1988 Budweiser's Thunder on the Ohio APBA Gold Cup

Hydro racer enured

Pierce's crash no deterrent

By Jean-Jacques Taylor, The Cincinnati Enquirer

Speed is an integral part of hydroplane racer Scott Pierce's life.

It pays the bills, feeds his family and occasionally puts his life in question.

But he wouldn't have it any other way.

Pierce, 32, from Upland, Calif., and other top unlimited hydroplane racers are pre-paring for events in Evansville Sunday ("Thunder on the Ohio") and in Madison, Ind. July 3 (Indiana Governors Cup).

Two weeks ago at the Budweiser Regatta in Miami, Pierce was involved in a crash with Groesbeck's Jim Kropfeld, which he described as "the worst possible situation a racer can experience."

Both racers got off to late starts. As they moved into the first corner, Kropfeld's boat spun out and sprayed water into Pierce's path. Pierce, unable to see because of the water, ran into Kropfeld's boat and was catapulted into the air.

The boat landed upside down, but Pierce sustained only minor injuries. Kropfeld, pinned in his boat for 25 minutes, sustained a dislocation of the cervical spine and faces several months of rehabilitation.

Back to business

Pierce, however, hasn't let the accident deter his quest to be the nation's best racer. Pierce, who finished in the top three in five of seven races last year, placed fifth in the 1987 national high points championships.

"You have to be mentally tough to be competitive in this sport and that means not letting negative things affect you," he added. "That's how I live my life, but I think it's something you have to be born with.''

It doesn't hurt to have a boat equipped with the latest technology designed to increase safety and speed.

Pierce's boat, Mr. Pringle's, resembles something Luke Skywalker used to chase Darth Vader — only faster and more colorful. The boat, made of fiberglass, has eight different colored stripes decorating the shiny white hull.

Mr. Pringle's, 30 feet long and 6,000 pounds, travels about 200 mph at top speed and covers the length of a football field in one second. It also has an enclosed cockpit, modeled after the F-16 fighter plane, which serves as a protective shield during accidents.


Without the enclosed cockpit, Pierce probably would have died during the Kropfeld accident.

"Five years ago neither Scott nor Jim would have survived," said crew member Mike Campbell, a hull specialist.

"In the last two years we've had four major accidents that would have killed the people involved, but with the new canopy the boat is a lot safer."

Pierce, who began racing go-karts at five and advanced to hydroplanes at 15, said he's always wanted to race. It's something he inherited from his father, Laird, a two-time national champion.

"I've known racing was what I've wanted to do since I was a little kid," said Pierce. "Going 200 mph is an indescribable feeling."

(Reprinted from The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 22, 1988)