1978 Squire Seafair Trophy
Muncey ‘Smokes’ To 49th Win
From all the smoke in the championship heat, it could have been the Battle of Britain. But it was just another one-sided hydroplane war and the 49th "thanks-for-the-trophy" day for Bill Muncey.
The smoke was from oil seeping into the turbocharger of The Squire Shop’s U-65. The blue-gray smoke was so thick that drivers had trouble seeing buoys and other boats, let alone the checkered flag.
So just to make sure he had things clinched in all the smoke, Muncey ran two extra laps, taking the checkered flag through the haze three times. Then he ran out of fuel and had to be towed to the pits, smiling and bowing to the crowd.
There was reason for Muncey’s caution. In heat 1A, he was penalized by Bill Newton, chief referee, for cutting from lane six to lane four between the exit buoy and the starting line. Muncey disputed the decision, calling it "chippy" because all his maneuvering had been behind other boats, not in front of them.
Muncey accomplished the following things in yesterday’s Seafair race: 1) Matched his number of victories with his age — 49; 2) won his sixth driver’s title (secured when he won Heat 2A); 3) clinched his first national title as an owner (again in Heat 2A); 4) won his seventh race in more than 20 years of racing on Lake Washington and his second in a row on the course; 5) notched his fifth victory this year in six races.
Second place went to Miss Budweiser, driven by Ron Snyder. The beer boat crossed the finish line 36.6 seconds behind Muncey in the 12-mile championship heat in which a boat’s finish determines its overall placement.
The Budweiser’s Australian cousin, Miss Bud, was third with Bob Saniga driving. Miss Madison, driven by Milner Irvin, was slowed by lack of a proper propeller and finished fourth. Barney Armstrong’s Machine, driven by Chuck King, was a distant fifth.
The Squire Shop’s U-65, which was responsible for the smoke, finally came to a halt after five laps in the championship heat.
"I think we could have run him a little harder if there had been a 2½-mile course with longer straightaways," said Snyder. "Muncey’s just got such a super machine. He takes the corners so well that one little mess-up on my part and there’s no catchup."
Snyder said Muncey got away from him when the Budweiser had to swing through the Atlas’ roostertail coming out of the first turn.
Throughout the day, there was little deck-to-deck racing, but fortunately, no injuries. A collision occurred in the first heat between Dr. Toyota, driven by Tom Martin, and Tempus, driven by Chuck Hickling. The boats bumped in the first turn, but both completed the heat. Dr. Toyota sank next to the pier after returning to the pits and didn’t race again.
Martin said, "I was in the turn when he got me in the left rear. I didn’t notice any difference in the way the boat was riding, so I hung in there and hoped for not too much damage. I’d call it an accident."
Hickling termed the bump "just one of those unfortunate things. I was in a pile of water (a roostertail). You have to get out of the water to see the turn. Water was coming so long I figured I wasn’t in the turn yet. I didn’t know where I was. I don’t think the gentleman in the next boat saw me."
Irvin, the Madison driver, said "there ought to be a rule" about smoking boats. "I couldn’t see the buoys," he said. "Maybe we can make the guy stop when something like that happens."
Bernie Little, Budweiser owner, said the Unlimited Hydroplane Commission is likely to consider the matter at its September meeting before the final race of the season on Mission Bay.
Muncey, who lives in a San Diego suburb, never has won at San Diego.
"I can’t win there," Muncey said, adding with a smile, "I’ve tried to cheat there and still can’t win."
Miss Budweiser had yesterday’s highest point total going into the final heat as it breezed to victories in its two preliminary heats. Barney Armstrong’s Machine won Heat 1A because Muncey had to run the extra lap. Muncey came back to win Heat 2A. Muncey’s victory in the championship heat was worth more than $8,000 of the $22,500 purse.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 7, 1978)
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