1978 Squire Seafair Trophy
Muncey Fogs Seafair Foes
Bill Muncey set Seafair records for: 1} the helmet throw and 2) the fastest heat in zero visibility fog yesterday on Lake. Washington.
Along the way, Muncey drove the Atlas Van Lines unlimited hydroplane to victory in the 1978 Seafair Regatta and to absolutely no oneís surprise wrapped up the national championship for the season.
While the 49-year-old Muncey was grinning at the finish line he was fuming after being penalized a lap for a lane violation in the opening heat of the afternoon.
Forced to settle for third place after leading the field by a wide margin in Heat 1-A, Muncey returned to shore and once inside the Atlas truck ó did an imitation of Nolan Ryanís fastball with his helmet. Describing his consternation later, Muncey grinned:
"With great enthusiasm, I delicately placed my helmet in my seat. In fact, Iíll never be able to use it again."
A heavy layer of gray smoke, billowing from the engine of the Squire U-65, blanketed the course early in the winner-take-all final heat.
But Muncey, his visibility cut to almost zero, let up only slightly and charged to a lop-sided victory, his fifth in six races this season on the unlimited circuit.
"You canít see anything in this," Muncey said, "absolutely nothing ó zap. Itís really unsafe and itís a very scary thing."
Nevertheless, Muneey roared around the course in an average speed of 107.463 mph, fastest of the afternoon.
He totally outclassed the opposition after being challenged for less than a lap by Ron Snyder in Miss Budweiser and Peter LaRock in The Squire U-65, No. 2 entry in that Seattle camp.
Munceyís domination, precisely as expected, didnít seem to dampen the enthusiasm of another huge crowd which crowded the shores and" jammed the log boom aboard pleasure boats to soak up the afternoon sun and the spectacle of Seafairís crowning event..
A couple of also-ran boats, Dr. Toyota and the spanking new Tempus, driven by 64-year-old Chuck Hickling, collided shortly after the start of Heat 1-B. Despite damage to both hydros, they managed to finish the heat and most of the fans on the beach were unaware of the crash.
The Toyota, oldest boat in active competition, sank almost completely in the pits after taking on water through a gaping hole in its port side near the stern.
Hicklingís Tempus, running inside and behind the Toyota, had a hole in its right sponson but was able to compete later in the afternoon.
"I thought there was plenty of room on the inside," said Tom Martin, the Toyota driver. "The next thing I knew I saw him out of the corner of my eye, sliding at me. I tried to turn right just when he hit me.
"I went up on my side and I thought the boat was going to go over. But it settled down and I looked and saw he (Hickling) was OK."
Muncey blitzed the field his second time out (Heat 2-A) and formally clinched the national title while Ron Snyder in Miss Budweiser ó who upset Muncey last week in Tri-Cities ó was collecting two straight preliminary wins in 1-B and 2-B.
In the finale, Muncey was third across the line as LaRock in the Squire 65 on the inside lane and Snyder, in lane No. 2, beat him to the first corner.
Muncey pushed the deck of the sparkling blue Atlas in front coming out of the first turn but it was a race down the backstretch. On the upper turn everything but the margin of victory was settled.
The Atlas barely seemed to slow down while both of the other hydros had troubles in the rough water.
"There was a hole right there where I had to set up to make the turn," explained Snyder. "I just slid on through Billís tail to get in to some better water and to keep from breaking the boat and me. And once I did that there was no way I was going to play catchup so I just settled back and took second.
"I couldnít use all the power I had because of the rough water, especially on those short chutes.
"And with the smoke screen I couldnít see where I was goiní, anyway. Visibility was very poor. Even if theyíd fired a red flare to stop the race I doubt if I could see it."
LaRock, a last minute choice Friday as the No. 2 Squire boat driver, made it to the finals in his U-65 debut.
"When I came out of the first turn I didnít see any boats in front of me," LaRock said. And he was still in contention nearing the north turn.
"They (Atlas and Budweiser) were both in front of me and both took that turn very, very tight. It left me a boat length, at least a boat width, but not much more. It was very, very rough and I went through both of their roostertails. All I could see was water for a few seconds and then they were both inside of me."
Soon the engine began smoking and he finally pulled off the course and shut down the engine.
The penalty against Muncey in Heat 1-A didnít affect the outcome but he still wasnít happy about it. Coming around the north turn before the start, the Atlas took a wide swing toward the beach trailing the rest of the field.
Heading toward the starting line, Muncey ducked into an open lane and referee Bill Newton promptly nicked him for changing lanes between the exit buoy and the starting line.
Muncey said as he understands the rule, if youíre trailing the field as he was, you should take an open lane ó to find the safest open hole. "I had to duck in or go on the beach," he said. And as far as Muncey could tell he "wasnít impairing the progress of any boat on the race course ó I was doing the safe thing."
While Muncey may have disputed the call there was no arguing with Squire owner Bob Steilís assessment of the U-65 in the final heat:
"We were really smokiní."
(Reprinted from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 7, 1978)
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