SAN DIEGO — For the third time since unlimited hydroplane Thunderboats were introduced to Mission Bay in 1964, the historic old Gold Cup will be contested here today--the 80th running of the world's most prestigious powerboat race.
The Gold Cup dates back to 1904, when Carl Riotte piloted Standard at the outrageous speed of 23.6 m.p.h. on the Hudson River.
Saturday, Chip Hanauer and the Miller American raced a lap around the 2 1/2-mile Bill Muncey Memorial course laid out between Crown Point and Fiesta Island at 155.979 m.p.h.
It is the fastest lap in unlimited hydroplane history.
Hanauer also set a Gold Cup two-lap qualifying record of 149 327 m.p.h., the average of his first two laps, 142.676 and 155.979.
Officials estimated that the boat was approaching 200 m.p.h. down the straightaway after circling Ski Island.
The previous one-lap record was 155.172 by national champion Jim Kropfeld, in Miss Budweiser, set last July in Pasco, Wash. Kropfeld also held the old Muncey Memorial record of 143.266 set last year.
If Hanauer wins today's Miller High Life Gold Cup, he would have a niche to himself in American Power Boat Assn. lore. He would become the first driver to win six Gold Cups in succession after sharing the record of five with Gar Wood, who won from 1917 to 1921.
Today's Miller High Life Gold Cup race promises to be one of the most historic of them all, if it isn't already after Hanauer's stunning performance around 11 a.m. Saturday.
Hanauer, who has not won a race for more than a year, failed to even qualify for the final heat here last year.
Hanauer also had a different boat from the '87 model he ran all season. The record-breaking boat, in fact, is the one in which he won the last three Gold Cups in Detroit, Seattle and Pasco, Wash. It was resurrected for this race after the newer model failed to live up to expectations.
"We're the only team to test (since racing at Syracuse Aug. 23)," Hanauer said. "Some of the other teams just came in here with what they ran all year, rather than try something new. It all came down today to the fact that our team at no time thought of rolling over and thinking about next year."
Kropfeld, 47, has won five of the six races this year and only lost the other one because he jumped the gun and was penalized a lap at Detroit. The one he wants most, though, is the Gold Cup, a race he has never won.
"The Gold Cup means something special to me because if I win it would break Chip's string," Kropfeld said. "I think he's dominated things long enough. It's time for the monopoly to end."
Kropfeld responded to Hanauer's 155 m.p.h. lap with one of his own at 152.775 and a 146.481 average.