1990 Budweiser APBA Gold Cup

The 1990 Gold Cup Race

Tom D’Eath conquers the Detroit River, wins third Gold Cup

by Steve Garey

Controversy in the Gold Cup race is nothing new. Bill Muncey was in the thick of many a Gold Cup dispute during his long and sometimes tempestuous career. In 1956, Muncey had to wait almost three months to take the Cup home after being cleared of a much publicized buoy striking incident that had originally disqualified him. Tom D'Eath angrily stayed home on race day in 1986 after officials banned his boat for not racing in Miami the week before.

And so it goes in the quest for motor racing’s oldest prize. Sweat, tears and millions of dollars have poured out in hopes of winning the American Power Boat Association's Challenge Cup.

The 1990 renewal at Detroit was no exception. Eight Unlimited hydroplanes battled for the Cup on the historic Detroit River race course and, yes, there was controversy.

Tom D’Eath, driving Bernie Little's Miss Budweiser, emerged victorious in the 82nd APBA Gold Cup race after a wild and confusing start in the winner-take-all final heat saw an alleged gun-jumping, an alleged malfunctioning clock and a one-lap penalty assessed to Chip Hanauer in Bill Bennett’s Miss Circus Circus that effectively wiped out any chance of a classic boat-to-boat duel.

Gold Cup 1990, nonetheless, proved to be four days of action and weather delays that led up to this unseeming conclusion.

Qualifying rounds began on Thursday with Hanauer blistering the 2½ mile course with a two-lap average of 157.1235 mph, just short of his Gold Cup record of 158 mph set in 1989 in San Diego.

Circus and Budweiser were drawn together in all three preliminary heats. In 1-A, they were up against rookie Mark Tate in Jim Harvey’s Oh Boy! Oberto, and Jim Kropfeld in Steve Woomer’s “lobster boat” Winston Eagle.

Hanauer’s pink charger stalled on the approach to the start. D’Eath and Bud took the lead and flew to a new competition lap record of 149.091 mph first time around. Winston and Oberto trailed. Circus restarted and chased down the field, passing Winston on lap 1 and Oberto on lap 3. D’Eath lapped Kropfeld on his fourth time around and won by ½ a lap over the determined Hanauer.

In heat 2-B, the two antagonists crossed the line together with D’Eath on the inside and controlling. Mitch Evans in Ed Cooper’s Miss D.O.C was late, leaving third to Mark Tate. D'Eath extended his lead with laps in the 150 mile an hour range. His first lap was a new competition lap record: 154,319! D.O.C stalled at the end of lap 5 and didn't finish.

In Heat 3-A, as expected, D’Eath and Hanauer duelled into the first turn with Circus coming out on the inside with the lead. Bud ran smooth and fast but couldn't catch the heady Hanauer. George Woods, in Bill Wurster’s Mr. Pringles, held a decent third and Winston ran slowly in fourth. Circus won by ¼ lap over the beer wagon.

All this fantastic preliminary action brings us back to the infamous Final Gold Cup Heat.

Winston Eagle mercifully withdrew, so Mike Hanson in the Miss Madison became the provisional sixth starter. Jerry Hopp’s U-7 Miss Paddock Pools couldn't get started and chugged back to the pits. Hanauer and D'Eath got caught up in themselves and went way upriver past the Roostertail prior to the start. Both were too early and slowed to avoid beating the clock. As the gun fired, Miss Budweiser had accelerated and was flying up the shoreline. Hanauer stepped on the gas and the torque forced his boat into the lane held by Mr. Pringles. The referee observing from the helicopter called a one-lap penalty on the Circus and, for all intents and purposes, the race was over.

Budweiser turned the first lap at 152.773 and led by a mile as Hanauer apparently held back on the assumption that D'Eath had beaten the gun. Woods was sitting in third and apparently thought that both Hanauer and D'Eath had jumped. Oberto held fourth and Madison fifth. Tate pulled his boat into the pits on lap 4 , his Rolls-Merlin engine fried. Bud took the checkered flag at the end of six laps but Hanauer did not. Pringles took second as Circus completed another lap and came in third after passing the U-6.

After the race, Hanauer and Woods said there was a problem with the clock and that D’Eath was over the starting line early. But referee Paul McKee disagreed. He judged the start to be legal and that the video tape of the start was inconclusive and only confirmed his judgment.

Tom D’Eath, the kid from the East Side of Detroit, who grew up chasing and ultimately living the dream of racing and winning on the River, happily waved a Detroit Yacht Club flag as he climbed out of his winning mount. He received the accolades of his wife, his mom, and owner Bernie Little in front of a throng of cheering well-wishers in the Horace Dodge Pits. No one cares about the Detroit boat racing tradition more than Tom, and now he has made himself a part of it.

1990 Budweiser APBA Gold Cup (82nd)
  Boat Driver Owner Pts.
U-1 Miss Budweiser (17) Tom D’Eath Bernie Little 1500
U-8 Mr. Pringles George Woods, Jr. Bill Wurster 1325
U-31 Miss Circus Circus (4) Chip Hanauer Bill Bennett 1225
U-6 Miss Madison Mike Hanson Madison, IN 469
U-2 Oh Boy! Oberto Mark Tate Jim Harvey 850
U-7 Miss Paddock Pools Jerry Hopp Al Thoreson 694
U-10 Winston Eagle Jim Kropfeld Steve Woomer 638
U-3 D.O.C Ray-Ban Mitch Evans Ed Cooper Sr./Jr. 225
U-1 Miss Budweiser (18) Tom D’Eath Bernie Little W/D
U-31 Miss Circus Circus (6) Chip Hanauer Bill Bennett W/D


[Reprinted from Thunderboat, May 2010]