2002 Budweiser Bill Muncey Cup

The resurgence of piston power

World’s fastest piston boat skunks the turbines: is top qualifier for San Diego’s Bill Muncey Cup

Mitch Evans’ 160+ mph lap in Ed Cooper’s U-3 Vacationville.com astounds the experts

It has been thirteen years since anything other than a turbine has won an Unlimited race. Mitch Evans did it at the 1989 Tri-Cities Columbia Cup in the Coopers’ piston powered U-3. With the turbine-engined boats dominating since 1985, only the Ed Cooper team has stubbornly held on to the once mighty 12 cylinder Allison aircraft engines. The Coopers, Ed Sr. and Ed, Jr., introduced their fourth hull since 1986 halfway through the 2002 season. But this one was different.

Having learned from their three previous hulls that the proper weight and design combination could make a piston engine competitive with a turbine, the Evansville, Indiana-based team figured they had found the magic this time.

Their previous two hulls, although not in the same league with the Budweisers and E-Lams, kept inching the piston lap record ever higher, but were still over 20 miles per hour off the turbine pace.

The new boat qualified for the Seattle General Motors Cup - only its second race appearance - at 145.612 mph. That’s the fastest lap by a non-turbine boat ever recorded on a 2-mile course. Moving on to San Diego the new U-3 did 155.060 - a new world record - on Friday. But Saturday was historic. Mitch Evans took the all-red Vacationville.com onto the 2.5 mile Mission Bay course and clocked a 160.370 mph lap to become the fastest qualifier of the race and setting a new piston world lap record in the process.

(Thunderboat, November 2002)