1987 Budweiser Columbia Cup

Despite Victory, Mr. Pringle's Remains Unlimited Underdog

Even though his boat won the most recent race on the unlimited-hydroplane circuit, Mr. Pringle's owner Bill Wurster expects his turbine-powered entry to be an underdog in Sunday's $121,000 Columbia Cup in Pasco

Tri-Cities race officials expect as many as 14 unlimiteds to be in the Columbia River pits by late Thursday. To date, the Indiana Governor's Cup's eight-boat field has been the biggest of the season.

This week's Columbia Cup action will be supplemented by three classes of limited racing. Qualifying for the Columbia Cup is scheduled Friday and Saturday. Sunday's races, which are expected to be attended by more than 40,000 hydro and sun worshippers, will get under way at noon.

Driver Steve Reynolds was injured when the Cellular One somersaulted in the first lap of a qualifying heat of the Governor's Cup race July 5. Reynolds has been unconscious with a skull fracture in an Indianapolis hospital since the accident.

Many observers, including Wurster, thought luck and Miss Budweiser pilot Jim Kropfeld played prime roles in the first victory for the Mr. Pringle's camp.

Kropfeld and the Bud crossed the starting line ahead of the starting gun, and had to spot Mr. Pringle's driver Scott Pierce, and the rest of the field, one lap. The Mr. Pringle's triumph stopped a three-race Bud victory string.

"We were fortunate, but the boat was running and Scott had it in position to win the race," Wurster said.

Unlike the unlimited circuit's two other turbine-powered boats, Miss Budweiser, which has won three of four 1987 races, and the Miller American, Mr. Pringle's turbine engine was designed for marine use.

The Bud and the Miller rely on turbine engines that were built to power helicopters.

The biggest difference between the Avco Lycoming TF-25 marine turbine used by Wurster's boat and the Avco Lycoming T-55 that powers the beer boats and was used by the Cellular One, is a computer that limits the amount of horsepower available to the driver.

The TF-25, which is approved for marine use, is less susceptible to problems resulting from salt water and the onboard regulation system shuts down the engine when damage is imminent.

Both engines are capable of generating 2,500 BHP, but Pierce has never tapped the full potential of Mr. Pringle's power plant.

"We're doing everything we can to get more speed out of the boat without relying on the last 400 horses of power _ that's when things break," said Wurster. "We're trying not to run the engine at 100 percent power. If we stay within the parameters, we can run the engine forever."

Wurster said none of Mr. Pringle's three engines has sustained any damage in two races, while the hotter turbines have experienced some costly engine repairs.

"We've been improving and learning more about the engine with every race," said Wurster, whose boat qualified for the Governor's Cup at 119 mph, but earned a spot in the Detroit race with a qualifying run of 127 mph.

"By the Gold Cup in San Diego (Sept. 20), we expect to have a chance to win. And if we've got a chance, we'll find a way to use those last 400 horses.'

(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, July 21, 1987)