1996 Las Vegas Exhibition
Lake Mead, Boulder City NV, September 21-22, 1996


Not the Goat Anymore

Chip Hanauer used to say that unlimited hydroplane racing was the easiest sport in which to go from a hero to a goat rapidly. Lately, the more likely scenario has been to go from goat to hero. Today, at the exhibition stop on Ralph's Thunder Tour 1996 Presented by Las Vegas, Mike Hanson accomplished that transition in the DeWALT Tools by holding off Mark Evans in the Miss Budweiser in a three-lap sprint on Lake Mead, just northeast of Boulder City NV.

Running out of lane 2, Hanson led nearly the entire distance, establishing a solid lead coming out of the first turn and then fending off a challenge from Mark Evans in the T-5 version of the Bud. Just last week, the DeWALT had been upside down after a very bizarre incident in which the yellow boat spun out of control. Upon returning to the beach, a nearly out-of-breath Hanson said little more than, "It feels a LOT better," before returning to work in the pit area. The DeWALT wounded its left sponson once more in the victory, peeling off some of the repaired skin.

Scott Pierce used his inside lane to run third in the U-99 Miss Vons, while Dave Villwock came back after a late start to finish fourth in the older PICO American Dream. Mark Tate, in the backup Smokin' Joe's (which has not appeared in any sort of competition since Kansas City in 1992 when it ran dubbed as the Winston Select) stayed with the Budweiser for about three-quarters of a lap before kiting badly and changing to a conservative run, ending up fifth.

The exhibition went off about a half-hour early because winds in excess of 20 mph had necessitated the cancellation of the Formula I qualifying session. The winds had died a little when the unlimiteds took to the course, but whitecaps were still visible.

Mark Evans may have run a solid race in nearly catching Hanson from the outside just as he did pass Mark Tate in the Smokin' Joe's last week in San Diego, but he had trouble returning to the pits. Unable to find the fuel shut-off valve, he nearly ran in to the beach, and in fact only the rudder digging in to the bottom of Lake Mead kept him from beaching. The rudder was damaged in the incident.

Relatively few fans were on hand at the National Recreation Area, but they all seemed to suddenly perk up when the unlimiteds took to the course, even for testing. After a half-decade hiatus, the fans of unlimited hydroplane racing haven't left the desert.

PLEASE NOTE: All times are estimated. The course has not been surveyed as an official 1.5 mile course, and there is no start/finish buoy per se.

SATURDAY EXHIBITION (2:00)
(3 Laps Due to Poor Water Conditions)

Ln Boat # Name                      Driver          Pos  Speed (Unofficial)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
2  U-6    DeWALT Tools              Mike Hanson     1    93.906
3  U-1    Miss Budweiser (T-5)      Mark Evans      2    93.302 #
1  U-99   Miss Vons                 Scott Pierce    3    90.817
5  U-100  PICO American Dream (L-2) Dave Villwock   4    88.166
4  U-10   Smokin' Joe's (Backup)    Mark Tate       5    78.989

#  - Fast Lap:  U-1 (2nd), 94.182 mph

MORNING TEST LOG (Session started about 11:20)

Again, please note all times are unofficial...

U-99   115.859
       120.160
U-100  121.196 L-2 Hull (ID 9399)
       119.205
U-6    122.150
       104.651
U-10   122.116 Backup Hull (ID 9010)
       121.149
        99.053
U-1    122.482 T-5 Hull (ID 9601)
       122.615
       109.890

ESTIMATED SCHEDULE FOR SUNDAY (Subject to serious change)

 8:00am- 8:30am Formula 1 Drivers Meeting, Lake Mead
 9:00am- 9:45am Formula 1 Consolation Race, 10 laps
10:00am-10:45pm Formula 1 Semifinals, 15 laps
11:00am-11:45am Unlimited Hydroplane Testing
 1:00pm- 2:00pm Formula 1 Final, 30 laps
 2:30pm         Unlimited Hydroplane Exhibition
 3:00pm         Awards Ceremony
 7:30pm         Formula Cocktail Hour, Showboat Hotel
 8:30pm         Formula Year-End Banquet, Showboat Hotel

* * *

Not Meant To Be

LAS VEGAS (Sunday, September 22) - It seemed like a different world on the shores of Lake Mead today. The crowd had quadrupled over the previous day, based on the number of cars in the parking lot. The severe dusty conditions were tempered somewhat by a water truck dampening the parking area behind the beach. The Formula One boats were started their preliminary heats.

Then, the same winds that canceled the Formula One boats and made it rough on the unlimiteds on Saturday kicked up again, and this time the unlimiteds had to call it a day.

The exhibition heat, with lane assignments inverted from the previous day (with the PICO this time on the inside), was moved up to 2:00 in an attempt to beat the weather, which had contributed to four blowover-type accidents during Formula One racng. The winds had kicked up to over 20 mph as the single crane slowly placed each boat in the water. Both the Smokin' Joe's and the Miss Budweiser started to drift northward parallel to the shore.

By the time the final boat, the PICO American Dream, had been placed in the water, the Smokin' Joe's had drifted out in water too deep to stand in. After Mark Tate spooled up and headed to the race course, three of his crew members were left in the water, right in the way of the Miss Budweiser. Making matters worse, one was having difficulty swimming, and only the other crew members in the area and a few fans on the shore were immediately aware of the predicament.

Meanwhile, out on the course, conditions were rapidly worsening. The Smokin' Joe's leaped nearly twenty feet out of the water, coming down flat, but prompting officials to call to bring the boats back to the pits. A barge boat sent to push the Budweiser out of the way of the "swimmers" was instead used to rescue the Smokin' Joe's crew member. Both the Budweiser and Miss Von's came back to the shore with their drivers partially out of the cockpit. Upon returning to the pits, they weren't the only ones shaking their heads.

Needless to say, it was decided to call it a day with everyone still healthy. All five boats at Las Vegas (PICO American Dream, Smokin' Joe's, Miss Budweiser, DeWALT Tools, and Miss Vons--though granted different hulls in the case of the first three) and five more (Jim Harvey Motorsports, the U-8, Appian Jeronimo, and Miss Exide) will be in Long Beach on Tuesday to board the boat for the next race in Honolulu.

As for the future of the Las Vegas race, concerns about weather conditions may dictate scheduling the Lake Mead event later in 1997, as the season closer. Such a schedule would require the cooperation of the Honolulu race site, which would have to take place one week earlier in the year.


Hydroplane History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010.
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at wildturnip@gmail.com
Leslie Field, 1999