1968 UIM World Championship
Feverish Battle Waged Backstage in the Pits
Yesterday the pits — the backstage of the hydroplane racing show — were that usual mixture of carnival atmosphere, nerves and excitement.
There were the men and machines getting ready to do their battle of gasoline.
And for every man who drives a hydroplane, there are dozens in the pits. Each has a stake in the win or loss. They have done battle with magnetos and carburetors, pistons and super-chargers, and the machine they send out to race is very much theirs.
So they send a driver out with a quiet, hopeful "Good luck."
Success or failure, they welcome the hydro and driver back at the end of a heat.
This year, that ageless wonder of the hydro world, Bill Muncey, again showed the old winner's pizzaz. He knows how to win, and he likes it.
Muncey wins with a flair. After cutting the throttle on his hydro, he climbs out of the cockpit, jumps and claps his hands. The crowd loves it.
Muncey, who recently threw his helmet into the political arena, also found time for some hand-shaking. And into every microphone he could get his hands on, Muncey put in something about "Muncey for lieutenant governor."
But there were those who didn't win.
When Bob Miller climbed out of the helicopter after his first-heat splash, he shrugged: "I guess I just cut it a little short on the turn."
His crew worked for nearly two hours to right the upside-down Atlas Van Lines. They didn't watch the rest of the race, but busied themselves with scrubbing, repairing and getting ready for the next time.
Plenty of others had trouble. Miss Budweiser lost half a prop, and the unbalanced propeller made a pretzel out of the drive shaft. Miss Bardahl quit the race when her engine threw a rod; crews had already changed engines because of a hole burned in a cylinder.
Harrah's Club also had engine trouble. Notre Dame flipped and injured her driver, Jack Regas.
But in the pits there were no regrets. A crew leader shrugs his shoulders and says, "Maybe the mixture was too lean, or maybe the spark was advanced too much."
Nobody sheds any tears. There's work to be done, and perhaps some new ideas for next time.
Because for the men in the pits, there's always a next time.
(Reprinted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 5, 1968)
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