1956 APBA Gold Cup Race
Detroit River, Detroit MI, September 1, 1956
Gold Cup Winner In Doubt
Final results of the 49th Gold Cup contest may not be known for 60 days after the running of the event on the Detroit River on Sept. 1. A court action instituted by challenger Horace Dodge and half a dozen protests filed by competitors have placed in the deep freeze of doubt the official scoring of the hottest competition ever developed in quest of the famous old urn.
Dodge obtained from the Circuit Court, County of Wayne, Mich. a show cause order which seeks to have the American Power Boat Assn. declare the event "No Contest." His contention is that the qualification period was improperly extended past sundown of the night prior to the race.
The most time-consuming protest, in the hands of A.P.B.A's Inboard Racing Commission at this writing, alleges that the local race committee erred in disqualifying the apparent winner, Miss Thriftway, for striking a course marker in the final heat. Others of the protests may also be appealed to the I.R.C. which has two months in which to render its final decision.
Fifteen boats posted qualifying speeds in excess of the minimum 90 m.p.h. and an additional few failed to make the grade for various reasons. Highest speed for the required three-lap qualification runs was the 108.16 m.p.h. chalked up by Jack Schafer's Such Crust III, but shortly before the start of the first heat Such Crust had to be withdrawn because of mechanical damage.
Just prior to starting her preliminary laps, Stan Sayres' world-record-holding Slo-mo-shun IV, three time winner of the Cup, was destroyed when she capsized at about 140 m.p.h. The accident sent driver Joe Taggart to the hospital with serious fractures of arm and leg.
Drawn by lot as Group A—to run in Heat 1, Sec. A and Heat 2, Sec. A—were the following (qualifying speeds in parentheses): From Detroit—Joseph Schoenith's Staudacher-built Gale V (107.784) and Gale VI (99.94) with Bill Cantrell driving the V and Lee Schoenith the VI; Roy Dossin's Staudacher hull Miss Pepsi (98.97) piloted by Chuck Thompson; and Frank Saile driving his own Arena creation Miss Wayne (102.15). From Seattle—Bill Muncey at the wheel of Miss Thriftway (106.73), the Jones-Staudacher hull owned by Willard Rhodes, and Maverick (105.69), another Jones-Staudacher job, belonging to Wm. Waggoner and driven by Bill Stead. All used Allison power, Gale VI, Pepsi and Wayne having dual engines.
Heat 1, Sec. A was started with the Detroit River in an unusually placid mood. Chuck Thompson had Pepsi "in the groove" and led the field over the line on the inside. Following him came Maverick, Thriftway, Wayne and Gale VI in that order. Gale V was unable to start. Pepsi came out of the first turn with 100 yards of lead and held this margin to the end of the first lap. Chuck's speed for the first three miles was 94.612 m.p.h. Trailing at this stage were Thriftway, Gale VI, Maverick and Wayne.
Pepsi continued to increase her lead and the positions of all boats remained unchanged through the eighth lap. Maverick, carrying a heavy load of bilge water, found herself lapped by Pepsi on the eighth go-around. This was too much for Stead who re-passed Pepsi with ease to remain on the same lap with the leader.
On the ninth backstretch Maverick passed the rough-riding Gale VI. Thompson's charge completed the 30-miler at an average of 91.525 m.p.h., almost two laps ahead of Wayne. Pepsi was followed over the line by Thriftway, Maverick, Gale VI and Wayne, in that order.
The B group, drawn to run in the second sections of the. first two heats, was made up of three Detroit craft: Joseph Schoenith's Gale IV (99.83), a Staudacher product driven by Roy Duby; George Simon's Miss U.S. I (97.97) built by Arena and driven by Fred Alter, and Miss U.S. II (100.9) another Staudacher, driven by Don Wilson. Seattle had two challengers: Rooster Tail Inc.'s Jensen-built Miss Seattle (105.06), handled by Norm Evans; and Russ Schleeh at the wheel of William Waggoner's Jones-Staudacher Shanty I (108.138). Lake Tahoe, Cal., was represented by J. Philip Murphy's Muvalong (97.38), a Staudacher craft steered by Jay Murphy. All had single Allisons.
Heat 1B was started in the face of an impending squall. Shanty, which lagged at the start, drove through the tightly-packed fleet and out into the lead at the start of the first backstretch. The ensuing mile was a spine-tingling part of the contest as Shanty, Gale IV and the two U .S. boats ran closely packed and at nearly the same speed. At the end of each of the first three laps the order of finish was Shanty, Gale IV, U.S., U.S. II, Muvalong and Seattle. Then Alter in U.S. I made his move. On the fourth round he overhauled first Gale IV, then Shanty.
At this point heavy rain commenced. In the ensuing confusion Miss U.S. I missed a buoy and suffered damage which eliminated her for the day. Muvalong also dropped out for good. The race was stopped on the seventh lap because of the weather conditions. After a long huddle the officials decided that the rules governing such a stoppage were unworkable and ordered the section re-run.
Muvalong being unable to start in the re-run of 1B, Hawaii Kai took her place. Miss Seattle led the pack at the start, followed by Gale IV, Shanty and the Kai. Miss U.S. I was unable to start and Miss U.S. II cut the 1,000 ft. safety marker and was disqualified. Coming out of the first turn it was Shanty closely pursued by Gale IV. Duby worked the Gale close to Shanty's stern going into the second turn, and as Schleeh steered for the middle buoy, Gale IV took a horrendous hosing. She immediately slowed to a crawl.
At the end of the first circuit Schleeh was in front with a lap speed of 99.705, followed by Hawaii Kai, Seattle and Gale IV. They remained in this order until the second turn of the third lap when Kaiser's boat stalled and dropped to last position. Restarted, it ran some very fast rounds and, although two laps behind, the Kai passed Shanty on the latter's ninth circuit. The order of finish was Shanty, Gale IV and Hawaii Kai. Miss Seattle was disqualified for cutting a course marker.
The rules requiring that Sections A and B of each heat be scored together with points awarded according to relative times, the order of position in Heat One became: Shanty, Pepsi, Gale IV, Thriftway, Maverick, Gale VI, Hawaii Kai and Wayne.
All six of the original A group appeared for heat 2A. Jack Bartlow, driving in place of owner Saile, was first over the starting line in Miss Wayne, trailed by Maverick and Pepsi. Thriftway jumped into second spot in the first backstretch and, on the second turn of that first lap, Thriftway and Maverick treated Chuck Thompson in Pepsi to a substantial rooster-tailing.
At the conclusion of the first circuit the order was Thriftway, Maverick, Pepsi, Wayne, Gale V and Gale VI. On the second lap Pepsi overhauled Maverick, which was again taking water aboard, but Muncey in Thriftway staved off the Thompson threat with three consecutive laps at better than 100 m.p.h. Thriftway and Pepsi lapped boat after boat as the event went on. Gale V withdrew on the seventh round.
The Rhodes craft was first to receive the checkered flag at a heat speed of 100.040. After it came Pepsi with 98.935. Others, in order, were Maverick, Gale VI and Wayne.
Bill Cantrell substituted for Roy Duby, in the driver's seat of Gale IV in heat 2B. Others appearing for the start were Miss Seattle, Shanty and Hawaii Kai. Miss Seattle had the best of the start, but at the first turn it was Jack Regas in the Kai. Shanty, which had been moving up fast, went out in front on the first backstretch.
Shanty, Hawaii Kai and Seattle finished the first lap in that order. But on the first turn of the second circuit Regas again passed Shanty. Schleeh returned the compliment by pushing Shanty again into the lead on the second backstretch. Coming into the second turn of the third lap, Regas did what others had before and drove too close to Shanty's roostertail. Thus was ended one of the tightest races in unlimited competition. The Kai's washing-down stalled her and she lost a lap before restarting. Shanty went on to win at a heat speed of 96.901. The Kaiser boat was second, Miss Seattle having again been disqualified by the committee for cutting a buoy.
Scoring Sections 2A and 2B as though they were one heat yielded the following rating: Thriftway, Pepsi, Shanty, Maverick, Hawaii Kai, Gale VI and Wayne.
Prior to the start of the third heat, scores toted up as follows: Shanty 625, Pepsi 600, Thriftway 569, Maverick 296, Gale IV 225, Hawaii Kai 198, Gale VI 190 and Wayne 124. Thriftway was closest to a heat bonus with her 100.040 while Pepsi looked good for fastest contest with a 17 sec. lead over Shanty and 27 sec. advantage over Thriftway.
Only the six highest-point boats were eligible for the third heat, but as Gale IV was unable to run Gale VI moved into the vacancy.
Although there were six starters in this final event, the story revolves around but two of them. Pepsi was first over the starting line with her two close competitors, Thriftway and Shanty, back in the pack. But Thriftway was the first boat out of the first turn with Pepsi close on her heels. As they straightened down the backstretch Shanty—until then very much in contention—slowed to a walk, her supercharger drive sheared. So all eyes remained on Thriftway which, having taken the lead, never relinquished it, and on Pepsi which waged a gallant but losing stern chase.
The committee announcement gave the race to Thriftway with 969 heat points and a fastest-heat bonus of 400, for a total of 1369. Pepsi, they said, scored 900 heat points and won 400 for fastest-contest, or 1300.
Then, as elated Seattlites and dejected Detroiters left their seats, there came the public announcement system statement: "Thriftway has been disqualified for hitting the #7 marker on her seventh lap. Pepsi wins the Gold Cup."
Owner Rhodes appealed to the Inboard Racing Commission to reverse the disqualification imposed by the local committee and the Referee. Within 24 hours of the finish some five other protests had been filed, affecting principally the status of Thriftway and Pepsi.
One of the finest contests of all times thus ended on a note of frustration and bitterness.
(Reprinted from Yachting, October, 1956)
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