1990 Budweiser Columbia Cup
Budweiser Gets the Breaks on the Columbia
by Tony Sepanski
A weekend of fast speeds, sizzling heat, cool water and relatively close parity came to a disappointing finish in the final heat of the Columbia Cup on July 29th when Tom D'Eath drove the Miss Budweiser to a victory. D'Eath battled Jim Kropfeld in the ever- improving Winston Eagle for 1½ laps before settling down and capturing his second Columbia Cup in three years.
Two of the race favorites barely made it out of the starting blocks before going dead. Mr Pringles was washed down at the start by Mark Tate in the Oh Boy! Oberto, while Miss Circus Circus had unexplained engine glitches during the one minute shape up.
The URC referee team got in on the act also, as they tagged both Kropfeld and Tate for "bearing out" and assessed one lap penalties to each. For the second consecutive race, what should have been a spectacular final heat turned out to be nothing more than a parade of hydros.
The Tri-Cities racecourse was modified this year for insurance purposes, which resulted In 200 feet being lopped off each turn. The end result being the vaunted 160 mph mark was never threatened. Chip Hanauer was repeatedly quoted during the week as saying that tighter turns would lower the speeds, providing for a safer ram.
Excitement was found in plentiful helpings, however, as the course record was broken no less than six times during the two-day period. First was D'Eath on Friday morning with a speed of 153.515. Next came Hanauer with a speed of 154.147 45 minutes later. Hanauer then broke the record twice more later in the day with two consecutive laps of 154.148 and 155.425.
Saturday morning Jim Kropfeld took the Winston Eagle out and ripped off a lap of 155.655, Seven minutes later, Chip went onto the course and topped the mark for good with a lap of 156.212.
The hard luck story of the week easily went to Jack Barrie and the Miss Rock crew. While testing Friday morning, the Rock (last years' U-146) threw a blade (or twisted a shaft) tearing out the bottom of the boat. The team packed up and headed back to Seattle before noon to got their backup boat- -the former Packard powered Leland hull.
The team got the boat into the water late Saturday but was unable to get it started. Sunday morning the boat started but threw a rod on the first lap. The team hurriedly installed a new engine. Barrie took the Rock out with 15 minutes left In qualifying. One half lap into the run, the engine threw a rod and that was that.
The Bud team seemed plagued with a malady of minor problems during the week, the most serious being the constant baiting by the PA announcer about their "low" qualifying status.
The Mr Pringles team sat on the beach all day Friday, waiting for their engines to be returned from a dyno test in Montana. When they did got them back, the boat only tested once on Saturday.
The Fendler-David U-19 was back after being re-balanced. The turbine was pushed so far back in the hull that it was mostly exposed--even with the cowling on. The boat ran quite a bit more smoothly, but still was having severe teething troubles. Named the 107.7FM/Jackpot Food Mart, the bright yellow boat was covered with decals from its various sponsors.
Defending champion Mitch Evans was not even scheduled to bring the boat out west as the Coopers were unable to secure a sponsor for the northwest races. In stepped Art Oberto and family. According to Mr. Oberto, his son worked a deal in which the Oberto Company and Wild Waves Water Park in Seattle would sponsor the U-3 for the Seattle race — if they would come out and defend their Columbia Cup title. The Coopers jumped at the offer and took off Tuesday. They were also the first team in the pits.
The final order of qualifying was:
Miss Circus Circus, Chip Hanauer - 156.212
Winston Eagle, Jim Kropfeld - 155,655
Miss Budweiser, Tom D'Eath - 153.515
Mr Pringles, George Woods - 152.488
Oh Boy! Oberto, Mark Tate - 141.850
Holset/Miss Mazda, Mike Hanson - 137.681
Coopers Express, Mitch Evans - 129.521
107.7FM / Jack Pot Food Mart, Steve David - 122, 105
U-7, Jerry Hopp - 105.312
Sunday morning was a typical Tri-Cities day, hot and sunny and a bit of wind from time to time. The (bad) luck of the draw guaranteed the two top boats so far this year would be separated for at least part of the race. Heat 1A had all the hot dogs except Miss Budweiser, as D'Eath looked to have a cakewalk in 1B.
Hanauer and Circus, Woods in the Pringles, Kropfeld in the Eagle were the top draws, with Coopers Express and Holset/Miss Mazda rounding it out. Hanauer hit the line and was out of the first turn ahead of everyone. Circus' first lap was a course record 146.280. That left Winston and Pringles to duel It out for second. After 1 1/2 laps, George Woods powered the rainbow boat into the lead for good. Towards the end of the heat, the rear stabilizer on the Winston collapsed and fell into the water in the rough first turn.
Final order of finish: 1) Hanauer, Miss Circus Circus - 132.267 (10-mile heat record), 2) Woods, Mr Pringles - 134,139, 3) Kropfeld, Winston Eagle - 124.139, 4) Hanson, Holset/Miss Mazda - 120.958 5) Evans, Coopers Express - 100.767.
Heat 1B saw Bud run away from the field, then each boat spread out about as evenly as possible on a two mile course.
The final order of finish for the parade was: 1) Tom D'Eath, Miss Budweiser - 127.555, 2) Mark Tate, Oh Boy! Oberto - 113.981, 3) Steve David, 107.7FM/Jack Pot Food Mart 100.426, 4) Jerry Hopp, U-7 - DNF
Drivers from both heats complained about the conditions in the turns following Heat 1. Hanauer commented that the smaller turns make it less forgiving and doesn't allow the wake from the boats to dissipate the way the wider turns used to. So much for safer racing conditions.
Straight from the "shoe on the other foot" department, the heat draw was reversed for the Bud, and Circus. Chip looked to get an easy time of it while D'Eath would have to square off with Winston and Pringles in 2B. Once again, the draw worked against the fans, separating the Bud and Circus.
Hanauer hit the line and once again ran away from the field for first place, but a terrific race shaped up for second. With Oberto on the inside and Holset/Miss Mazda on the outside, Mike Hanson worked his way past Tate in a display of hull technology over horsepower. When was the last time a piston (a turbo-Allison no less!) defeated a turbine on even terms? After four laps, Hanson held a considerable lead. Mazda was coming around the last turn and heading for the finish line when the boat dug a sponson and spun. Tate saw his chance and threaded the Oberto between the Mazda and a buoy (with just a few feet to spare), and snatched second place. Hanson restarted and roared across for third,
Final order of finish: 1) Hanauer - 128.518, 2) Tate - 123.200, 3) Hanson - 121.612, 4) Evans - 111.623, 5) David - DNS
Heat 2B turned out to be the most exciting race of the day. D'Eath and Kropfeld hit line nearly together in lanes 1 and 2, with Woods very close behind in lane 3. The three headed into the rough first turn at full tilt. With Kropfeld leading slightly, D'Eath was unable to hold his lane and slid up into Kropfelds roostertail. As the Bud started to come down, it slid further over and right back up into Pringles' roostertail, nearly completing a blow over, D'Eath came down in the same spot on the course with very similar circumstances as happened In Madison.
Meanwhile, Kropfeld was fighting for his grip on first place with Woods. Into the second turn, Kropfeld painted the buoys, while Woods poured on the coal. The Pringles caught the Eagle on the backstretch of the second lap and sailed off to break the 10 mile heat record.
D'Eath was not out of it yet, though. After getting back on plane, the Bud set its sights on the Winston,nearly catching him towards the end of the race before Eagle jockey Kropfeld added some fuel and put it out of reach.
Final order of finish: 1 ) Woods, 137,933 ( 10 mile heat record); 2) Kropfeld, 131.456; 3) D'Eath, 130.54 1 ; 4) Hopp, 82.948
As the Budweiser team got the boat bock on the trailer, the full extent of damage to the Bud was revealed. The right side of the transom was shredded off, including most of the winglet. The team decided to tape up the vertical stabilizer, which had taken some collateral damage, and simply tear off the rest of the damaged pieces (including the whole winglet). Although ugly, and it would affect the boat's ride aerodynamically, the damage was not structural. There were worries that with the aero-features gone, the Bud would not be able to keep up with the other healthier hydros.
The boats headed out onto the course and prepared to do battled. Just before the one minute gun fired, D'Eath spun the Bud at the entrance to turn one, veering into the infield. By the time D'Eath got it back on plane, the rest of the field was down at the other end of the course. Meanwhile, Oh Boy! Oberto was losing power and mowed down a buoy, with the fabric hanging on to the tail as proof of his road-kill.
Next was the official clock. It went dead showing 50-some seconds. With a little more practice, the URC could make this a regular event. (What is it? Do they need new batteries?) The final was red-flagged and resheduled for an half hour later.
The boats headed out onto the course once again, only this time, the Circus was compressor stalling. During the one minute shape up, Hanauer's ride lost its fire on the backstretch. Meanwhile, Tate was busy cutting off the Pringles and being penalized for it. Likewise for Kropfeld and the Winston, only he was busy washing down Hanson in the Holset/Miss Mazda.
Kropfeld hit the line on the money and led into the first turn, with D'Eath in hot pursuit. Hanauer restarted, stumbled into the first turn and died, as did the Pringles. Kropfeld held off D'Eath for about a lap and a half, but the Bud was just too much.
On the lost lap, the wing of the Bud started to wobble and looked about to fall off. D'Eath, whose luck has been phenomenal all year long, held it together long enough to take the checkered. Damaged boat and all, it was an impressive display of expertise and professionalism on behalf of the Budweiser Racing Team.
For 1989 Cup champion Mitch Evans, it was an honorable defense of his title. Due to the penalties incurred, the Cooper's Express finished in third place.
Final order of finish: 1) D'Eath, 131.357; 2) Hanson, 111.666; 3) Evans, 104.286; 4) Kropfeld, 10 1.706; 5) Tate, 98.254; 6) Woods, DNF; 7) Hanauer, DNF.
All in all, it was a very fun weekend of racing. The biggest disappointment was the top boats never met on even terms when it came down to money time, Oh well, maybe next week in Seattle.
Congratulations and many thanks go to the Tri-Cities Water Follies race committee. The new regulations implemented 3 years ago seem to have taken hold. The crowds are still boisterous and enthusiastic, but gone are the drunken masses that dominated in the early 80's.
(Reprinted from the Unlimited NewsJournal August 1990)