1989 Exxon Blastoff Thunderboat Regatta

Muncey Not Out Of Racing, Just Taking A Break

Fran Muncey has not retired from unlimited hydroplane racing.

She's just taking a long vacation.

Muncey, the director of Bill Muncey Industries Inc., has leased her team to William Bennett of Las Vegas for two years and plans to return to unlimited racing after taking some time off.

"Running two boats teams last year was really hard," said Muncey, who lives near San Diego. "I guess I'm just burned out. I was having to spend more and more time in Seattle. Almost seven months a year.

"My son had to come on the road to see me. I want to spend more time with my family," said Muncey, whose Ed, is an 18-year-old high-school senior.

Muncey's boats have won 53 races, including seven consecutive Gold Cups, in the 13 years she owned race boats. She took over complete control of the team after her husband, Bill, the sport's winningest driver was killed in 1981.

Muncey said she has not sold her racing team and equipment.

"I leased it for two years to William Bennett," she said.

"I think it will help the sport. He will give the team the resources needed to compete with the Budweiser team."

Bennett is the chairman of the board of Circus Circus Enterprises.

"He (Bennett) was a close friend of Bill's and he always helped me when I needed it," Muncey said.

She said she will not turn her back completely on the sport during her sabbatical, saying she plans to attend many races.

"I'll definitely be at the Seattle race," she said. "And I'll be back in the sport someday."

Sooner than you think

— The 1989 unlimited season will start several weeks sooner than in the past. The season opener is set for Houston May 21.

Miami was the traditional site for the kickoff, usually in early June. This year's circuit also will be two races longer. Houston and Milwaukee (Sept. 3) are the new sites.

Hanauer still unsigned

— Although it's very likely Chip Hanauer will be at the helm of the Circus Circus during the upcoming season, he has not signed with the team.

"Right now it's still up in the air," said Hanauer, who has won the past seven Gold Cup races. "We are talking still, but there is no agreement. Of course, I'd like to get it over as soon as possible and end the anxiety over my future.

"I'm confident I'll get a chance to race for the Gold Cup next year (with Circus Circus). But just like everything else, negotiations take time. Both sides want to make sure everything is worked out properly."

Bring on the turbines

— John Prevost, who drove the Circus Circus last year, will race an automotive-powered hydro next year.

The new boat designed by Ed Karelsen of Seattle and built by Mike Hanson of Seattle.

"Hansen's the guy I ran into in Seattle last year," said Prevost of the crash in the pits during Seafair.

The new boat, which will use four Pontiac engines, will be 34 feet long, compared to the Circus Circus' 29, and will develop more than 5,000 horse power.

"We want to beat the turbines," Prevost said. "Until now the only way to beat a turbine was with another turbine. A turbine's power is limited by rule, this way we will not have to worry about the restrictions. We're hoping our big monster will do the job."

Turbine engines are limited to 2,500 horsepower.

New boats

— Bernie Little's Miss Budweiser team will campaign a new boat in 1989 despite winning the past two national championships in a boat launched in 1986.

It's not official yet, but Jim Kropfeld will be back at the Bud's helm after missing most of last year.

Steve Woomer's U-10 team is also building a new boat for 1989.

Crew Chief Jim Lucero, builder of many championship hulls, is supervising construction.

On the beach

— U-6 Miss Madison, which made an impressive debut in the last half of the 1988 season before being severely damaged in San Diego when it and Circus Circus over at the start of a heat, may not race this season. The boat is in Ron Jones' shop while the Madison camp attempts to raise money for repairs. The U-6's right rear corner and left sponson were extensively damaged.

Hydroplane schedule

— May 21 - Houston.

— June 4 - Miami.

— June 11 - Detroit.

— June 25 - Evansville, Ind.

— July 2 - Madison, Ind.

— July 15 - Syracuse.

— July 30 - TRI-CITIES.

— Aug. 6 - SEATTLE.

— Sept. 3 - Milwaukee.

— Sept. 17 - San Diego (Gold Cup).

— Sept. 24 - Las Vegas


(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, January 13, 1989)