1976 APBA Gold Cup
Detroit River, Detroit MI, June 27, 1976
Timing Key in Gold Cup
by Charlie Vincent
Howie Benns had Miss Budweiser running just the way he wanted Thursday, despite the steady rains and blustery winds that whipped around the Detroit River most of the day.
Now all he has to do is figure some way to get to the starting line before everyone else, when the Gold Cup race for unlimited hydroplanes gets under way at noon Sunday.
"That's 90 percent of the race," the 37-year-old driver said while waiting out one of the afternoon-long drizzles in the cab of his truck. "Timing at the start of the race is what it's all about . . . we want to get to the line first, going as fast as we can."
That has been a problem for Miss Budweiser in the first two races of the year. She was the fastest qualifier at both Miami and Washington, but finished fifth in the seven-boat field at Miami, then lost a sponson and did not finish in Washington.
"We got cut off in Miami," Benns said with a twinge of bitterness, "but I don't want to talk about it. The race was protested and a decision was made upholding the results, so there's no sense in talking about it. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The remendy for that is to be in front.
"That's what we do here during the week . . . try to get our timing down, so we can hit the starting line right on time."
Miss Budweiser ran five laps Thursday and only two of them could really be called good -- upping his qualifying average to 122.663 miles an hour.
"We know we have as much acceleration as anybody," said Benns. "And we're definitely the fastest on the straightaways, too. But they just finished rebuilding this boat on Tuesday and it didn't arrive here until Wednesday. Then we had a little trouble with one of the engines -- the one that sank in Washington -- Thursday morning. But we've got eight engines here and we'll probably have three of them ready to use in the Gold Cup.
"If the weather is good Friday, we'll take her out and see just how fast she will go. I think we're capable of running over 125."
Miss Budweiser was shipped to Staudacher Marine outside Bay City for a complete refurbishing after she cracked up in Washington.
Six other boats got on the course Thursday, including Billy Schumacher's Miss Olympia, which set a course qualifying record on Wednesday. As if to prove that was no fluke, Schumacher urged his boat to a single-lap speed of 125.00 Thursday morning, etching another mark into the Gold Cup record books.
Bill Muncey took his blue-and-white Atlas Van Lines out twice, each time starting with snail-snow laps (82.141 and 104.651), then putting his foot in it for second laps of 121.348 and 120.585.
Miss Madison, with Ron Snyder at the controls, became the fifth boat to qualify (Budweiser, Atlas, Olympia and Miss U.S. had preceded her), averaging 105.447 over two laps around the three-mile course.
Milner Irvin's Myr Sheet Metal and Bob Miller's Probe both failed to reach the 105 miles an hour minimum for qualifying and will try again Friday, when two more boats -- Sunny Jim and Mister Fabricator -- are due in the pits.
Tom D'Eath in Miss U.S. took a brief tour of the course but came in for further work, while two other boats already in place on the river -- Miss Vernors and Justapest -- stayed in their pits all day, making final preparations for qualification runs Friday.
The course will open for the final day of qualifications at 8 a.m. Friday and if the weather improves, action on the course should be fast and furious, with six boats still trying to make the field.
Qualifying ends at 5 p.m. Friday and the course will be closed all day Saturday.
The first heat of the day Sunday is set for noon with a crowd of over 300,000 expected to line the banks of the Detroit River if the weather improves. Four heats will be run, with the final one scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.
(reprinted from Detroit Free Press, June 25, 1976)
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