1988 Budweiser Unlimited Hydroplane Championship

Kropfeld, Hanauer Plan New 'Battles'

You'd think Jim Kropfeld and Chip Hanauer would see enough of each other during business hours.

Now, the unlimited-hydroplane circuit's top two drivers in 1987 are planning to spend some of their off-duty time together — playing golf.

The nine-race, 1988 unlimited season begins Sunday at Miami's Marine Stadium with the 18th Budweiser Regatta.

The Unlimited Racing Commission expects 11 boats to compete in Sunday's race, including Kropfeld's U-1 Miss Budweiser, the 1987 national points champion, and Hanauer's U-00 Miller High Life.

In addition to the Bud and the Miller, three other turbine-powered hydros — U-8 Mr. Pringles, U-31 Miss Circus Circus and U-66 Sutphen Marine Special — are expected to participate. Qualifying and testing began today.

Other boats expected at the season-opener are U-2 Oh Boy! Oberto; Jim McCormick's U-4; U-6 Holset/Miss Madison; Thor Racing's U-7 (all powered by aircraft engines), and two automotive-powered boats, U-9 Miss Stroh Light and U-21, owned by Mike Bancroft and Doug Monroe.

"Chip (Hanauer) and I made a pact this year," said Kropfeld.

"We are going to try to play golf at least five times during the season.

"I brought my clubs to Miami with me. That's the first time I've done that."

Hanauer and Kropfeld are a natural pairing. They have won 15 of the 19 races staged by the URC in the past two seasons. Two of the races the Miller and the Bud failed to win were declared non-events because of rough water conditions (Philadelphia in 1986 and Syracuse last year).

Kropfeld won five of the first six races last season; Hanauer took the final two, including an unprecedented sixth consecutive Gold Cup.

The only other driver to win a race in 1987 was Scott Pierce in Mr. Pringle's. Pierce, who will drive a new boat in 1988, is expected to join Kropfeld and Hanauer at the front of the pack.

Hanauer and Kropfeld, who exchanged verbal volleys in the pits after a couple of races last season, each charging the other with careless driving, want to take some of the heat out of their rivalry.

"We've had to battle each other so hard the last few years that we thought it might help if we spent some time together away from the race course," Hanauer said.

He won't have to worry about Kropfeld sandbagging him on the links.

"I'm a real hacker," Kropfeld said. "I lose about half-a-dozen balls every 18 holes. I don't mind, though. I buy cheap balls and it's fun for me.

Kropfeld, who has won the past two Miami regattas, said he is worried about the high attrition rate among turbines on saltwater courses.

"We got lucky down here last year," said Kropfeld, who averaged 92 mph around the 1 2/3-mile Marine Stadium course en route to last year's victory.

"We weren't running good at the end, but the other turbines weren't running at all."

The Budweiser team will campaign the same hull that set qualifying records at all but two stops along the 1987 circuit, but flipped twice. Kropfeld was saved from serious injury by the enclosed cockpit.

Hanauer has chosen to drive the oldest of two hydroplanes owned by Fran Muncey's racing team, a hull in which he won four of his six Gold Cups.

NOTES: Steve Woomer's U-10, which was raced as the Cellular One last season, is skipping the Miami race. The U-10, which is without a sponsor, will join the fleet at the next stop, June 12 in Detroit. Crew chief Jim Lucero said, "It would not make sense to go down there without a sponsor and ruin a bunch of equipment. One engine costs almost $35,000. The winner only gets $20,000." Turbine engine specialists Stewart and Stevens, a Houston-based company, has joined the Miller High Life team for the season. "They are the reason we were so successful on the saltwater at San Diego," said Miller driver Chip Hanauer. The U-21, which is based in Fort Myers, Fla., uses a fuel-injected Chevrolet engine that develops 1,800 horsepower. Detroit based U-9 Stroh's Light uses twin Ford Marine V-8s. Hanauer shunned the favorite's role, passing that buck to Scott Pierce in the new Mr. Pringle's. "They have a new boat and they have done the most testing," Hanauer said.


Sunday: Miami.

June 12: Detroit.

June 26: Gold Cup, Evansville, Ind.

July 3: Madison, Ind.

July 16: Syracuse, N.Y.

July 31: Tri-Cities.

Aug. 7: Seattle.

Sept. 18: San Diego.

Sept. 24: Las Vegas.


(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, June 3, 1988)