1989 Budweiser APBA Gold Cup

Hanauer is Shooting for Eighth Straight Win in Gold Cup Boat Race

When you cheek the records, you find that no driver has been able to win consecutive Indy 500s since Al Unser did it in 1970 and 71. And that he and A.J. Foyt are the leaders with four victories each.

You learn that until Curtis Strange did it the last two years, no golfer had been able to repeat as U.S. Open winner since Ben Hogan in the '50s.

That sort of puts in perspective one of the outstanding records in motorsports, or almost any sport.

When Chip Hanauer, 35, a hydroplane racer from Seattle, straps himself into his turbine-powered Miss Circus Circus this weekend on San Diego's Mission Bay, he will be going for his eighth straight victory in the American Power Boat Assn.'s Gold Cup race, the most prestigious event in the sport.

"Even I find it incredible when I think about it," Hanauer says. "When I first started, my only goal was to win one Gold Cup. I never dreamed I could win more than one."

But since 1982, nobody else has been in the Gold Cup winner's circle.

"I think I have won the race just about every way possible," Hanauer said. "I won when I have outdriven everybody, I've won when my crew has given me an unbeatable piece of equipment, and I've won when I have been just plain lucky."

Hanauer said, though, that if he is to extend his string this weekend, he will need a lot working in his favor.

First there is the course, the 2.5-mile saltwater Bill Muncey Memorial Course named after the seven-time national champion from San Diego.

"It is the fastest course we race on, and I am certain we'll see a 160-m.p.h. qualifying lap this weekend," he said.

"I think that Miss Budweiser is capable of it. [Driver] Tom D'Eath holds the course record at 156.169. If we can get our boat dialed in, we also should be able to do it"

And getting dialed in Is the key to whether he can win No. 8 he says.

The boat he'll be driving this weekend is one that he crashed at Syracuse, N.Y., earlier this year.

"After debating, we decided that we would rebuild it" he said. "We had to cut the back end off aft of the sponson and add a new piece. All of this took time and when we first tested it it just wasn't the same as before.

"If I have to tell you how I will do now, I just don't know. If we can get it balanced the way it should be, it will be fine. If not it might be a long weekend."

If not having his boat set up the way he wants it isn't enough, there are also the saltwater problems that have plagued the turbine powered boats.

"Maybe we have it solved and maybe we don't," Hanauer said. "It worked perfect earlier in the year at Miami, but when we tested our saltwater setup last week, it was nothing but troubles.

"We and the other turbine boats are gaining on it and it's just a matter of time before we perfect the system to keep the salt out of the engines. Last year here, nothing went right and I didn't even complete a lap, so you never know."

Hanauer's boat wasn't the only turbine plagued by the salt in 1988. In fact, all of them failed, and George Woods, Jr in the piston-powered boat Oh Boy! Oberto won the event here.

Although Hanauer is far ahead in the driver standings, he trails Miss Budweiser in the overall point battle, with the Gold Cup and a race at Las Vegas next week left in the season.

Hanauer, who has two victories this year, believes he could be much closer.

"I lost two races that I finished first, once by jumping the guy and the other for hitting a buoy," he said. "And then, there was the blow over at Syracuse. In that one, I was leading and I guess I just pushed it a little too hard, a gust of wind got me and away I went."

Hanauer was saved by a device that he believes has saved the sport of hydroplane racing—the protective cockpit capsules that are now required on every boat. Instead of unprotected drivers being thrown from flipping boats, the capsules are thrown.

"It saved me this year," Hanauer said. "And it has saved 10 to 12 other drivers, and we are still learning about driver safety through the capsules.

"Obviously, they didn't come soon enough or we wouldn't have lost Bill Muncey and Dean Chenoweth, but I seriously doubt that the sport would have survived without (the capsules).''

Two drivers in last year's San Diego race, John Prevost and Ron Snyder, escaped injury when their boats flipped simultaneously in a heat. Another driver, Scott Pierce in Mr. Pringles, has gone over four times in the last two years.

"I would have been in big trouble without the capsule," Pierce said.

(Reprinted from the Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1989)