and Atlas flew over the line together on the money, with Myrna Kay, Dr. Toyota and Pat O'Grady's trailing. Circus hit the turn first on the inside, with Atlas in his roostertail, and led as the two hit the backstretch. Expectations of another battle died suddenly as Circus Circus slowed and stopped. On lap two the race was halted as Reynolds jumped into the water; Circus Circus was slowly sinking. A tow craft was there immediately and pulled the Reno Rocket back to the pits. The final diagnosis was that she had thrown a prop blade, which caused the strut to break in half, thereby causing the shaft to break, which in turn locked the engine up, forcing the supercharger to explode and spew out parts throughout the hull and cowl. Arrangements were made immediately to repair the boat in time for the Gold Cup the following week, but Miss Circus Circus was through for the day at Detroit.

HEAT 2 (re-start):

To no one's surprise, Atlas grabbed the lead at the start and was never challenged. Myrna Kay, Pat O'Grady's and Dr. Toyota finished this parade in order. Atlas' winning speed was 98.756.


Peddie made a picture perfect start at clock zero with Muncey and Schafer slightly behind on each side. Atlas hit the corner first and sped off to number 53, but the best show of the day was going on behind him as Peddie and Schafer had a real argument going on for second place. Peddie held second throughout the first lap before Schafer took charge and passed him. Schafer took second, while Peddie brought the sentimental favorite, Pat O'Grady's My Gypsy home in third. Dr. Toyota finished fourth and a hastily repaired Detroit Radiographics with Brian Keogh was fifth.

In reviewing the '79 Detroit Regatta, one could optimistically say, "It can only get better at Madison!". Numerous setbacks were in full view, what with the new Budweiser and Squire boats not appearing, the failure of Bernie Little to have a Miss Budweiser at the race at all (first time since Budweiser's involvement in the sport), and the bad weather on race day. The small field was certainly a major disappointment, both to the fans and the race committee who, despite all the controversy, tried to put on as professional a show as possible. The program book, as always, was a beautiful product, engineered by UD's Mickey Kress (who never thinks it's quite right), But other than that, Detroit '79 will not go down as one of the better races in Unlimited history. Most were relieved it was finally over; some left before it was over; others still were hoping good things for 1980.

But 1979 is supposedly the renaissance year for the Unlimiteds. We can only hope that the rest of the season proves that statement worthwhile,. and makes Detroit 1980 something to look forward to.

Spirit of Detroit Race
Final Standings
1. Atlas Van Lines Bill Muncey 1200
2. Myrna Kay Jack Schafer Jr 900
3. Pat O'Grady's Gypsy Jon Peddie 619
4. Dr. Toyota Bob Maschmedt 433
5. Detroit Radiographics B. Keogh 254
6. Miss Circus Circus S. Reynolds 225