1992 Budweiser Miami Regatta

Hydroplane History : Miami, Circa 1992

By Capt. Bill Novitch

The Miami Marine Stadium, on Key Biscayne, Fla., once again came alive with Unlimited Hydroplane racing over the weekend of June 5-6-7. The race kicked off the 1992 RC Cola Hydroplane Series and the contest for the Eagle Snacks High Point Championship. RC Cola has joined the circuit this season as title sponsor, while Eagle Snacks will sponsor the High Point challenge, which will continue on to the Top Gun Hydrofest in Honolulu on October 11th.

Saturday's qualifying runs saw lots of action. Early in the day, Miss Budweiser broke the course record, with a lap of 148.535 miles per hour. Back from a short, one-year retirement is Chip Hanauer, the second all-time winningest driver; this time at the helm of the U-1 Miss Budweiser. In 1990, Hanauer piloted the Miss Circus Circus to the National High Points title. Chip has amassed 36 career victories in Unlimited competition. During his hiatus from the Unlimiteds, he tried his hand(s) at racing cars under the Toyota banner. Owner Bernie Little's Miss Budweiser is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch. Budweiser, the largest brewery in the world, has been sponsoring this boat for 30 years.

In other qualifying laps, D.O.C. (Detroit Optical Center), formerly Oh Boy! Oberto and Cooper's Express, stopped the clock at 105.887 mph; Kellogg's presents Tony the Tiger turned in an impressive 123.480 mph. The Winston Eagle, clocking in at 147.337 mph, nearly upstaged the Bud, and Hooters' American Spirit turned in a respectable 123.662.

Splashing for the very first time on Sunday morning, the Miss T-PLUS, backed by Hilton Oil and piloted by Steve David, was forced to shut down with steering problems and turned in a 98.203. In the pits, Steve explained, "The boat is just fine, we need to make some fine tuning adjustments. The rudder and fin angle are a little off, causing us to pull towards the infield pretty violently. Other than that -- everything's great. We don't have another chance to qualify before the race, so we'll just exercise the Commissioner's Option, race today, and qualify at Detroit." Owner Jim Harvey appeared to be ecstatic over the general performance of his craft.

As the main event racing prepared to get under way, it was obvious the Florida Inboard Racing Club had done their homework in race course preparation. The medical and tow boats were all in their proper positions and the pits were quite clear of spectators -- allowing the race crews unrestricted movement.

Most important, Mother Nature had chosen to look favorably upon this most auspicious occasion. The sky was a brilliant blue, with big wispy clouds promising a good day of racing. An ever-so-gentle breeze blew out of the south-southeast and just barely ruffled the flags and banners. The Stadium was beginning to pack in now; seating was becoming premium.

In the sky-booth, high above the spectators, announcer Johnny Beach was keeping all aware of how the afternoon was going to progress. In his inimitable fashion, he was working the audience up to a frenzied pace. Suddenly, the five-minute gun heralded the start of Unlimited hydroplane racing's 1992 season at Miami Marine Stadium.

Under the new flag start procedures, the drivers try to align the boats for a picture-perfect, line- abreast position. Heat 1A brought out U-10 Winston Eagle, owned by Steve Woomer and driven by Mark Tate; U-8 The Tide, owned by Bill Wurster, George Woods Jr. driving; U-50 American Spirit, owned by Ron Jones Jr. and piloted by Mark Evans; and U-1 Miss Budweiser. Out of the chute, Miss Bud commanded the lead. In turn 3 of the second lap, the Bud appeared to wing-out slightly, yielding the lead to Tate in the Winston Eagle. One lap hence, the Eagle went down of power, and Hanauer brought in the win at 118 mph.

As heat 1B staged, it was U-6 Kellogg's Tony the Tiger, owned by Bob Hughes (Madison, Ind.) with Mike Hanson at the wheel; U-7 Arby's/Thor Racing, owned by Al Thoreson with Jerry Hopp driving; U-3 D.O.C., piloted by Mitch Evans and owned by Ed Cooper Jr.; and Miss T-PLUS. During the five-minute warmup, Arby's went down on power. At the green flag, D.O.C. roared ahead, much to the delight of the fans. Unable to keep ahead of the Lycoming turbines, Miss D.O.C. would settle for an honorable second, behind Kellogg's, with T-PLUS, in its maiden race, placing third.

Heat 2A brought out The Tide, Winston Eagle, Miss Budweiser and American Spirit. For four quick laps, the turbine boats battled furiously. At the checkered flag, Tate, in Winston Eagle, arrived first, with Hanauer in Miss Budweiser second, Evans in American Spirit third and Woods in Tide fourth. Wait a minute -- it seems Mark Evans took out a buoy with American Spirit; the one-lap penalty will put him into fourth, moving George Woods and The Tide up to third.

Heat 2B was, more or less, just a routine procedure, with the Allison thunder boats unable to once again meet the Lycoming turbine challenge. Arby's/Thor was again first to succumb, followed by Miss D.O.C. Into the third lap, it looked as though Steve David's T-PLUS had found the right combination and the lead. On the backstretch, though, power waned; and Kellogg's Tony the Tiger again got the checkered.

As 3A roared past the grandstand, it became clear that American Spirit would not be able to put the pressure on. In the second lap, The Tide began to fall off the pace as Mark Tate was beginning to outdistance Chip Hanauer. At the finish, Winston Eagle led Miss Budweiser by a safe margin of almost a quarter-mile.

In a strange twist of fate, the five-minute period went unanswered for Heat 3B. Was it attrition . . . or was it apathy? We'll never know. In any case, a 1 1/2-hour break in the action now remained until the main event's scheduled start.

We used the time appropriately to amble down to the hospitality area and make some new friends at the T-PLUS and Arby's camps, and renew some of our older acquaintances with the Hooters folks, also. All too soon, Johnny Beach was back on the PA, signalling the impending start of the finale.

The Last Chance heat brought some nostalgia back to Unlimited racing, as an Allison came to glory and the checkered flag. American Spirit ran into early bad luck, leaving T-PLUS to handle the Lycoming honor. In lap 2, D.O.C. met the tow boat for a ride in. Approaching lap 4, T-PLUS again went down on power, leaving Jerry Hopp at the helm of Arby's/Thor Racing to claim his glory.

The Grand Finale had the fans on their feet, all cheering and screaming as the five starters left the hot pits. Of course, Miss Budweiser and Winston Eagle garnered most of the popularity, but no one was leaving out The Tide, Kellogg's Tony the Tiger . . . or the faithful thunder power of the Allison-powered D.O.C./Cooper's Express. By the end of the five and at the green flag, Kellogg's could not answer, a sad day for Mike Hanson.

Tide, Miss Bud and Winston -- the battle would be waged . . . but, everyone wondered, would the D.O.C. rise to the occasion? The next four laps would tell the story. As the green flew, so did the Unlimiteds. With a diminishing roostertail, it became obvious that The Eagle would not fly high today. The combat on the Key continued with Hanauer going the distance first and fastest. Miss Bud again found sweet victory in the finale, with The Tide settling for second, and Mitch Evans in D.O.C. closing out the honors.

For Chip Hanauer and Miss Budweiser and owner Bernie Little, it was another glorious day, with an average speed of 120.463 miles an hour. The first lap, though, was their fastest at 134.979. Interestingly enough, record course breaking titles went to Mark Tate in the Winston Eagle. In heat 3A, Tate set two new ones. The fastest lap, previously set by Tom D'Eath, piloting Miss Budweiser to 131.652 in 1990, fell to Tate at 137.135. Also set in 1990 by Chip Hanauer at the helm of Circus Circus was the fastest heat average of 117.426. Tate upped the ante to 135.054.

Our thanks to Don Jones, commissioner of the Unlimited Racing Commission; to URC media directors Steve Turcotte and Ralph and Merry Beth Lewis for their unending assistance and cooperation; and to the Florida Inboard Racing Club for their continued support of boat racing. We also heartily thank Mr. Vic Kahill, general manager of the Miami Marine Stadium, for his deep commitment and concern for the sport of boat racing.

(Reprinted from The Racer's Edge, July 18, 1992)