1983 Miller High Life Thunderboat Regatta

Chip Fights Back In San Diego

By Bob Greenhow

San Diego re-affirmed its capacity for high speed in this years race which saw Chip Hanauer and Atlas Van Lines win in record time. His fastest lap of 133.730 equalled a world mark (twice) and the final heat average of 131.540 was easily a new world record. In two of his heats Hanauer was pushed to his top times by Jim Kropfeld and the Miss Budweiser. Twice Atlas outran the Bud, once on the inside and once on the outside. In the second heat Kropfeld led until abandoning the race in the second lap. All this narrowed the gap between the two teams to 169 points, in favor of the gold boat.

Qualifying and testing began with a rush that lasted throughout Friday. Saturday's action was a little less intense, but a five boat mock-race late in the day made it all more than worthwhile.

For the 15th race in a row Atlas Van Lines turned in the top warm-up lap: 138.462 — not a record but still fast. Ten others passed the test (95 mph or better for one lap) and were ready to go at it via the fast heat/slow heat format. Unable to make the grade were the U-86 (called Jose Murphy’s, but was the name on the boat?) run by both Bob Wartinger and Tom Martin and Something Else, handled by the owner Bill Morgan. That's OK. It was just a thrill to get a look (finally) at the latter.

The "slow" group was made up of Miss Specialty Leasing (Ron Armstrong), Miss Houston (John Prevost), Executone (George Johnson), RIC Gunite (Terry Turner), and Miss La Jolla Plumbing (Jerry Hopp). Armstrong in the re-named (but happily not re-painted) U-80 figured to have an easy time and did. A fast start and first turn put him far ahead in 1-A. Prevost, in his first unlimited appearance, might have made things interesting but he developed ADI trouble before clock zero. The others were clearly out-matched. Turner broke a gearbox early, both he and Prevost were through for the day.

Executone and La Jolla Plumbing followed Specialty Leasing in 1-A. The latter was the only one to appear for 2-A along with Specialty Leasing. But the U-29 melted a piston in the early going which left Armstrong as the only finisher. He averaged 114.943 in 1-A and 114.126 in 2-A.

In addition to the two aforementioned front runners the fast race consisted of the Squire Shop (Tom D'Eath), Miss Renault (Milner Irvin), Frank Kenney Toyota/Volvo (Ron Snyder), and American Speedy Printing (Jack Schafer, Jr. ) .

Kropfeld held fourth on the pole at the start of 1-B but a 133 mph lap gave the lead to Hanauer. After running 129.125 for his first circuit, Jim seemingly settled for second although he was being pressed by Irvin on the fourth go-around, Schafer finished fourth after his mount's wing partially collapsed. D'Eath and Snyder failed to score. The former blew a supercharger and the latter-re-starting after stalling in the first turn suffering from electrical woes. Chip averaged 128.645.

Heat 2-B was shaping up as a disaster for Atlas. One crewman had been injured in a pit explosion and required hospitalization. Chip made it onto the course just before the one-minute gun. He ran a prudent second until Kropfeld returned to the pits. The blue boat won easily at her slowest speed of the day — 124.001. She was far ahead of the only other finisher — Miss Renault.

The Squire Shop jumped to the early lead in the consolation run. But in two lap two she was overtaken by Kenney Toyota. Snyder seemed to be on his way to obtaining the last position in the championship heat, but on the first turn of the final lap he lost power and fell to last place with D'Eath taking the victory at an average of 112.980. Thus the final was set with Atlas Van Lines, Miss Renault, Miss Budweiser, American Speedy Printing, Miss Specialty Leasing and The Squire Shop with Executone as the stand-by entry.

After engaging in ring around the missile, Atlas and Budweiser went to the line together with the mover on the inside. In probably the best all out confrontation of the season Hanauer passed Kropfeld early and held the advantage to the end, setting his new heat record in the process Budweiser’s second place effort was 128.205. Squire, Specialty Leasing and Renault followed. Speedy Printing lost her entire wing assembly and later blew her engine.

It was the first time this season the Atlas Van Lines had been able to consistently run with Miss Budweiser. Bud’s slim high point lead could mean a thrilling finish October 2 in Houston. I hope it was a happy one.

Qualification Speeds:
Atlas Van Lines 138.462
Miss Budweiser 134.731
The Squire Shop 131.965
Speedy Printing 131.579
Miss Renault 129.683
Kenney Toyota 126.404
Miss Specialty Leasing 124.309
Miss Houston 122.951
Ric Gunite 111.663
Executone 111.663
Miss La Jolla Plumbing 102.975
U-86 90.726
Something Else 80.213


(Reprinted from the Unlimited NewsJournal, September 1983)