1996 APBA Gold Cup
Detroit River, Detroit MI, June 2, 1996
Three-Lap Heats Leave Sidelined Tate Hot
(By Angelique S. Chengelis)
Mark Tate hung around the Detroit River, knowing his chances of competing for another Gold Cup were up in the air. Literally.
Tate, whose Smokin' Joe's unlimited hydroplane was badly damaged in an accident with Miss Budweiser driver Chip Hanauer during a heat race Saturday, had to withdraw Sunday morning from the Gold Cup because repairs to his boat could not be completed in time.
He would have had a chance to compete -- had the Gold Cup been postponed until today, which was a possibility because of the high winds.
The winds died down and the Gold Cup heats started after a six-hour delay. But Tate got revved up anyway -- personally -- because of a change in race rules.
Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Association Commissioner Bill Doner decided two heats, instead of four, would run before the Gold Cup final. He also decided the heats would consist of three laps instead of five. The Gold Cup final consisted of its usual five laps.
"If the drivers think it's raceable, fine, but run five laps like the rulebook says . . . don't cut it to three," said Tate, a two-time Gold Cup winner from Canton, Mich. "If they can run five in the final, why not run five in the heats? It might be selfish on my part because I'm standing here hoping the race was postponed, but if they run the race, it should be run by the book."
Tate voiced his objection to Doner, but Doner had already made his decision. Doner said he was determined to get the race in Sunday because today's forecast called for inclement weather. The last time the Gold Cup was delayed a day was in 1984.
"I didn't see any reason to run five laps and bang the boats up even worse," Doner said. "What am I supposed to do? If I'd made them run five laps, what difference would that have made? Mark had a tough break, and I don't know what to do about that. But people would have lynched me if we hadn't gotten the race in."
A one-day postponement would have given Tate's crew enough time to complete repairs, and for a while, he looked like he would get his wish.
Competition for the Gold Cup was delayed six hours because of 26-mph southwestern winds -- blowing down river -- that caused choppy water conditions. During that time, the Smokin' Joe's team transported the boat to Fairlane Tool, a machine shop in Roseville. But by 6 p.m., the wind gusts had dropped to 15 mph, and the two heats were run. The Smokin' Joe's boat had not even returned to the river.
"It's a disappointment," Tate said. "I felt we had a great boat -- we thought we had the boat to beat. The good thing is that Chip's fine and I'm fine."
(reprinted from Detroit News, June 3, 1996)
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