Detroit River, Detroit, Mich., September 2, 1946
Lombardo Wins Gold Cup
By Lou Eppel
Last year in New York ex-Gold Cupper and now A.P.B.A. President Bill Horn tossed a bombshell into the meeting of the council of the association when he proposed that the rules governing the Gold Cup be literally thrown out and new wide open ones substituted. There were cries of heresy from some of the die-hards; however before too long, a committee headed by Horn presented to the American Power Boat Association their new rules and regulations for the premier power boating event in the country. In short, the association approved the adoption of rules which would permit any size of power plant to be used provided the propulsion was not jet or rocket, and that the boats would have to be at least ten feet in length and not more than forty feet. These new rules really opened up the class and for the first time in many years it was hoped that more than one or two boats would at least start. Owners and drivers of all classes of inboards all over the country began making plans, positive that now they could win the coveted trophy.
Labor Day in Detroit was the time and place for the running of the thirty-ninth Gold Cup Race, and the city went all out to back the affair. The Detroit Yacht Club and the Gold Cup. Committee pooled their experience in conducting an event of this size, and as a result the program ran off on schedule without a hitch.
Shortly after dawn on Monday, the second of September, the advance guard of the crowd, estimated to have been at least one-quarter of a million strong, began to gather on the shores of the Detroit River, each one determined to get the most advantageous spot. The day was bright and clear with just a nip in the air. Water conditions were good, though slightly on the rough side for the smaller of the entries. Some twenty-two entrants had attended the drivers' meeting the day previous and had drawn for positions in the two qualifying heats. Out of that number seventeen actually crossed the starting line.
In the first heat, first qualifying group, Danny Arena and his new Miss Golden Gate III made their debut in very fast company headed by the old campaigner Miss Canada III. From the start it was obvious that the Allison engine neatly tucked under the cowling of the Golden Gate was really putting out the horsepower, but the boat itself seemed to be quite unmanageable on the turns and not too stable on the straightaways. The Canada however settled down directly after the start, and without any fuss or bother proceeded to burn up the course. Without a doubt the Miller powered Greavette hull was ideally suited for the choppy waters of the Detroit River, and while the Golden Gate showed terrific bursts of speed on the long straightaways, Arena sacrificed all he gained each time he was forced to manhandle his roaring craft into a turn. The Canada built up an early lead and held her position for the first five laps, then on the far back stretch she was seen suddenly to drop off and eventually out. The same bugaboo which has plagued the career of the Canadian challenger, supercharger difficulties, again caused the Wilson entry to be towed back to the pits. With the Canada out of the picture, Arena wrestled the Golden Gate around the course for the full ten laps at an average speed of 65.208 miles per hour for the thirty mile distance. Meanwhile the six other starters were having a battle all their own for the second and third positions. This was really a bang-up race among some of the hottest 225's in the country. Joe Van Blerck in the Aljo V, Joe Taggart in the Tomyann IV, and Dr. Walt Robinson's Mr. Dockit were putting on a thrilling three sided fight which lasted for the first two and one-half laps. On the back stretch the Tomyann IV gave up the ghost and was forced out of the race, leaving the Aljo V and Mr. Dockit fighting it out until the seventh lap when the Aljo pulled ahead and the Robinson craft was taken to the pits. Well behind the Van Blerck craft, Jed Hanley was tooling around the course at a nice conservative speed; however because he failed to cross the finish line within the time limit the Malt-n-Hops and Hanley were barred front the final two heats. Van Blerck. driving his 225 for all it had in it, averaged 54.56 miles per hour for the heat.
The second qualifying heat again brought out two entries which would not have qualified under the old rules, and seven other boats, six of which were 225's, The Tempo VI, with owner .Guy Lombardo at the wheel, and Cam Fischer 's Miss Cincinnati IV made the other entrants look like toys in size when they came out for the start, but the little fellows were not to be pushed aside once the starting flag fell. Bob Bogie, the ex-G.I. from Brooklyn, whammed across the starting line on the button in his Blitz II in which he had won the Auerbach Memorial Trophy at Red Bank two weeks before. Gib Bradfield in his Buckeye Baby was hot on Bogie's tail, and for a short time it looked as if this was going to be a setup for the 225's, but by the time the field of nine came out of the first turn Lombardo had discovered that this was not going to be a cinch and he mashed down on the throttle, pushing the Tempo out in front and walking away. There just wasn't any comparison. In spite of the tricky chop and small swells the Tempo VI leveled out and literally flew. The speed racked up by Lombardo was not as apparent as the speed shown by the Golden Gate, as the Freeport entry is one of the smoothest riding craft ever built. Bogie stepped into second place and held it all the way around, looking very much like a miniature of the Tempo, being a natural wood finish with scarlet hatches and cowlings. The Blitz also resembled its bigger brother in riding qualities. Bogie held his foot down all the way around lap after lap, and managed to lap the Buckeye Baby on the eighth circuit. Bradfield was far from slow, and after Miss Cincinnati flipped in a welter of spray on the east turn in the third lap, he had third place sewed up tight, Al Brinkman in the Seabiscuit put up a good fight for three laps, but the strain was just too much on the engine and he was forced out of the running. Lou Fageol's So-Long, Jr., a highly touted entry, managed to make one lap and withdrew right in front of the judges' stand with battery cable trouble.
Riding without any sign of effort, Lombardo raced lap after lap well out in front and at the end of ten laps was given the checkered flag, chalking up an average speed for the distance of 67.192 miles per hour. Bogie and the Blitz II roared across a few minutes later for second place with an average of 64.175, which was almost ten miles an hour faster than either of the other 225's were able to turn in. The Buckeye Baby crossed next with an average of 54.730 which was only .17 m.p.h. faster than Joe Van Blerck's time in the first qualifying heat.
The officials announced that there were five boats which had qualified for the second and third heats of the race. Those which were eligible were the Tempo VI with 400 points, Miss Golden Gate III with 300 points, Blitz II with 225 points, Buckeye Baby with 169, and the Aljo V with 127. These then were the ones who had survived the first grueling thirty miles and were to go out for the two remaining heats. Certainly the unheard of action taken by Bill Horn and A.P.B,A, in throwing the doors wide open for the Gold Cup was paying dividends already. The crowds lining the shores and hanging out of windows had seen two of the best races in years and there were actually five entrants running in the second official heat.
While the owners, drivers arid mechanics of the qualified craft were busy getting their boats ready for the second heat, the scooting little 135's bounded out on the course and put on a marvelous show for the spectators, Merlyn Culver of Dayton, Ohio, piloted his Yankee Doodle across the finish line in first place for the race for 135's which were under fifty miles an hour. What was meant by this, was not made clear, because the Yankee Doodle II has averaged almost 58 miles an hour for a five mile heat. However it was a good race and Culver did a fine job of driving. In the other 135 event, for boats over fifty miles an hour, Culver entered his new and as yet unnamed boat, This new boat had phenomenal speed and was easily the fastest on the course. The new Son of a Seabiscuit, owned by Al Brinkman, Jr., and the Skidoo were far from slow, and when Culver suffered engine trouble in the third lap the Skidoo took over first place and held it all the way to the finish.
By this time it was three-twenty and time for the start of the second heat of the Gold Cup, Each of the starters had already completed thirty miles of the ninety, and points were scored for the qualifiers out of the two elimination runs held earlier.
At the sound of the starting cannon Arena hurled Miss Golden Gate across the line in first spot, followed by Bogie, Bradfield. Van Blerck and Lombardo in the order named. By the time the first buoy of the first turn was reached Lombardo had managed to get in between the Golden Gate and the buoy, and Arena was forced outside. Danny didn't back off at all and continued to race around the outside of the turn, and when they went into the back stretch the Tempo VI and the Golden Gate were neck and neck in a thrilling brush. Arena turned loose his full horsepower and drew up on the Tempo, almost managing to forge ahead, but Lombardo was also doing some throttle pushing and the two boats took off down the straightaway at better than one hundred miles per hour. The screams from the thousands at the Detroit Yacht Club and the masses on shore drowned out the noise of the engines, and when Golden Gate dropped off and Tempo pushed out in front the crowd went mad. Meanwhile the other three starters were putting on their own show, with the Blitz leading the Buckeye Baby and the Aljo V.
By the time the Tempo roared into the fifth lap the Aljo had been lapped, and Arena seemed to he slacking off slightly on each successive lap. Up through the eighth lap the five entrants stayed in position, with the Tempo riding well out in front followed by the Golden Gate, with the Blitz, Buckeye Baby and the Aljo trailing along in that order. On the back stretch, just after coming out of the east turn, Bogie's boat suddenly went off plane and stopped after putting up a game fight. Before his boat actually stopped Bob was out of the cockpit, had the hatch open and was working furiously, refusing aid from the alert patrol boat which came to his assistance. While Tempo and the other entries flashed by Bogie worked down around the engine, and in short order the Blitz was again fired up and out after the competition. Unfortunately the lead which the Blitz held over the other 225's was lost, and Bob just managed to get across the finish line within the time limit. The officials announced the standings of the boats after the second heat, and once again the Tempo VI had scored 400 points at an average speed of 66.315 m.p.h. The Golden Gate III was credited with 300 points for averaging 57.158. Bradfield in Buckeye Baby was third, receiving 225 points at an average for the heat of 55.869 m.p.h. Joe Van Blerck was timed at 50.802 in fourth spot and had 169 points added to his score. Bogie, who had made the emergency repairs out on the course, managed to squeeze into the scoring with 127 points, arid when it is taken into consideration that he stopped for a considerable length of time his 49.763 is remarkable.
In winning the second heat Lombardo added a record to his impressive list. In the second lap he drove Tempo VI to a new lap record of 73.2948 miles per hour, bettering the mark established in 1938 by Count Rossi in the Alagi of 72.7076.
O.J. Mulford Silver Cup
After the finish of the second heat of Gold Cup competition all of the boats which did not start the Gold Cup first heat, or failed to qualify in the first heats, went out to do battle for the Silver Cup which was presented by Mr. O. J. Mulford in memory of his father, a pioneer marine engine manufacturer. This actually turned out to be a race for the 225's that had dropped by the wayside, with the exception of the So-Long, Jr., which had completed only one lap of the qualifying heat. This boat of Fageol's had a 404 cubic inch engine that was built up from one of the power plants which power the busses built by Fageol. Al Brinkman in Seabiscuit took command of the field from the start and held his lead for three laps, then relinquished it to the So-Long, Jr. Fageol managed to get ironed out coming down the home stretch in the fourth lap, and took over the lead which he held to the finish. Joe Taggart in the Tomyann IV just didn't have the speed which he showed in the qualifying heat for the Gold Cup, and even though his power plant had a noticeable skip he took third spot just behind the Seabiscuit. Jed Hanley managed to finish the five laps and placed fourth. Jack Woods' highly touted Detroiter made a poor showing and withdrew in the first lap.
The day had remained clear and sunny, but by the time the final heat for the Gold Cup was ready to be run the nip in the air had increased and spectators, officials and the press were beginning to wish they bad brought parlors and blankets along. The five minute gun sounded off, and from the pits the five finalists fired up. Going into the finals the officials announced the point standings of the contestants: Tempo VI, 800; Miss Golden Gate III, 600; Buckeye Baby, 394; Blitz II, 352; and Aljo V, 296. It was almost an impossibility for Lombardo not to win the Gold Cup if he managed to finish the last thirty miles. Arena stood a bare chance of taking the trophy, but to do so he would have to win the final heat, set a new heat record, and also gain more than five minutes on the Tempo in order to have the fastest total race time. The 400 points for the first and the 400 points awarded as bonus for the fastest heat, plus the 400 point bonus for the fastest total race time would cinch the title for Danny. However he had terrific odds against him, as the Tempo had run with amazing smoothness in each of the first two heats, and it seemed quite unlikely that Arena, regardless of how fast he chauffeured the Golden Gate could lap the Tempo twice. True, Lombardo had lapped the Golden Gate in the second heat, but the California entry was having some small amount of trouble in that go-around.
From the moment the starting gun fired the entire mass of humanity viewing the spectacle was electrified. For some unknown reason everyone seemed to sense that this was going to be one of the most thrilling of Gold Cup heats in history, if not the best ever witnessed. Bogie as usual was first across the line but his lead lasted for a matter of second only. Golden Gate and Tempo came down and across the line full out, and going into the first turn were all alone. The Golden Gate came out of the turn in first spot, with Lombardo hot on her heels, but the vitamins which Arena had injected into his Allison suddenly went to work and Golden Gate took off down the back stretch at a speed estimated by the officials and press in excess of one hundred and twenty miles an hour. The speed registered by Arena in the first heat indicated just what we were to see from there on in. Never before had spectators been treated to a show like that put on by the Golden Gate. Throwing a roostertail some sixty feet high and one hundred yards in length behind her, Golden Gate set a new lap record in the first heat of 73.740 m.p.h. Picking up more speed as he crossed the line for the first lap, Arena's craft literally shot around the turns and in the second lap the officials announced that another lap record was set at the amazing speed of 76.384 miles per hour. The Tempo meanwhile was still definitely in the show, running much over the speed it had made in the first and second heats. Riding with unbelievable smoothness in contrast to the rough riding Golden Gate, Lombardo was also breaking the previous lap records each time he went around. The lead Golden Gate had built up in the first heat was being widened ever so slightly, as the Tempo's straightaway speed was definitely not up to that of the Golden Gate. However the band leader's craft lost little time on the turns and by skillful driving Lombardo was able to stay definitely in the race. Danny was improving on each turn, but even on the straight stretches he had a lot of driving to do to keep his thundering mount from taking off. It seemed that Arena had gotten the most out of the Golden Gate when the officials announced his time for the third lap was figured out to be 75.298 m.p.h., however on the fourth circuit he registered the astounding and unbelievable speed of 77.110. It is quite impossible to put down on paper the thrill experienced by everyone present when viewing such magnificent driving. In the fifth lap the Golden Gate had lapped the Aljo V, Blitz II and Buckeye Baby, and had built up a lead over the Tempo of approximately one-third of a lap. The average speed at the halfway point for the Golden Gate was 75.628, which was faster than the fifth lap speed of 75.172.
The riding mechanic in the Golden Gate was by this time having a tough time of it. As the boat raced by the judges' stand the poor chap's head was bobbing and rolling, and it was quite obvious that he would much rather have been elsewhere. It takes a good man to just ride as he was doing. Nothing to do but hang on and hope that brother Danny at the wheel had some idea of where he was going and what he was doing. By the time Arena had finished the sixth lap all were wondering just how long he, his boat and engine could take the terrific punishment. The judges announced in a frenzy of excitement that the speed for the sixth lap was 77.911. It began to seem there was no limit to the speed the hurtling yellow-orange boat could turn in. Lombardo, still in second place, had dropped back about one-half lap behind Arena, and there was considerable talk about the possibility of Arena's winning the Gold Cup on the bonuses gained in his record breaking performance. It would have been possible if Lombardo slowed down to a crawl, but Guy apparently had no intention of letting the cherished trophy get away from him now that he had it practically sitting on his mantel. Guy kept his foot down all the way, easily running at better than one hundred on the straightaways and wasting no time on the turns. The Tempo behaved beautifully, doing a thoroughly businesslike job of getting around the buoys. If by chance Arena could have lapped Lombardo twice he might have won, but the five minute advantage Lombardo had built up in the first two heats was just too much for any competitor to overcome.
The handmade gear box in the Golden Gate was putting up a terrific scream by the time the seventh lap was completed, and it was thought Arena was taking things a bit easier, but his time of 76.797 was proof that this was merely idle conjecture. His overall race average through the seventh lap was 76.112, well over the heat record of 68.645 set in 1937 by the Notre Dame. In the eighth lap the positions of the boats remained the same, with Tempo holding her own in second place just about one-half lap behind the Golden Gate. Gib Bradfield was still in third position and all alone. Bogie in the Blitz just didn't have the steam he had shown in the first two heats, but he was pushing his sleek mahogany hull for all it was worth. Joe Van Blerck and the Aljo V were still in the race in fifth spot. Here, indeed was something for the books. Going into the final lap in the last heat for the Gold Cup were five outfits and all were running in fine shape. Records had been smashed in each of the laps, and from all indications it was apparent the heat record was due for a fall, and also the full ninety mile mark. In the last few Gold Cup races the spectators were fortunate if one boat was still running at this point.
Starting his last lap, Arena acknowledged the flag from the judges' stand and poured the coal on for all he was worth. Corning out of the east turn and just about getting ready for the back stretch, Miss Golden Gate III suddenly dropped from top speed to a shuddering halt. Arena was seen to stand up in the cockpit and wave, indicating that it was all over. At first it was thought the gear box had finally let go, but later it was learned that because of a broken oil line the lubricant had all been pumped into the bilges, and as a result the huge Allison power plant just came unglued all at once. It was a terribly tough break for Arena. After completing nine and one-half laps out of the necessary ten, all at record breaking speed, he was forced to sit by and watch the Tempo fly by and around the west turn, and then down the home stretch for the checkered flag. Buckeye Baby was still in the race and, even though well over a lap behind the Tempo, Bradfield piloted his boat across the line for second place. Bogie also finished the full distance in third spot, followed by Van Blerck in the tail position. The South Shore Yacht Club of Freeport, Long Island, certainly had cause for celebration that night. Two out of the four finishers were members of the club.
The crowd gave Lombardo a tumultuous reception when he was towed over to the finish line after shutting down his engine. Surprisingly enough the maestro didn't look too tired out after his grueling ninety mile run. The officials announced the speed for Tempo VI was 70.89 miles per hour for the thirty mile distance. This too was a new record, as the former mark held by the Notre Dame was 68.645. The speeds for the other three finishers were: Buckeye Baby, 59.974; Blitz II, 52.60; Aljo V, 52.346.
Final summaries showed that Guy Lombardo in Tempo VI had scored a total of 2,000 points—three straight heats at 400, plus bonuses of 400 points for turning in the fastest heat, and also 400 for having the fastest total ninety mile speed. The Tempo averaged 68.072 miles an hour for the ninety miles, breaking the former mark held by the same boat when it was known as the My Sin and owned by Zalmon G. Simmons. The speed recorded by My Sin in 1939 was 66.240 m.p.h. Gib Bradfield again finished second to Lombardo, as he had two weeks before in the National Sweepstakes at Red Bank. Buckeye Baby amassed a total of 694 points. Miss Golden Gate III had scored 600 points by virtue of the two seconds for the first two heats. Bob Bogie and the Blitz II chalked up 577 points for fourth place, and the 465 points gathered by Joe Van Blerck and the Aljo V gave him fifth spot.
It had been a glorious day of racing throughout. By the time the awards were handed out the huge spectator fleet began to take off, and the waters of the Detroit River were churned by all sizes and shapes of craft. The thirty-ninth running of the Gold Cup had certainly brought big time motor boat racing back to its old glory. The spectators who had thronged every possible vantage point along the Detroit River course saw perhaps the most thrilling final heat in Gold Cup history. Every record was broken, and more boats finished than have started in the last several runnings of the Championships.
Lombardo drove one of the best races in a long time, and deserves every bit of credit and recognition he gets. The Tempo VI and the sweet running Zumbach-Miller 16 cylinder engine performed perfectly the entire distance. It is a marvelous combination, and seems a sure thing to add the third major trophy, the President's Cup, to the National Sweepstakes crown and the Gold Cup.
Arena and Miss Golden Gate III proved to the boat racing fraternity that all of the records now in existence for the big fellows are in for a thorough shellacking before many months pass. By next year there should be several craft powered by the big liquid cooled aircraft engines such as the Allison and the Packard Rolls-Royce. Taking into consideration that Arena, only recently discharged from the Army, built and planned the entire Miss Golden Gate III himself in a few months, his performance was really more sensational. Danny stated that previous to Detroit he had run the big boat only about one-half hour, and still had several bugs which needed to be ironed out. The installation and adaptation of the Allison was clean and well done. As soon as he is able to overcome such bugs as accessory drives and so forth, the California boat will be hard to beat. Arena further stated that he noticed the oil pressure started to drop midway in the second heat, and between heats he thought that he had found the difficulty. However soon after the start of the third heat the pressure dropped to practically nothing and he decided to try to stretch it for the final thirty miles. The spectacular performance of the Golden Gate in the third heat gave evidence of what to expect in the future. When the connecting rod let go after being oil starved for twenty-eight and one-half miles the entire engine came apart. Upon being asked if he would compete in Washington for the President's Cup, Arena smiled and stated that he thought he would be unable to install a new engine in time.
The show put on by the three 225's finishing the entire distance was surprising to the many skeptics who had proclaimed the little fellows were fine for five mile heats but would never take the punishment of three, thirty mile chases. Bogie, Bradfield and Van Blerck did a swell job, and made a lot of "authorities" blush.
(Reprinted from The Rudder, October 1946, pp.36-39)
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