2005 Chrysler Jeep APBA Gold Cup

Going all out to capture the Gold Cup

Terry Troxell Outlasts Rivals To Take Big Race

JW Myers second, Mike Weber third in truly memorable event

Detroit's annual hydro blast was wild, to say the least, leaving some with the feeling that the fabled trophy has been tarnished again

The dates of July 15 to 17, 2005 will go down in the annals of boat racing history as one of the most controversial, damaging, and - to some - most frustrating of all APBA Gold Cups. The classic event, run for the sixteenth straight year on the Detroit River, featured great competition, the kind Unlimited fans have yearned for. It also featured blow-overs, penalties, near-collisions, and a surprise winner.

Just four days before the race, Dave Bartush took delivery of the former back-up boat from 2004 Gold Cup champ Kim Gregory's USA Racing Partners team. Bartush who operates the Detroit Hydroplane Museum downtown, purchased the boat only weeks before with plans to help fill out the Gold Cup fleet. The Tavenner brothers. Curt and Barney, trucked the boat from Las Vegas with one turbine engine and a few spare parts. The Tavenners would be Bartush's crew.

Next he called Seattle driver Terry Troxell, who agreed to drive. Al Deeby Dodge came aboard as sponsors. There wasn't any time to paint the hull, so the rig pulled into the Horace Dodge pits as U-13 Miss Al Deeby Dodge/Spirit of Detroit, looking all yellow and blue, like Gregory's U-10 Miss DYC, the boat that won here last year.

Who knows why or how these stories unfold as they do. But, when the smoke and spray had cleared off the race course on Sunday night, the four-day-old Detroit team, owner Dave Bartush and driver Terry Troxell were the new APBA Gold Cup champs! Let's go through the weekend and try to put together all the pieces that made up this memorable puzzle of a race.

Qualifying for the big race began on Friday, the 15th. It was eerie to walk down pit lane and not see the familiar crimson Budweiser hulls sitting there. But it's a new day and the nine Unlimited teams here - led by the Ellstrom's U-16, the current points leader - still laid claim to being the "fastest race boats in the world".

J W Myers set the tone of the race early by taking the Miss E-Lam out and performing a spectacular backward blow over, making two loops high into the air in front of the Detroit Yacht Club, slamming into the river and rolling over upside down. Myers was able to extricate himself through the escape hatch, stood up and waved that he was OK. The boat was towed back to the pits with the left rear section gone.

The Ellstrom crew pulled an all-night repair job trying to get the boat back into the race. They needed the points to stay ahead in the race for the season championship, AND they wanted that Gold Cup!

Jean Theoret led the field in with a 156.173 mph two-lap average (needed to qualify for the Gold Cup) in Bill Wurster's yellow LLumar Window Film. He was followed by Jimmy King in Ed Cooper's Miss Chrysler-Jeep. King complained that the U-3 was down on power and they couldn't find the problem. Regardless, he still turned in a 152.638.

Steve David was next in the Oh Boy! Oberto at 150.537. He was followed by J. Michael Kelly in Dick Scott/Miss DYC at 149.572; Ken Muscatel in the surprising Superior Racing at 144.627; Mike Weber in Formulaboats.com at 144.350; Fred Leland's Miss Rebecca with Greg Hopp at 143.684, and Miss Al Deeby Dodge at 131.044.

The repaired Miss E-Lam incurred a fuel flow violation and was dropped back to the minimum 130.000 mph as a penalty.

The Saturday heats, all 4-lappers, were run under sunny skies with a sparce crowd on hand (guess they were all waiting for the finals on Sunday).

Heat 1-A had a close start, with Jean Theoret on the inside. Miss Chrysler-Jeep came out of the turn first, but Theoret and the LLumar challenged and took over as they sped by the DYC. Oh Boy! Oberto was a close third, Miss Rebecca fourth and Formulaboats last. The French-Canadian took the LLumar to a 148.841 speed on lap #2, and was gone. On lap 3, the Oberto blew her gear box and stopped. King came around the final turn in second place and stalled 100 feet from the finish line. Hopp and the Rebecca took over second place and Mike Weber's U-5 took third.

JW Myers, running with no engine cowling over his turbine, took Miss E-Lam into the lead in Heat 1-B with U-2 Miss DYC in hot pursuit. J. Michael Kelly ran a terrific race, but Myers' Lycoming turbine was developing a little more power and stayed ahead for for the four laps. Ken Muscatel's U-25 had slowed in the first turn, but restarted, only to stall again in front of the Water Works grandstands. Ken restarted, but was lapped by the field. A steady Terry Troxell quietly brought the U-13 home in third.

The piston-powered Chrysler-Jeep stayed on her trailer for Heat 2-A. Superior Racing crawled to a halt before the start. Greg Hopp spun the Miss Rebecca on the approach to the start, went inside the buoyline and circled around, making himself way late. Theoret led Troxell the distance with Hopp finishing third.

Heat 2-B was a great heat of racing! E-Lam, DYC and Oberto ran together for four solid laps. Kelly, on the inside track, was driving the wheels off of Jim Harvey's boat, with Myers up the middle and Steve David outside. E-Lam had the speed on the field, but got airborne again in front of the Yacht Club on the final lap and Myers had to back off, allowing David to take the win. Mike Weber trailed the distance, but was given third place when officials penalized Kelly an extra lap for passing the scoring-up buoy prior to the one-minute gun.

So much for the Saturday races. Everything went well, with LLumar heading into Sunday with 800 perfect points. E-Lam had 700, with Al Deeby Dodge and Miss Rebecca tied at 525. Although Theoret was having it his way up to this point, it was still anybody's Gold Cup.

Heat 3-A, first of the 5-lappers, had a good first lap. After Superior Racing was drowned out on the approach to the start, Theoret and Myers ran neck and neck down the first backstretch with Theoret's U-8 pulling ahead on lap #2. Miss DYC was running just behind on the outside. U-100 Miss Rebecca trailed in fourth. Ken Muscatel got started but stalled again on lap #2. Hopp's U-100 died on the backstretch of Lap #3. LLumar won by ¼ lap over Elam and DYC. Muscatel restarted and finished alone.

Steve David took the lead at the start of 3-B, but Jimmy King pressed him until he got past on lap #3. The two Indiana boats were running flat out! King turned a 148.082 on the second go-round and pulled away for the win. Al Deeby Dodge held third and Formulaboats.com held fourth throughout.

Three boats made the start for Heat 4-A. Both Miss DYC and Superior Racing went down during the warm-up period. Oberto took a good lead but the piston Miss Chrysler-Jeep came charging up and challenged. LLumar Window Film was in a good third on the outside. As the laps rolled by, David continued to lead, with King on his tail on the inside. On lap #4 the two swung way wide and Theoret cut through their wakes to the inside.

At the start of lap #5 Oberto stalled and King took over. Theoret charged up on King on the last turn of the race and went into the U-3's roostertail, raised off the water and spun viciously in the spray, tearing off the entire right sponson. King finished but was eventually disqualified for apparently switching lanes and causing LLumar s accident. LLumar and Oberto got DNF's, so nobody scored any points for this heat.

King and Cooper were not happy with their disqualification, which would effectively put them out of the finals.

King was especially disappointed. "I said we're going to get a chance to win the Gold Cup finally. And then I saw LLumar coming up on us and I kept testing the waters, pushing them over, telling him I wasn't going to give him a lot of room.

I gave him as little as I could and he chose to stick it in there and it didn't work for either one of us."

Elam, Rebecca, Formulaboats and Al Deeby Dodge came out for the last elimination heat. Myers and the Elam led all the way after a wild first lap duel with Greg Hopp's U-100, which ended when Elam swung wide exiting the Roostertail Turn and Hopp went through his roostertail and stalled. He eventually restarted and Myers was called for pushing Hopp out and had to do an extra lap. Terry Troxell picked up 400 points for first place, Mark Weber took second, Hopp third and Myers last.

The final field for the run for the Gold was set: Miss Elam, Al Deeby Dodge, Oh Boy! Oberto, Formulaboats and Miss Rebecca formed the front line, with Miss DYC as the trailer. Prior to the start, due to a fuel flow violation in Heat 4-B, Miss Rebecca lost its points and became the trailer boat. Kelly and the DYC joined the front line.

It was J. Michael Kelly who grabbed the inside lane on the approach to the start. Myers put the Elam in lane #2 and Steve David had lane #3. As the six charged into the Belle Isle Bridge turn, Steve David moved over from lane 3 and forced Myers to cut in front of the DYC. Kelly had nowhere to go and climbed up on the Elam's roostertail. His white and orange craft blew over backward and slammed upside down into the river. The race was stopped and rescue efforts began. J. Michael was transported to shore after pulling himself out of the escape hatch. He complained later of back and neck pain, but an exam at Detroit Receiving Hospital showed no injury.

Steve David was disqualified for causing the incident. DYC was too damaged to continue, and Fred Leland withdrew the Miss Rebecca with engine woes.

With only three boats left in running condition, ABRA officials scrambled to salvage their crown jewel race of the season.

The boat owners involved had a meeting. ABRA suggested letting the Miss Chrysler-Jeep run, but her owner Ed Cooper declined, still incensed over his disqualification in Heat 4-A.

After a mind-numbing 2½ hour delay, the three remaining entrants took the course to decide a winner. Miss Elam was the clear favorite. Al Deeby Dodge and Formulaboats hadn't shown much during the preliminaries to offer a threat to JW Myers.

But, as the three approached the score-up buoy and the one-minute gun sounded, everything changed.

Miss Elam lost power momentarily, throwing Myers' timing out the window. By the time they roared over the starting line, Myers had caught up, but he certainly wasn't in charge. Terry Troxell came out of the Boat Club turn first, his U-13 finally showing the form that had won three previous Gold Cups when driven by Chip Hanauer and Mark Tate.

As the laps clicked off, it was clear that Myers' boat was spent. He remained within striking distance, but could never find that opening, or the power, to make a charge. Troxell was in command and the Gold Cup was his!

Pandemonium broke out in the Al Deeby pits. Owner Bartush was in shock. He had taken delivery of his boat only five days before the race and held just a dream of winning. When he brought veteran Troxell into the picture, his odds went up. Their game plan of running conservatively in the prelims, and going all out in the finals, worked. Of course they got plenty of help from the "hot" boats, who burned themselves out of the running one-by-one.

"It's truly amazing," Troxell told reporters. "This was my first race this year. I'd be working on a concrete patio right now (if not for Bartush's call). Detroit is awesome. This is the best drivers' course there is in all of boat racing."

Owner Bartush was equally in shock. "This is my first race. I'm thinking this is too easy. I couldn't have picked a better driver. This is absolutely the top. It can't get any better than this!?"

JW Myers settled for second, to the chagrin of owner Erick Ellstrom. Their boat was the fastest and best-prepared, but the blowover and the marathon repair job probably did them in.

"Driver error" can be the only excuse for Jean Theoret. The race was his, having won three straight heats convincingly before getting caught trying to race Jimmy King to the finish line, but ending up with a wrecked boat instead.

The 2005 APBA Gold Cup race was a grueling affair for participants and spectators alike. The Detroit River Regatta Association tried hard to sell tickets but, with the Major League Baseball All-Star game in town, and the fact that the Chrysler-Jeep Superstores had to pull their boat race TV ads early to match GM's employee pricing program, things fell a little short.

But that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of those who stuck it out to the finish. At the trophy presentation, Bartush, Troxell and the crew joined in with the crowd's chant, "De-troit hydroplane, De-troit hydroplane". It was true: Al Deeby's Spirit of Detroit and Terry Troxell were the new Gold Cup champs!

(Thunderboat, September 2005)