1968 UIM World Championship
Steady-Running U.S. Hydro Champ
In a contest that was more like a demolition derby than a hydroplane race, Bill Muncey won the world's championship yesterday on Lake Washington.
Wearing his best political smile, the jubilant Muncey a candidate for lieutenant governor was quick to concede:
"We got an awful lot of breaks."
So did favored Miss Eagle Electric and Miss Bardahl and the surprising Harrah's Club all of them bad.
Warner Gardner in Eagle fizzled in the first heat, Harrah with Jim McCormick blew an engine in the second heat and Billy Schumacher's Bardahl threw a rod at the start of the final heat.
Muncey finished all three heats and his sheer survival over speed essentially was the difference.
But don't think the veteran driver, overcoming a plague of problems like getting hit by a house-boat the last time he raced in Madison, Ind. was exactly what you'd call overconfident.
"I didn't think it'd go the route," he said.
During the first running of the final heat, a scavenger pump on the gear box broke. It was quickly patched together but the U.S. driver was skeptical over how long it would stay together.
"We had to decide whether to go for broke or just stay in the race," Muncey said.
"Play it to win," owner George Simon told the driver and Muncey did just that.
After winning heat 1-B outlasting Bill Sterett and Miss Budweiser, Muncey had a bad start and despite some carburetor problems "it broke off at the gooseneck and I had to use shots of nitrous to keep going" he finished' second in Heat 2-A.
In the final heat, when Muncey finished third and beat out Tommy Fults in My Gypsy for the over-all honors, he popped several cylinders along the way.
The victory was Muncey's first since the opening race of 1966, in Tampa Fla. Bill was second last year in the unlimited driver standings but didn't win a race.
"It was just a lot of little problems," he said. "But they kept us from winning,"
In fact, for a time earlier in the week there seemed to be some doubt whether the Miss U.S. would make it to the races. The boat didn't check into the pits until Friday night.
'We were the last boat into the pits and the first one out," Muncey grinned. `But that's not the fun way to go. We had to play it right down to the wire."
Was there a decisive point in the race when Muncey got a clear glimpse at the prospect of winning it all?
"Definitely. When Bardahl blew its engine at the starting line of the final heat and then had to pull out I knew we were in a position to win," Bill said.
Muncey, like the rest of the drivers, expressed relief that Regas was not injured any more seriously than he was.
"It's a tough sport but it's a speed sport and I guess a cruel sport," he said.
Harry Volpe. "We didn't want to take any chances." "I had some suspicions about it," said crew chief Harry Volpe. "We didn't want to take any chances."
Budweiser broke a prop and caused some possible structural damage but crew chief George McKernan said he was hopeful to have the boat ready for next Sunday's Diamond Cup race in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
The rest of the casualty report went like this:
Miss Smirnoff, continuing to have problems, ran well as long as It kept going. The boat is definitely out of the Diamond Cup.
Atlas Van Lines seems doubtful but owner Bob Fendler said if necessary the old Wayfarer's Club Lady will be brought out of retirement to carry the Atlas banner.
Regas definitely won't drive next week because of injuries. The Notre Dame didn't appear to be damaged seriously.
Leaping into the water to pull the injured Regas aboard a rescue helicopter were Chuck Fendrych of the Sheriff's Dept. and Coast Guard Chief K. M. Christian of Port Angeles.
But it's getting to be old hat for Fendrych. He rescued Regas during a mishap in last year's race.
No one was any more disappointed yet still pleased than McCormick, whose driving job in Harrah's Club was the surprise of the day. But when his engine blew in that dramatic sprint to the line with Bardahl in Heat 2-B he was through. Rules prohibit more than one engine change each race.
"I just made a mistake coming around that final turn and he (Schumacher) took advantage of it," McCormick said later. "I thought Bardahl was still behind Jack Regas. I drifted out and Bardahl cut inside."
A surprise winner in what had been billed as the battle of Eagle Electric and Bardahl in Heat 1-A, McCormick commented: "We got lucky and got a good start and that's worth about 10 miles per hour."
That left the Harrah hydro with a perfect 800 points two firsts in two heats.
Why had the Harrah crew changed engines earlier after winning heat 1-A? "I had some suspicions about it," said crew chief
Hydros: Heat by Heat
HEAT 1-A -
HEAT 1-B -
HEAT 2-A -
HEAT 2-B .-
FINAL HEAT -
FINAL STANDINGS -
(Reprinted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 5, 1968)
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