Their Biggest Racing Thrill...
A number of drivers favored us with accounts of their most exciting moment in hydroplane racing. We wanted to use them all, but space went against us so we drew straws to choose those we could run. For the rest—we hope next year!
Joe Taggart "Unquestionably my greatest thrill in 30 years of racing was the 1953 Gold Cup. Four days prior to the race I never dreamt of being in Seattle—let alone competing. I shall never forget that phone call Tuesday evening from Stan Sayres offering me the seat in his Slo-mo IV for the big race. Two days later I had my first ride in the ‘Old Lady,’ and for the first time in my life I had a boat that could go faster than I wanted. That same afternoon we turned in a new qualifying time of 107 mph, and on Saturday won the Gold Cup, the answer to a lifetime's dream."
Brien Wygle "My greatest thrill so far came in the 1957 Sahara Cup Race. It had been a mediocre season for me, and I had spent a great deal of my time looking at the transom of the Kai. Then in the third heat everything finally clicked. The acceleration of the Too was excellent . . . and soon I saw I had overhauled Regas in the Kai and knew I could hold the lead. This was what I needed to restore my confidence, and I went on to win the final heat."
Fred Alter "My most thrilling moment came the day I earned membership in what Sports Illustrated calls ‘The Catapult Club.’ It happened during the 1957 Silver Cup Race. Driving Miss U. S. I, I had broken in front and had set a fast pace. On the third lap my boat dug in on the upper turn and I was thrown gracefully into the water. I shall never forget tumbling over the surface like a rag doll. Nor will I ever forget ‘Jumping Jack Regas’ as he turned about and joined me in the water on the chance I might need help."
Don Wilson "My top thrill came when I got my first chance to drive an unlimited hydroplane. It was Horace Dodge's ‘Dora My Sweetie,’ and I drove her to a third place finish in the 1955 Silver Cup."
Lee Schoenith "This summer marks our tenth year of racing, and there have been so many thrills and experiences that I don't know where to start. I think the first big thrill was when Gale II passed Slo-mo and took the lead temporarily in the 1953 Gold Cup Race. Later, it was a great thrill to win the Gold Cup in 1955 and bring it back to Detroit. Last summer flipping the Gale VI was something I will never forget."
Russ Schleeh "Probably the greatest thrill of my unlimited hydroplane experience was my first ride in one of these thundering, spectacular and beautiful boats. I thoroughly enjoy speed in any form and can honestly say that the thrill of speed is herein realized in its rarest form."
Bill Muncey "The most exciting and thrilling moment of my racing career was also the most disillusioning. It came when we ‘won’ the 1955 Gold Cup. It was the most exhilarating, happy experience of my life. Then, after an hour of complete bedlam, it was announced that we had not won after all, but had lost the race to the Gale V by 4˝ seconds. It hurt . . . but it was a stimulant, too. We came back the following year more determined than ever, and the record shows that Miss Thriftway really did win the Gold Cup in 1956 and 1957."
Robert D. Hayward "Unquestionably my greatest driving thrill was when I drove Miss Supertest II at 175 mph before she set the world record of 184.54 mph in 1957. Before that I had done only a small amount of test driving, calling for speeds of not over 130 mph."
Chuck Hickling "Winning the Apple Cup this year was a big thrill, but my most exciting experience came last year in a ‘266’ limited race for the national championship. Somehow I got on the roostertail of another boat and rode it for about a half mile—three feet above the level of the lake."
Jack Regas "I've just been lucky to come along at the right time for the right boat and the right crew. I believe setting a new mile straightaway record and. winning the Gold Cup were equal thrills to me."
Norm Evans "My biggest thrill came when Miss Seattle ‘kited’ with me at 160 mph in 1956. At almost the same spot on Lake Washington where she did a backflip with Lou Fageol the year before, the boat suddenly lifted her nose and became airborne. Somehow she miraculously settled down to complete the lap—but I spent an exciting few minutes.
[Reprinted from the 1959 APBA Gold Cup programme]
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© Leslie Field, 2006