1995 San Diego Bayfair Bill Muncey Cup

Hanauer pushes record to 172.166 mph

By Shav Glick

SAN DIEGO -- Fifteen years ago, Bill Muncey set a world record for unlimited hydroplanes when he became the first driver to exceed 140 m.p.h. on San Diego's Mission Bay course.

Saturday, on the same saltwater course -- named in memory of the legendary driver who was killed in 1981 -- 11 of the 12 boats qualified at better than 140 m.p.h. for today's Bayfair Muncey Cup, ninth event of the Hooters Unlimited series.

It is the fastest field in Thunderboat history, paced by the fastest individual of all, Chip Hanauer.

Hanauer, second only to Muncey in career victories with 57, broke his day-old record Saturday with a lap around the 2.5-mile circuit in Miss Budweiser at 172.166 m.p.h. On Friday, his 171.155 had broken Mark Tate's record of 170.087 set in 1993 in the Winston Eagle.

Hanauer has not won here since 1990, when he piloted Circus Circus to a record fourth victory on the Muncey course.

The man who was his crew chief that day, Dave Villwock, is now his closest pursuer. Villwock, driving PICO for owner Fred Leland, qualified second at 168.530.

Villwock is also defending champion in today's Bayfair main event. The six-foot-four driver from Auburn, Wash., has won three races since trading in his mechanic's tools for driving gear -- and two of the victories have been here.

"There's something about San Diego, the Muncey family tradition, the setting, that makes it special," Villwock said. "I get emotional every time I come here and look at the Bill Muncey Memorial."

A 20-foot high sculpted tail fin, dedicated to Muncey by the Thunderboats Unlimited of San Diego, stands near the boat pits. Muncey lived in nearby La Mesa.

"Fran Muncey (Bill's widow) played a major role in my getting into unlimited boats," Villwock said. "She saw me running a six-litre hydroplane here in 1989 and recommended me taking over the Circus Circus boat."

Bill Bennett had purchased the Miller American boat from Fran Muncey and renamed it Circus Circus.

Hanauer, who had won the driver's championship in Miller American in 1985, went along with the boat. When he and Villwock won the O'Doul's high points owner's championship for Bennett in 1990, it was the only time Bernie Little and Miss Budweiser have not won since 1985.

Villwock made his driving debut here in 1992 and became the first rookie to win his first race in eight years. He was driving Coors Dry for Ron Jones Jr.

"We were far from the fastest boat that day, but we were right there to take advantage of it when Bud (Miss Budweiser) flipped. I've always tried to be like Bill Muncey. He wasn't always the fastest, or best equipped, but he had tenacity. He kept his head in the game and that can overcome a lot.

"Chip ran 172 today. We're a step behind, but we'll hang in there. I thought what we did today, using a motor right out of the box without even a practice lap and run 168, was quite a tribute to the crew. We don't have much money, but we have a lot of smart people and a lot of help in technology from the people at PICO."

PICO stands for Progressive Tool & Industries Co. of Detroit.

Last year, when the boat was PICO's American Dream, Villwock outdrove Hanauer and Tate, in Smokin' Joe's, to win with a race-record speed of 149.330 m.p.h.

Tate, who could clinch his third driver's title with a strong performance today, qualified third with a disappointing 167.131.

(Reprinted from the Los Angeles Times, September 17, 1995)