1985 Miller American Thunderboat Classic
Onondaga Lake, Syracuse NY, June 16, 1985

Bud Wins Miller
By Cathy & Forest Brooks

The second week of the 1985 Thunderboat season found the fleet at Onondaga Lake, just outside of Syracuse in upstate New York. The seven boats from Miami were joined by two additions from Seattle: Bill McFadden's Oh Boy! Oberto (last year's U-20) and Wil Muncey's Boatracing Magazine (a cabover reincarnation of the U-15 Burien Hobby Center). Unfortunately, for some camps the weekend would be fraught with misfortune. Even the eventual race winner, the bubble-top Miss Budweiser, would be damaged sufficiently to return to Seattle for repairs.

The Miller American with Chip Hanauer was the first to be disabled, During testing on Saturday a flywheel on the Lycoming T-55 turbine engine broke from the shaft and peppered the cowl, deck, and internal members with shrapnel. Chip was not hurt but the Miller had to withdrew, For the second year in a row Chip would not race in New York. All the remaining boats, except for Muncey's, surpassed the qualifying standard. With seven active hydros, Heat 1 was divided into a four-boat A section and a three boat B section. Heat 1-A found Oh Boy! Oberto with Jerry Hopp in his first start of the season (108.011) matched with Executone Telephones under Scott Pierce (121.376), Miss 7-Eleven and Steve Reynolds (122.231), and Leif Borgersen, making his first start in over 10 years, in Frank Kenney Toyota/Volvo (124.183). In heat 1-B Jim Kropfeld in Miss Budweiser (125.611) would tangle with Andy Coker in American Speedy Printing Centers (113.942) and Todd Yarling in Jim Sedam's Joe Ricci Spirit of Detroit (109.689).

Heat 1-A started out to be a real barn-burner. Jerry Hopp in the turbo-Allison Oberto took the inside lane and really nailed the start. Scott Pierce held lane 2 with Steve Reynolds in 3 and Leif on the outside. Miss 7-Eleven lasted only to the first turn before the turbine craft expired. Oh Boy! Oberto continued to lead out of the first turn by about a roostertail with Executone in second going down the back chute. Borgersen chased after Pierce in the Kenney Toyota. About halfway down the backstretch, the boat's right sponson rose slowly and Leif experienced his first blow-over. After almost a full revolution, the front pickleforks caught, dumping the boat on its back and quickly rebounding; off the water to rest upright. Fortunately, Leif Borgersen wasn't caught in the wreckage, ending up in the water ahead of his craft. Leif was conscious when reached by the rescue craft and was quickly taken to the hospital. The heat was red flagged and would be tried again after heat 1-B.

Leif suffered a right hip dislocation and bruises but was otherwise unharmed. The Frank Kenney suffered severe damage forward of the cockpit and the wing assembly and naturally was through for the day. Both Leif and the boat returned to Seattle the following week. Owner Jerry Kenney said the camp had no plans to compete again this season. The hull was repairable, but they would probably choose to build a new hull for next season.

Heat 1-B was certainly the biggest disappointment of the season. Three boats were slated to challenge for the victory but the heat became a one boat race before it ever began when Yarling and. Coker were unable to start their engines. Conserving his equipment and feeling out the new bubble-top boat, Jim Kropfeld negotiated the five laps smoothly to register the first points of the season for the new Budweiser at a pedestrian 92.181.

The restart of heat 1-A found the three boats left: Executone, 7-Eleven and Oh Boy! Oberto. Unfortunately, Jerry Hopp in Oh Boy! Oberto couldn't duplicate his fine start from the first running of heat 1-A. Executone took lane one and jumped out to an early lead with 7-Eleven second in lane two and Hopp trailing in Oh Boy! Oberto. Pierce ran a very aggressive race extending his lead over Reynolds to about 3 buoy lengths in lap two. Oh Boy! Oberto, running with a Rolls Royce Merlin proved steady in third. The fifth lap found Pierce lapping Hopp in the Oberto. With an average speed of 104.650 mph, Scott Pierce finished first to keep his perfect record for the season -- finishing first in every heat the Executone had started and finished. 7-Eleven and Oh Boy! Oberto followed in second (99.721) and third (79.137) respectively.

Because only six racable craft remained, only one session of Heat 2 was held. Of the boats eligible to start Heat 2-A only four crossed the starting line. Joe Ricci and 7-Eleven remained in the pits. The 7-Eleven, apparently unable to solve its oil cooling problem from eariler in the day, opted for an engine change. Executone selected lane two with Budweiser choosing lane one at the start. Pierce was off to another fast start followed. closely by Kropfeld in the Budweiser, Coker in American Speedy Printing and Hopp in Oh Boy! Oberto. Going down the back chute in lap one, Budweiser accelerated to capture first. On the second lap Pierce was determined to regain lost ground, while American Speedy Printing and Oh Boy! Oberto held their own battle for third and fourth. Executone and Budweiser battled deck to deck until Jim dropped back to switch to the outside lane on the third lap. The duel wasn't over however as Budweiser regained the lead in the back stretch

on lap four. American Speedy Printing remained in third with Oh Boy! Oberto having gone dead in the north turn. Budweiser on lap 5 lengthened its lead down the backstretch but had to go wide around the Oberto on the last turn. Pierce ducked inside the Oberto and challenged Jim in a classic sprint to the wire. Pierce's perfect record was broken by 30 feet (109.557) as the new Budweiser continued its own perfect record (109.890) with a second victory for the day. Andy Coker was third (97.166) and Jerry Hopp finished fourth (71.217).

The final heat found six eligible boats, all of whom actually made it to the start. In the first line of chargers Jim elected for lane one, Scott lane two and Steve Reynolds lane three. Going into the first turn the space between the Budweiser and the 7-Eleven narrowed to practically nothing, forcing Scott to eat a waterfall. Coming out of the turn the 7-Eleven hugged the exit pin, trapping; the Budweiser that had been able to maintain its speed turning inside the 7-Eleven. The Bud's right side rose ominously on the 7-Eleven's wash and hung at a 45 degree angle for too long; a time before dropping back to an even plane and undergoing a thorough drenching. These actions would later get 7-Eleven black flagged and disqualified but for lap one 7-Eleven was in first. American Speedy Printing and Executone quickly passed the sputtering Budweiser. Oh Boy! Oberto and Joe Ricci trailed in fifth and sixth. Lap two found positions changing with Executone moving upto second and the Budweiser gradually gaining ground despite damage to the vertical stabilizer caused by the 7-Eleven's roostertail. Jerry Hopp in the Oberto went dead in the water in the first turn of the second lap, leaving five boats still in the field with Budweiser moving into second past Executone. As he was lapping Joe Ricci on lap four Reynolds was black flagged, lost power, and pulled to the infield. Soon after Executone went dead in the water having broke its propeller shaft off at the strut, firing pieces thru its wing. The remaining three boats, then spread themselves out. Even with a damaged right wing; support, Budweiser with a clocking of (106.278) managed to easily capture the Miller American Thunderboat Classic -- Not a bad debut for a new boat. Three heats, three starts, three heat victories, one race win. American Speedy Printing was second (95.593) and Joe Ricci Spirit of Detroit finished third in 77.778.

Jim Kropfeld picked up his eleventh Unlimited win and was completely happy with the canopy test in the first turn of the final heat. However, the celebration was short-lived in the Budweiser camp as Bernie Little announced that the new boat had to return to Seattle for additional work and repairs. The 1980 hull would join the circuit at Detroit, needing only two more wins to match Bill Muncey's blue-blaster as the winningest hull in unlimited ranks. Executone's perfect record had been broken but the points earned in New York Scott Pierce and the Executone took over as National Point Leader with 1,500 points after two races.

1985 Miller American Thunderboat Classic



Heat 1

Heat 2



Miss Budweiser





American Speedy Printing



2-300/ 525


Joe Ricci Spirit Of Detroit



3-225/ 225


Executone Telephones



DNF / 700


Oh Boy! Oberto



DNF / 394


Miss 7-Eleven



DISQ/ 300


Frank Kenney Toyota Volvo





Miller American





Boatracing Magazine




(Reprinted from the Unlimited NewsJournal, July 1985)

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