1964 APBA Gold Cup
Detroit River, Detroit, MI, July 5, 1964

Miss Bardahl Retains Gold Cup
By less than one second, the Ron Musson-driven hydroplane escaped defeat
By Mel Crook

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Miss Bardahl Retains Gold Cup



The record books will reveal merely that Ron Musson drove Ole Bardahl's Rolls-powered, Jones-designed Miss Bardahl over the Detroit River on July 5 to win the 56th running of the Gold Cup Race and obtain possession of the gold-plated urn for the second consecutive year.

Few will remember the suspense that developed during the final heat when the accumulation of points won earlier In the contest left the determination of Musson as overall winner to 99/100ths of a second separating the fifth boat from the sixth to finish. Had Chuck Thompson at the wheel of Bill Harrah's Tahoe Miss nursed life into his balky engine one second sooner, he would have taken fifth place in the finale away from George Simon's Miss U.S. 5 and beaten Bardahl by 1327 points to 1325.

After the race a dejected Thompson said, "I know I beat U.S. over the finish line," but admitted that he had not realized that victory had been so "close until the officials announced his less-than-one-second defeat.

Don Wilson, who babied the largely untried U.S. through the preliminary heats; drove at an ever-increasing pace through the finale to stave off Tahoe's belated challenge. Did he realize what was involved? "You bet I did," replied the beaming Wilson. "And remember I used to drive for Ole Bardahl."

When the names of the 12 fastest qualifiers were drawn to determine the assignment to sections of the first heat, section lA promised to be a breath-stopper. It had Milo Stoen's hydroplane Miss Exide, which Bill Brow had driven to the top qualifying speed of 119.557 m.p.h.; Shirley McDonald's Notre Dame, qualified at 115.302 by four-time Gold Cup winner Bill Muncey; Kent Simonson's Miss Eagle Electric, Norm Evan's charge that had made the grade at 114.284; Miss Budweiser, owned by Bernie Little and driven by Bob Schroeder (113.406); the Fred Alter-driven Blue Chip, owned by Dick and Paul Gordon (108.361) and Gale Enterprises' Miss Smirnoff with Bill Cantrell steering (105.537).

Bill Brow led over the starting line at high speed and kept Exide in front into the first turn. Bill Muncey, handicapped by a slow start in Notre Dame, caught Exide going into the first backstretch and opened up a 200-yd. lead before reaching the second turn. From there on it was a parade with Notre Dame, Exide and Budweiser running a close one-two-three and Muncey holding a safe lead of some 15 sec. On the last turn of the final lap Schroeder, trying desperately to pass Exide, hooked Budweiser sharply and was thrown into the river. The boat chugged on at slow speed until she crashed into the seawall and slowly sank. Schroeder was hospitalized briefly and discharged with only bruises and aching muscles.

The order of finish was Notre Dame, Exide, Smirnoff, Blue Chip and Eagle Electric. Blue Clip had suffered sponson damage and could not enter later heats.

Heat 1B brought into contention eventual winner Miss Bardahl with her qualifying speed of 117.647; Madison Regatta's Miss Madison, qualified by Buddy Byers at 113.247; Miss U.S. 5 (110.656); Tahoe Miss (108.652); Gale Enterprises' Gale V, with Rex Manchester at the wheel (108.434) and Bill Schuyler's $ Bill, driven by Bill Schumacher (103.846).

Whereas recent unlimited hydroplane starts have found the fleet making its run to the line down the backstretch and around the turn, the heat 1B contenders elected to spend the two minutes before clock zero circling at the east end of the course, From this formation they peeled off in a close, fast start with U.S. leading Miss Madison and Bardahl across. But all three were overtaken by Chuck Thompson in Tahoe Miss on the run to the first turn.

From that point on the section saw no passing as Tahoe turned the first lap at 107.175 m.p.h. This established a five-second lead over Bardahl, partially as a result of Musson having hooked his craft and lost valuable moments coming out of the second turn. With the wind freshening from the East, the still "unbugged" Miss U.S. was hobbling badly.

At the finish the order was Tahoe, Bardahl, Madison, U.S. and $ Bill. Gale V did not start.

The re-draw found heat 2, Section A populated by Tahoe Miss, Notre Dame, Miss Exide, Miss U.S. 5 and Gale V. Once again the fleet circled near the second turn of the course with the other four playing follow the leader behind Chuck Thompson in Tahoe. Thompson held the pole position at the start but was beaten across by Bill Muncey in Notre Dame and Rex Manchester in Gale V. Going through the first turn it was Muncey in the lead and inside, with Thompson pursuing on the outside with Tahoe Miss. Notre Dame led at the end of the first lap by less than two seconds but was passed by the Nevada entry early in the second circuit.

Thompson opened up his lead on the second backstretch but Muncey pulled up close as they rounded the next turn. In his effort to close the gap Bill forced Notre Dame into a partial spin, ramming and destroying a turn marker. On that second lap Thompson averaged 112.688 m.p.h., the highest of the contest.

Penalized one lap for the buoy infraction, Muncey had to be content with fifth position for the section, virtually eliminating Notre Dame as an overall winner. Tahoe took the section, with Exide finishing second after a hammer-and-tongs battle with Gale V. U.S. accounted for the fourth spot.

Ron Musson is sometimes ribbed by his competitors for "always drawing the easy sections." His assignment to 2B seemed to bear this out as Bardahl was pitted against two third-place finishers in the first heat (Madison and Smirnoff) and two fifth-placers ($ Bill and Eagle Electric).

The fleet broke for the start some what prematurely and was forced to slow down to avoid jumping. Miss Madison was first over; trailed by Bardahl and Smirnoff . Musson moved out front on the way to the first turn and stayed there to the finish, running at a consistent pace close to 103 m.p.h. Madison and Smirnoff finished second and third, well off the winning pace. Eagle Electric and $ Bill had a close private race in the rear with Schumacher bringing the latter home in fourth position by a thin but adequate three-second margin.

The final drawing of the day resulted in 3A having Miss Bardahl, Miss Exide, Notre Dame, Miss Smirnoff and $ Bill. Notre Dame's start consisted of a fast charge down the backstretch and a pole-position first over the line. Muncey held his lead through the first turn but Musson in Bardahl roared by him on the backstretch.

As. they neared the second turn, still close together and largely airborne at about 155 m.p.h., officials spotted a cruiser that had drifted out on the "track" around the turn. Perhaps this incident was fortunate, because Musson held tight to the first buoy "slamming the door" on Muncey. This left Muncey, as he said later, "Nothing to do but hit Ron or cut the buoys." As the smoke flares exploded to warn of the blockading cruiser, Notre Dame cut inside the turn markers and Bardahl outside.

No official ruling on the buoy incident was necessary since the smoke stopped the section and called for a rerun.

While refueling for the re-run, the Notre Dame crew decided to play it safe and put fresh batteries aboard their charge. In the rush of changing they failed to note that one of the replacements had two dead cells. As a result, Muncey's boat drifted helplessly downstream as the rest of the fleet started.

Smirnoff and Bardahl were first across but 21-year-old Bill Schumacher in $ Bill was coming fast and roared by them all to enter the first turn in the lead. The youngster with the slowest of all the 12 qualifiers retained his moment of glory through the first turn but Bardahl caught him early in the backstretch.

Musson was not being closely pursued but he took advantage of the smooth water in front of the fleet to gain time that was to stand him in good stead. He finished the heat far in front for the fastest 15-mile average of the day (108.104). Exide overhauled $ Bill on the third backstretch to take second and Smirnoff did the same on the final stretch to place third.

Heat 3B presented Tahoe Miss, Miss Madison, Miss U.S. V, Gale V and Miss Eagle Electric. The latter led them over the starting line but was quickly passed by Tahoe, Madison and U.S.

The hair-raising battle in this section was staged by Rex Manchester in Gale V. He finished the first lap at a 92-mile pace, in last position; did the second circuit at 103 and was still last. He turned the third at 103, nipping third-place Eagle Electric at the end of the lap. Gale closed on Madison going down the fourth backstretch and moved into second place before making the up-river turn. On that fourth lap Manchester bettered 110 m.p.h. Apparently determined to erase the 15-second advantage of the leading Tahoe, Manchester continued to charge until Gale's engine died midway through the last lap.

Tahoe won, followed by Madison and U.S. 5. Eagle Electric was disqualified for apparently forcing Gale V outside on a turn.

With the completion of the qualifying heats, the six highest point earners eligible for the final turned out to be Tahoe Miss with 1200, Bardahl (1100), Exide (900), Madison (825), Smirnoff (675 and U.S. 5 (563). Notre Dame, with 527, became standby boat.

The prognosticators figured the fourth heat would be a battle between the two point leaders Tahoe and Bardahl. The latter had a fighting chance, thanks to his fast pace in 3A. If Bardahl could take a first and beat Tahoe by more than 14.62 seconds, the tie in points would be resolved in favor of the Musson-driven craft.

But no such thing was to happen. When Thompson left the pits for the start, Tahoe's engine was very ill. He returned to the pits for a fast check and emerged just before the one-minute gun, miles from the start, with an engine that still was sick. As a result, Tahoe was almost two miles behind the fleet at the start. .

Exide was first over the starting line and was never headed. As Madison, Bardahl, Smirnoff and Miss U.S. trailed in that order, the "experts" were redoing their calculations as to the eventual winner. It was clear that Bardahl's 1100 points, plus 225 for a third place in the final, would guarantee her victory. But would it? IF Thompson could overcome his great deficit, and take 127 points for fifth position, Tahoe would have a winning 1327.

However, Wilson pushed U.S. faster and faster to protect Bardahl's winning chances.

Final overall points for the 1964

Gold Cup Race: Bardahl, 1325; Exide, 1300; Tahoe, 1295; Madison, 1125; Smirnoff, 844; U.S., 690.

A two-heat consolation race for those unlimiteds that failed to make the Gold Cup field of 12 was won by Jack Shafer's Such Crust IV driven by Walter Kade. Second went to Jim Herrington's Mariner Too, piloted by Warner Gardner and third to Savair's Mist with Ed O'Halloran at the wheel.

The 56th Gold Cup race was sponsored by the Spirit of Detroit Assn., with Jack Adams serving as general chairman and Robert Irey as race chairman. Bill Newton was referee.

Patrol was provided by helicopter, patrol boats, auxiliary units and communications units of the U.S. Coast Guard serving under Commander V. K. Randle, Search and Rescue Branch, 9th C.G. District and Chief Boatswain F. J. Greenbrook of the Detroit C.G. Group.

The, location of next year's Gold Cup race will be determined at the annual meeting of the American Power Boat Assn. in November. The decision will be based largely on the amount of prize money offered on a bid basis by various, potential sponsors.

(Reprinted from Yachting, August 1964, pp.45-47, 153)

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