1968 APBA Gold Cup
Eagle Electric Explodes
Detroit — Going into the Gold Cup unlimited hydroplane race yesterday Warner Gardner was emphatic:
"It's just another boat race. It's no different."
But it was different—at least for Gardner. Perhaps not for Billy Schumacher, the all-conquering driver of Miss Bardahl, who won his second straight Gold Cup on the destructive waters of the Detroit River.
Roaring down the back straightaway on the second lap of the championship heat, Gardner's Miss Eagle Electric of Spokane pitched violently, then splintered in a ghastly explosion of water and wood. Unconscious and bleeding from the nose, Gardner was taken from the water to Receiving Hospital where brain surgery was performed last night.
His condition was reported as critical.
From the time of the spectacular and chilling accident, the crowd watching from the beach seemed much more interested in any report from the hospital on the popular 52-year-old ex-fighter pilot's condition than what might happen in the final heat re-run.
For the record, Schumacher overtook Bill Sterett in Miss Budweiser on the back-stretch of the second lap and went on to win the last heat by a wide margin. About the only emotion anyone could muster was relief that it was all over without further mishaps.
Even Schumacher, proud as he might be over back-to-back victories in this premier event of all boat racing, was the first to concede his triumph was tarnished by the accident.
Here's how it all happened:
Budweiser was leading and Gardner was in torrid pursuit. Schumacher was trailing in third place, about 100 yards behind the ill-fated craft, but he didn't really see much of what happened.
"All I saw was the bottom of. the boat and a lot of water," the Bardahl pilot said. "There was just too much water to see anything."
The Eagle's left sponson appeared to hit a big water hole at the end of the backstretch — almost directly in front of the Detroit Yacht Club — when trouble struck. The boat dipped, then bounced high and out of control, nosed down, and. flipped over on the left side.
Pieces of the Eagle went flying, and Gardner was thrown into the water. Rescuers said later he was unconscious, bleeding from the nose but breathing when pulled from the drink.
"The hole has been there all day, just before that turn," Schumacher explained. And after he had clinched victory in the final heat, the Bardahl pilot labeled the race "strictly an endurance."
This bizarre climax to the Gold Cup was the final chapter in a story of trouble which began more than two months ago when winds forced postponement of this race. Earlier yesterday afternoon, a series of events proved a mere prelude to the Gardner pileup
In heat 1C, Tommy Fults in My Gypsy blew an engine and was given a shower from a spray of boiling oil resulting in burns on his face and arms.
"The engine started vibrating and when I slowed down, the oil gushed out," Fults said. Smoke and flames belched from the engine. "I almost jumped into the water,
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(Reprinted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 9, 1968)
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