1973 UIM World Championship
Hydro Happiness Is a Special Italian Propeller
The difference between victory and defeat yesterday on Lake Washington was as simple as the difference between a borrowed propeller and a faulty nitrous button.
And it all happened on a day when, many drivers agreed, the Seafair World Championship Race never should have been run.
Pay’n Pak owner Dave Heerensperger, driver Mickey Remund and crew were the recipients of the propeller — from yet-to-race U-95.
It’s a special Italian model, costing somewhere between $1,200 and $1,500. The Pak and its very own Italian prop parted company as it was losing by an eyeblink to the Budweiser in Heat 1-C.
"We had asked Jim Clapp (U-95 owner) about borrowing his propeller beforehand," Heerensperger recounted. "We started this season with six such models and the last one went in that first heat.
"I don’t think Jim really knows what he did for us. Without that prop, we would have had to use a type made in Southern California. It’s OK, but the boat doesn’t handle nearly as smooth in the corners."
"The California model is even shaped differently," Pak crew chief Jim Lucero confirmed. "We could have used it, but the boat doesn’t handle nearly as well."
To which Clapp could only add, "Well, I know that I won’t need to test that propeller." Everything else about the turbine U-95 does need testing. It was in the pits for viewing, but correcting the bugs is still ahead.
Heerensperger, Remund & Co. are happy it was within borrowing distance — which in this case happened to be right next to the Pak pit area.
As for that faulty nitrous button, Bud chauffeur Dean Chenoweth told that tale:
"In that final heat, my nitrous didn’t work at all for the first turn or the final two laps."
For the uninitiated, nitrous is the hydro equivalent to Kickapoo Joy Juice. A shot here and there puts more speed in the supercharger, and therefore could have erased that narrow Pak victory margin.
"When he (Remund) took the lead on the first turn of the first lap, I pushed the nitrous and nothing happened," Chenoweth explained. "I didn’t have any the last two laps either. The system just wasn’t working.
"We had to change engines pretty quick to get ready for the final heat, and I don’t know what happened. I gained on the Pak on the final straightaway just by applying the accellerator.
"Skip that as an alibi, however. I knew I would have one shot and one shot only to catch Mickey. I figured it was on the final lap and I just missed."
Remund admitted, "I didn’t know if I had won until I came back to the pit and everybody was sure I was first until then. "I kind of puckered up a little when I realized how close Dean came. I had no idea he was that close. I thought he was three-four boat lengths away.
"We had no chance to test the borrowed prop and it had a tendency to force the nose up. So the Pak was sort of flying. If I’d had to run 8-10 m.p.h. faster, I’d have had a real problem."
Heat 1-C, featuring the same duel with a different finish, proved just as dramatic, perhaps more so because of record speeds and a closer duel from start to finish.
The Chenoweth-Remund camaraderie was evident when it ended, and the latter made a trip to the Bud camp to offer congratulations.
"You’re beautiful." Remund said as he embraced Chenoweth. "Gawd damn, you, you’re great. We were close enough to touch out there. If I have to run second, that’s the way I want, fast and second to you."
Remund added. "When you race Dean, you have to go fast. Yup, a couple times a yardstick would have touched both our boats. We were that close and yet I felt safe because of Dean. Some drivers I wouldn’t want within 100 feet of me at those speeds."
Chenoweth said of that first duel, "I had my foot clear down to the wood. The boat wouldn’t go any faster. I didn’t think we would go out that quick, but that’s the way Mickey wanted it. I felt he’d let up a little bit, but he never did.
"I can’t go any faster. We were only 100 season points apart going into that race, and the competition is what made it. I accepted the challenge and Mickey did a fine job."
The Bud driver also admitted that for the first time in his unlimited experience he switched from a blue-tinted helmet visor to a clear visor "to help my visibility."
Visibility was a worry almost from the start on the dank, dark, dreary, foggy, wet day.
Winner of the day’s first heat, Bob Gilliam, sounded a warning, which fortunately, never happened, when he said, "The only way I could see was to follow another roostertail. I would say they should postpone this race. I like to race but this is the worst I’ve ever run in, and somebody can get hurt."
Miss U.S. driver Tommy D’Eath admitted the rain felt like B-B’s on my face. I couldn’t even see the judges stand. I went by it twice with my thumbs down (supposed to stop a race according to announcements), but the officials did nothing. Instead they fired the one-minute warning signal."
Still later, when the mist turned into a steadier rain, D ‘Eath added, "Damn right they should stop this."
After his first heat, Chuck Hickling of the Ms. Greenfield Galleries had no complaints. Later, he pronounced, "I can’t see anything. It’s really dangerous. The water works behind your goggles. I was really lost out there off the exit on the south turn once. I didn’t know where I was and went inside a couple buoys before I got my bearings."
"In 11 years of driving unlimiteds, this is the worst — although the water isn’t bad. When you can’t see, you'll hurt somebody or yourself."
Bill Muncey, Jim McCormick and even Remund and Chenoweth agreed visibility was not great. None however said the race should be halted.
Tom Kaufman, pilot of Mr. Fabricator, best put the plight of the drivers when he said, "The people came to see a race . . . so we’re racing."
Muncey added, "You don’t want to disappoint all the fans who have come to watch, although I’m not sure they can see the race under these conditions."
McCormick labeled driving conditions "poor to horrible."
Last year’s champ, Muncey, was a forgotten man, despite two heat victories. He was away-back third in the showdown, and when asked if he was aware of Muncey at all, the victorious Remund snapped, "Oh, yeah, I knew he was there because I waved to Bill before the last race."
As Heerensperger savored his first Seafair title, he mused, "Ron Jones (Pak designer) told me three years ago to get Remund as my driver. Well, I got him this year after three months of convincing."
That salesmanship feat ranks right up there with the one Heerensperger used to obtain that Italian propeller.
A hydro champion is only as good as his equipment — new, used or borrowed.
(Reprinted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 6, 1973)
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