2006 Chrysler Jeep APBA Gold Cup

Jean Theoret Wins The APBA Gold Cup

by Steve Garey

In one of the most remarkable drives in Gold Cup history, pilote extraordinaire Jean Theoret overcame two days of penalties and misques and simply blew away the field in the championship heat July 16th on the turbulent Detroit River 2½ Mile course.

Driving Billy and Jane Schumacher’s U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing, Theoret took the lead on the inside and held off challenges from rookie Mike Allen in the Formulaboats II, a former Miss Budweiser, and Jimmy King in Miss Chrysler Jeep, the lone piston boat.

Officially known as the 2006 Chrysler Jeep Superstores Detroit APBA Gold Cup, this edition of the premier event in boat racing was riveting from start to finish.

Qualifying rounds began on Friday, July 14 with the defending champion boat, Dave Bartush’s U-13, still not in the Horace Dodge Pits. The Detroit boat was being trucked from winter rebuilding in Seattle. The truck broke down in South Dakota, but Bartush assured everyone that they’d make it.

The backup Miss Elam Plus boat spent most of Friday setting up for driver Nate Brown, filling in for Dave Villwock while the #1 boat and driver recuperate from their Valleyfield crash.

When the roostertails had settled on Friday evening, Ed Cooper’s Miss Chrysler Jeep, driven by Jimmy King, sat atop the leader board with a two-lap average of 159.332 mph on a blazingly hot day with perfect water conditions. Theoret did 156.695 in the Beacon Plumbing, followed by Mike Weber in Formulaboats.com at 153.634; teammate Mike Allen in Dick Scott/Miss DYC in at 153.128; Steve David in Oh Boy! Oberto at 152.223, and JW Myers in Miss EMCOR/Al Deeby Dodge at 150.476.

Then came the U-2.25 Michigan Mortgage Consultants driven by Ken Muscatel, in at 141.462; Lucky 21 with Kevin Aylesworth up at 139.671, and Fred Leland’s Little Will with Greg Hopp in at 134.248. This boat was named after sponsor Bill Rands’ new grandson.

Nate Brown and Miss Elam, and J Michael Kelly in the defending champ, now known as Acura of Bellevue, Wa, took the Commission’s Option into the race with no qualifying times.

When the Acura finally arrived in the pits, inspection showed the boat to be almost 1,000 pounds too light. A myriad of other problems kept the ‘05 Gold Cup winner on her trailer for the weekend.

Saturday dawned with highs in the nineties and a near-perfect race course. The huge crowds on shore were excited, as was the sponsoring Detroit River Regatta Association, who put on a first-class show on land. Now the boats would have to perform.

The Saturday heats were 4-lappers, and five big, beautiful hydros, with their roostertails glistening in the sun, fired up for Heat 1-A.

Deeby Dodge plowed around off plane and stalled. Ken Muscatel started alone with Chrysler Jeep trailing and Lucky 21 on the outside and back aways. Greg Hopp’s U-100 stalled before reaching the line. Muscatel’s Michigan Mortgage boat ran ½ a lap ahead of Lucky 21 after King’s Chrysler boat pulled off on lap #1. Dr. Ken won easily.

The second heat brought out Miss Beacon Plumbing, Oh Boy! Oberto, Miss DYC, Formulaboats.com, and Miss Elam Plus.

Anyone who doesn’t get goosebumps at the start of an Unlimited hydroplane race must be dead. These five poured over the line in a pack and didn’t spread out until the Belle Isle Bridge turn. Mike Weber took the lead and held off the U-37 for two thrilling laps. But Theoret had hit a buoy in turn #4 of lap 1 and was penalized. Mike Allen was now running second in Miss DYC. Oberto was next, and Elam brought up the rear. Allen caught and passed Theoret on lap #3 but Theoret was already a lap behind.

Mike Weber and Formulaboats won by a few lengths over his charging teammate Allen. Steve David was third, Nate Brown fourth and Theoret last.

As the red hot field came around the Roostertail Turn for the start of Heat 2-A Weber hooked and spun the U-5 into the exit buoy and had to circle around to be legal. At the line, Miss Beacon Plumbing jumped the gun as U-10 Al Deeby Dodge took off in the lead. Michigan Mortgage ran third and Lucky 21 was fourth. Mike Weber brought up the rear ter recovering from his spin.

Myers won by ½ a lap over David Wiiliams in the U-2.25. U-21 and U-5 battled around the final turn, with Formulaboats taking third. Theoret did an extra lap and finished fifth.

The last Saturday heat was a great one! The start was awesome, with all five boats running full bore. It was plain to see that these guys truly wanted that Gold Cup. Out of the first turn it was Jimmy King on the inside taking the lead with Greg Hopp and Nate Brown chasing him up the backstretch. Miss DYC and Oh Boy! Oberto were in fourth and fifth. King lengthened his lead with Elam, Little Will, and then Miss DYC joining the battled for second. It was later announced that Miss Elam was given an extra lap for encroahment before the start. At the end, it was U-3 Chrysler Jeep over Miss DYC, Little Will, and Oberto.

Sunday morning was another scorcher weatherwise, but with a slight, comfortable breeze.

Coming around for the start of Heat 3-A, Theoret’s U-37 was squeezed to the inside by Miss DYC, destroyed the exit buoy and lost power. Allen took the lead in the DYC but Jimmy King was right with him on the outside. They dueled for the lead until lap #4 when Allen pulled away. Myers kept pace until lap 3 when his Al Deeby entry stalled coming out of turn 4. U-37 trailed the distance.

In 3-B, Mike Weber and his Formulaboats U-5 appeared to jump the start and was later penalized. Nevertheless, Steve David pulled up even with him and the race was on! David’s Oh Boy! Oberto was trailing a smoke screen all around the race course after losing a seal in the gearbox. U-5 and U-6 raced spectacularly for 3½ laps. Miss Elam was third, Michigan Mortgage fourth and Lucky 21 fifth. The Oberto continued to pour out smoke, and the course was almost obliterated from view. David finished first, followed by Brown in the Elam, Muscatel in the Michigan Mortgage, Aylesworth in the Lucky, and the penalized Weber in the U-5.

Ken Muscatel got the inside for the start of Heat 4-A, but lost power on the approach. Formulaboats and Oberto again squared off, with steady Steve David exiting the first turn leading by a boat length. Elam was third, Michigan Mortgage fourth and Lucky 21 fifth. David opened his lead when Weber came too hot out of the 4th turn, slid right through U-6’s roostertail and stalled. He got going a lap later as everyone else moved up a position. At the finish it was U-6, U-1, U-2.25, U-21, and U-5.

At this point, it was announced that the U-10 Al Deeby Dodge was withdrawing from the race with hull damage.

The last elimination heat had three starters after Greg Hopp’s Little Will conked out enroute to the line. Theoret grabbed the inside and the lead, and battled Jimmy King for two thrilling laps (reminiscent of last year’s Heat 4-B) Mike Allen’s Miss DYC trailed in third, content let the leaders go at it. On lap 5, King dropped back and settled for a safe second, giving Jean Theoret the win and a ticket into the final heat.

Prior to the Finals, the wind kicked up and conditions on the race course turned from very good to very choppy.

The six finalists entered the now-rugged course and jockeyed for position. Theoret took his customary inside lane and grabbed an early lead over Allen and King. Steve David was fourth, Nate Brown fifth, and Ken Muscatel sixth exiting the first turn.

With Allen’s Miss DYC pulling up even entering turn #3, the Beacon Plumbing’s engine cowl flew off and took the horizontal wing with it. Now handling a crippled boat, Theoret had to dig down deep and bring forth all the skills that made him a champion in the Grand Prix Class. He let his well-prepared boat fly over the chop and stayed ahead of Allen. On the final backstretch. Miss Chrysler Jeep passed Miss DYC for second place, but Allen’s boat had been penalized for encroachment, and was last anyway. At the finish, it was Jean Theoret winning his first APBA Gold Cup in a damaged boat on a treacherous course. Jimmy King brought the Chrysler Jeep home second, followed by Oh Boy! Oberto, Miss Elam Plus, Michigan Mortgage, and Miss DYC.

In the U-37 pits afterward, the scene was electric. Owner Billy Schumacher - a two-time Gold Cup champ driver himself - was a Gold Cup champ again in his first year as an owner. His wife, Jane, the co-owner, was in a state of shock. Her and her husband’s goals before the season were to win the Gold Cup and win at home in Seattle. Their mission is half accomplished.

And Jean Theoret wins his third Unlimited race and his first on the Detroit River since his glory days with the Casino de Montreal Grand Prix boat.

In its 102nd year, the APBA Gold Cup race is still the greatest. The action, the drama, the heartbreak and elation were all here in one glorious weekend in a classic setting.

(Thunderboat, August 2006)