1958 Sahara Cup
Lake Mead, NV, October 23, 1958
[Note: The 1958 Sahara Cup was run on Lake Mead, Nevada on Thursday, October 23. The first two heats were planned for Wednesday, but some missing buoys resulted in all five heats being run on Thursday. ]* * *
Maverick, Miss US 1 Win Heats
Bardahl Trails / Vegas, Detroit Hydros Score in Sahara Race
by John Romero, Review Journal Sports Editor
Las Vegas based Maverick, driven by Renos Bill Stead, and Detroit-based Miss US 1, piloted by Don Wilson, won opening heats in the Sahara Cup race this morning and became hot favorites for the championship finals to be held at 2:35 p.m.
Maverick set a Sahara Cup heat record when Stead clocked 107.655 mph to win easily in the first section of the first heat. Miss US 1 was pressed by Thriftway Too and Miss Burien, but finished 300 yards in front of the second section boats.
The big unlimited hydroplanes were scheduled for two more heat races at 12:15 p.m. and 1 oclock with the 30 mile final scheduled for 2:35. Maverick and Miss US 1 were thrown together by the luck of the draw in the 12:15 heat.
The red-headed Wilson said he "just took it easy" in winning his heat. "The 1 had plenty of power left," Wilson said. "I used only acceleration. I dont think I went over 140." Wilson averaged 101.55 mph.
Thriftway Too, with Brien Wygle driving, was as close as 100 yards on the fourth lap, but Wilson quickly pulled away to a safer margin. Miss Burien, driven by Bill Brow, trailed the two closely but slipped back in the last two laps.
Miss Payn Save, driven by Al Benson, had mechanical difficulty but finished fourth. Miss Spokane blew a quill shaft and Breathless II had fouled spark plugs. Both boats were forced out on the first lap.
In the first section, Maverick was never seriously threatened after taking the lead on the first straightaway from Mira Slovak in Miss Bardahl. Slovak eased up and was content to finish second. Nitrogen, driven by Fred Alter, challenged Slovak on the fourth lap of the 15 mile heat but did not have the speed to catch Miss Bardahl. Alter finished about 150 yards back.
Miss Seattle which got a poor start and trailed badly early in the race passed Miss Moses Lake on the third lap and finished fourth with Chuck Hickling driving. Norm Evans, in Miss Moses Lake, was fifth and Gale V, driven by Bill Cantrell, went dead in the water at the first turn and did not finish.
"I went hard for about a lap," said Stead. "I was going maybe 160 top speed, but only about 145 or 150 in the back stretch. I had to run fast because the engine is set up that way. The boat ran perfectly."
Slovak said he found the water "gluey" throughout the race. "I was content to finish second," said Slovak. "I wanted to save the equipment for the final heat. Slovak clocked 97.702 mph for the heat. Nitrogen averaged 96.965. Miss Seattle 90.270, and Miss Moses Lake 81.917.
Fascination, which qualified at 9 oclock this morning at 92.055, could not get its batteries to turn the engine in the second heat and was disqualified when it drifted onto the course.
The opening heats were postponed from Wednesdays scheduled start because the course had only 13 of 20 required marker buoys. The course had been established late Tuesday but several of the buoys mysteriously disappeared during the night.
American Power Boat Association commissioner Bill Boeing asked drivers and owners if they wanted to race late Wednesday afternoon after the course was repaired, but only Maverick and Miss Payn Save voted "yes."
"In late afternoon you cant see a thing because of sun on the far turn," said US 1 driver Don Wilson. Other drivers echoed his feelings.
Some drivers complained because no starting cannon was available, and Wilson said he clocked 4 ½ minutes by his watch before officials sent up red warning flares when a driver was dumped in the water during a heat of 225 cu. in. hydroplanes.
At dusk puzzled Sahara Cup officials were still trying to find out what happened to their buoys placed in line on the straightaway Tuesday night, and were sending air freight for a starting cannon from the Southern California Speedboat Club.
A crowd of about 6,000 saw only four official races Wednesday all in the limited classes.
If Fascination, the Seattle hydroplane owned by Bob Gilliam and driven by Dick Short, qualified Thursday morning at 8 a.m., the race will be run in one seven-boat heat and one six-boat heat. Sahara officials say they have a sanction which will allow them to run as many as seven boats in one heat.
"Were going to give it a try," said Fascination driver Dick Short. The big hydroplane got out for one trial run Wednesday and went dead in the water with oil in the magneto. After an engine change, Short went out about 3:45 and promptly blew a piston through the side of the block. "I was going good, about 135, when she blew," Short said. "I had to grab a fire extinguisher to put out the fire." Fascination was scheduled to change engines Wednesday night for a final try at qualifying on Thursday morning.
The majority of drivers in the field were in favor of postponement, and anticipated no major mechanical difficulty. Under APBA rules no engine changes can be made during the day which means that the winner might have to go as far as 60 miles in three separate heats with no engine change.
"We didnt really plan to change engines anyway," said Bill Stead, driver of Maverick, "so wed just as soon have it this way."
Miss Moses Lake which developed carburetor trouble in a trail run Wednesday, will be ready for Thursday. "We dont anticipate much trouble," said driver Norm Evans. All other boats Miss Bardahl, Miss US 1, Maverick, Miss Spokane, Gale V, Thriftway Too, Breathless II, Nitrogen, Miss Burien, Miss Payn Save and Miss Seattle were set.
(Transcribed from Las Vegas Review-Journal October 23, 1958. © Las Vegas Review-Journal. All rights reserved)
* * *Kais Spectre Haunts Sahara -- US 1 Winner
Hawaii Kai III still dominates the Sahara Cup race indirectly.
Don Wilson, the red-head from Dearborn, Michigan, drove Miss US 1 to the third annual Sahara Cup championship on Lake Mead Thursday to break a two-year domination by the retired Hawaii Kai III. But Wilson credited the Kais crew, gear boxes and engines, all utilized by Miss US 1, for the victory.
Mira Slovak, the handsome Czech, was second to Wilson driving the Miss Bardahl, but the 300 points he earned were enough to take the national unlimited hydroplane points championship by 6 2075 to 2069 for Miss US 1.
The 26-year-old Wilson, who said, "Ill be back next year," was clocked at an average speed of 97.897 in the final 30-mile heat. Miss Bardahl averaged 96.852.
"Im only sorry Maverick was not in the final heat," Wilson said. "It would have been a better race."
Maverick, the Las Vegas-based hydroplane owned by William T. Waggoner, was forced from the final heat when a fuel pump exploded and sprayed burning gasoline over the engine. Driver Bill Stead extinguished the flames before they spread to the hull.
Miss Moses Lake finished third and Thriftway Too, despite a tremendous hole in her left sponson, finished fourth.
Some 15,000 spectators watched the final heat on a chilly, cloudy day at Lake Mead.
"I never had to go all out," said Wilson. "When Slovak almost caught me on the third lap I was just slowing down. I had power left."
Slovak, who came within a boat length of Miss US 1 on the first straightaway of the third lap but then fell back, admitted his Allison engine did not have the power to compete with the Rolls Royce engine in Miss US 1.
"Donny was just playing with me," said Slovak. "No I never thought I could pass him. Hes no beginner you know."
Wilsons victory Thursday was his third straight. He won the Presidents Cup at Washington D.C., and the Governors Cup at Madison, Indiana, in his last two starts.
Wilson gave credit for the Sahara Cup title to George McKernan, US 1 crew chief, and the crew of Hawaii Kai III. "The Kais crew set up the Rolls for us," Wilson said, "and McKernan worked night and day to get us ready." Wilson said the engine he used to win the Sahara Cup was not the same engine the Kai used to take the Gold Cup earlier in the year, although jubilant Jack Regas, Hawaii Kai IIIs driver, at first announced it was.
"We had our own engine, but used the Kais gear box," Wilson said.
Maverick, which won the first heat of the day in Sahara Cup record time of 107.655, first developed trouble in the fourth heat. Stead suddenly lost power, died in the first turn and had to return to the pits.
"We thought it was the blower," said Stead, "so we changed it for the final. It turned out to be the fuel pump first time its ever happened to us."
Waggoner, who saw the national championship slip away when the fire broke out in Mavericks engine, shrugged his shoulders. "Thats the racing game," he said.
Maverick could have taken the national points title with a victory in the final heat.
Seven boats qualified for the final Wednesday, but only four finished. Miss Seattle, driven by Chuck Hickling, went dead on the back stretch of the second lap. Miss Burien did not start. Thriftway Too, with Brian Wygle driving, had taken second place from Miss Bardahl on the second lap but spun and went dead on the third. Wygle thought he ripped the boats sponson then.
With the Too, Maverick, and Miss Seattle dead in the water, only three boats were in the race at one point. But Wygle got the Thriftway Too started after a four-minute delay and finished the race.
Miss Moses Lake, driven by Norm Evans, trailed from the start and ran at reduced power throughout.
Morning heats were won by Maverick and Miss US 1. Miss Bardahl and Thriftway Too won the two afternoon heats.
Hawaii Kai IIIs Sahara Cup record of 99.510 established in 1956 withstood the test of Miss US 1.
Heres a capsule description of each of the heats:
1A: Maverick took over on the first straightaway, was never challenged. Miss Bardahl first across the starting line, dropped back to second and finished half a lap behind. Nitrogen, driven by Fred Alter, challenged the Miss Bardahl but finished third about 100 yards back. Miss Seattle was fourth. Miss Moses Lake, fifth.
1B: Miss US 1 took the lead on the first turn and was never challenged. Thriftway Too passed Miss Burien on the second lap and pulled away for second place. Miss Burien, driven by Bill Brow, had a tremendous margin over fourth place Miss Payn Save, driven by Al Benson. Miss Spokane, driven by Dallas Sartz, blew a quill shaft and did not finish. Breathless II, driven by Jack Murphy, did not finish. Fascination, which qualified early Thursday, had mechanical trouble and did not start the heat.
2A: Breathless II took over the lead on the back stretch, broke down on the second turn and did not finish. Miss Bardahl assumed the lead when Breathless II retired and easily won the heat. Miss Moses Lake and Miss Seattle, both running "sick," finished second and third. Nitrogen did not start the heat.
2B: Thriftway Too took over the lead from Miss US 1 on the backstretch and won easily, as Miss US 1 eased up. Miss Burien also passed US 1 and earned a second place. Maverick pulled out of the race after the first turn with engine trouble. Miss Payn Save and Fascination did not start.
Final: Miss US 1 / 1st; Miss Bardahl / 2nd; Miss Moses Lake / 3rd; Thriftway Too / 4th Miss Seattle / DNF Maverick / DNF Miss Burien / DNS
(Transcribed from the Las Vegas Review-Journal / October 24, 1958. © Las Vegas Review-Journal. All rights reserved.)
[Thanks to Ted Shenenberg for help in preparing this page]
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