1967 UIM World Championship
Detroit River, Detroit MI, July 2, 1967
Turbine To Test Its Water Wings
by Joe Falls
It was as smooth as a trip to Bob-Lo. They ran their flying saucers on the Detroit River without incident Sunday afternoon and completely spoiled the day for the ghouls in the gallery.
Not even a bobbing beer can was punctured by the flashing propellers.
In fact, the only crisis arose when the color camera carrying the mug of Wayne Walker suddenly went kaput. It got pretty tense for a while there in TV land. But just as they were ready to rush in Garo Yepremian from the sidelines, the blinking red lights came on again.
It was a runaway for Bill Sterett in his wine-colored cruiser. That is, if anyone can run on water . . . and that's just what Sterett seemed to be doing at times in that long run up the Belle Isle side of the river.
He tromped on it so hard that even when it was over he nearly smacked into the wall coming into the docks.
It was a fine victory for the crew at Chrysler, but before they get too hopped up over their hemi-head engines, they might like to know that the Terrible Turbine might be running in these boat races before very long.
Andy Granatelli, the pear-shaped pappa of the turbine, but a look at his first hydroplane race and you could see his eyes grow wider and wider as the afternoon progressed.
He prowled the pits like a panther and kept climbing up to the cockpits and asking questions that even baffled some of the most waterlogged mechanics.
"Let's just say I'm thinking of building one," said Granatelli.
"With a turbine?" he was asked.
"Are you kidding?" he replied. "Anything else would be archaic. They can use five engines and I can use just one and mine will run for 300 years without any trouble."
Of course the reason Granatelli is thinking of turning to the boats is that his turbine car has been all but outlawed at Indianapolis.
And if the man builds silent speedboats, it opens whole new vistas: silent airplanes, silent trains, silent motorcycles and silent trucks on the expressway.
The big question is if he has anything on the drawing board for housewives?
Granatelli saw himself an exciting race. At least Mrs. G. was impressed. No sooner had the saucers made on spin around the egg-shaped course than she was pounding her hubby on the back and saying: "I'm hooked, honey . . . already I'm hooked. They look soooooooooo be-ot-e-ful!"
Sterett was the most beautiful of all, and the only thing missing was a wreath of seaweed when he pulled into the pits.
They quick-like gave him a glass of water and just as quickly a reporter asked: "Does the water have any special significance, Bill?"
"Yeah," he smiled. "I was damned thirsty."
Sterett is a gray-haired, crew-cut Kentuckian. He'd waited a long time for this moment. Until now he had known nothing but frustration with the fierce but fickle Chrysler engines which powered his boat.
But now everything held together and he couldn't restrain his emotions.
"Nobody can say we backed into it," he boomed. No, indeed -- not with three straight firsts and an all-out run in the finale even though he could have rowed across the finish line.
But as proud as he was -- and he was prancing like a peacock with a roostertail -- he paid a nice tribute to Jim Ranger, who drove My Gypsy into second place.
"If Jim wanted, he could have won the race by cutting me off at the first turn," said Sterett. "If you're just a foot ahead you've got the rightaway. Well, he was half a boat length ahead of me and didn't cut in. It would have been an unethical thing to do but it would have been legal."
Ranger was asked about it.
"That's not racing to me," he said. "If I was going to beat him, I wanted to beat him on the straightaways."
Ranger then smiled.
"Besides, if I cut him off I know he'd only get even with me later in the season," he added.
(reprinted from Detroit Free Press, July 3, 1967)
[ED.NOTE--Following the above race, Andy Granatelli asked Lee Schoenith, chairman of the unlimited commission of the APBA, for a three-year guarantee not to outlaw a turbine boat, if he built one. "I told Granatelli, the APBA couldn't promise him anything," Schoenith said. "If his boat meets the required rules and would not create a hazard to other boats on a course, I don't see why it would be outlawed at this time." "No one is scoffing at Granatelli's idea," said Les Staudacher, builder of most of the Gold Cup boats. "But a turbine engine idles at 30,000 revolutions per minute. This would hardly slow a boat down enough to turn. The British Rolls Royce people experimented with their Viscount turbine in boats, but gave it up because of the problems of braking."]
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