1985 Budweiser Indiana Governor's Cup

Kropfeld Confined to ‘Old’ Miss Bud

By Terry Flynn, The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jim Kropfeld will be the safest pilot ever to drive a 3,000 horsepower, 175 mph unlimited hydroplane. That Is, whenever he Is able to once again climb Into the cockpit of the new Miss Budweiser.

Kropfeld, the Cincinnati hydroplane racing veteran who Is the defending national unlimited champion, competes this weekend In the Madison Regatta Governor’s Cup on the Ohio River at Madison, Ind. But he’ll be at the wheel of the “old" Miss Budweiser, the boat that carried him to the 1984 title.

“The new boat is in Seattle for repairs and some changes," Kropfeld explained. “It was damaged at the race in Syracuse (New York, June 16), but I also didn’t like the way It rode in the water. It has too much weight on the front."

The “new" Miss Budweiser, owned like the old boat by Florida businessman and long-time boat racer Bernie Little, is unlike any other unlimited craft on the circuit.

As Kropfeld explained, the new boat has a safety cockpit, complete with double-walled aluminum honeycomb structure, a bubble canopy similar In appearance to the canopy from a World War II fighter, automatic fire extinguishers, a trap door/escape hatch In the bottom In case the boat Is turned upside down In the water, an oxygen rebreather similar to those used by firemen, an an onboard air conditioner.

He even has a “cool suit,” the driver’s suit being used by NASCAR stock car drivers which has coolant pumped through. It’s the same suit which was originally developed by NASA for the astronauts.

Kropfeld said the new boat certainly saved him from injury and possibly something worse the first time he drove It, at the Syracuse race where It was damaged.

Driver Steve Reynolds cut in on Kropfeld In a turn, sending a wall of water against the Miss Bud which lifted the huge boat out of the water. Although the boats didn’t touch, the force of the water wrecked the rear stabilizer (wing) assembly. Reynolds was disqualified for the maneuver and Kropfeld went on to win the race.

"I knew the boat was way up In the air, and when it came down all I could see was water all over the canopy," Kropfeld recalled. "No air bubbles, Just water. I thought I was sinking at the front. But it was Just the water from his (Reynolds’) boat. When It settled down I was still heading down the straightaway.

“Without the enclosed canopy, the very least I would have gotten out of it was a concussion. The water hit so hard It not only destroyed the vertical stabilizer, It tore the mirrors off the side of the boat."

Kropfeld, who took over the Miss Bud two years ago following the death of driver Dean Chenoweth, drove the old boat in the Detroit race last weekend. But a burned piston put Miss Bud out of the competition.

“We think the problem may be the wrong propeller, or possibly the new gearing for the supercharger on the engine," Kropfeld said. “We’re going to try a few new things at Madison.” The Miss Bud Is powered by World War II vintage 18-cylinder Rolls-Royce aircraft engines.

Kropfeld candidly admitted that, under the present circumstances, It will be very difficult for him and the Miss Budweiser to repeat as national champions.

“As long as the turbine stays together, It will be very hard to beat," he said.

The turbine he was referring to was the turbine engine-powered Miller American, formerly Atlas Van Lines, driven by two-time national champ Chip Hanauer. Last year, Hanauer drove the boat to victory over Kropfeld at Madison but experienced mechanical Ills much of the season.

Hanauer, who won at Detroit last week, holds all the speed records—all set last year-for the 2½-mile Ohio River course at Madison. That includes the qualifying record of 135.034 mph, the one-lap race speed of 129.823 mph, the 12½-mile heat average speed of 122.823 mph, and the 37½-mile race average of 121.358 mph.

(Reprinted from the Cincinnati Enquirer, July 4, 1985)