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Penhall, Sigalos Try to Conquer World of Offshore Boat Racing

October 13, 1994|SHAV GLICK

Bruce Penhall of Laguna Hills and Dennis Sigalos of Newport Beach, both world champions in speedway motorcycle racing, are now after similar honors in offshore powerboat racing.

In the 1982 World Speedway Final at the Coliseum, Penhall was the winner and Sigalos was third. The same year, Sigalos won the World Pairs championship and the two were teammates on the World Team Cup champions.

Penhall retired from speedway after winning his second world title in 1982 and Sigalos retired two years later. Ten years later, the two close friends decided to revive their competitive instincts and become partners in a 37-foot Scarab offshore boat they named Ocean Spray.

Just as Penhall had done in his first speedway race on his 16th birthday at Irwindale Raceway, they won their first time out on the water. It was last June 8, in a Pacific Offshore Power Boat Assn. race off Dana Point, and in winning they defeated world champions Rique Ford and Paul Whittier.

Sunday, in the Powerboat Magazine Ventura Offshore Challenge, they will try to repeat their Dana Point victory. Unlike most offshore races, much of the 20-mile course will be visible from shore. It will start at 11 a.m. at Ventura Harbor. The large boats, such as the Penhall-Sigalos entry, will race six laps.

"Most of the offshore racing in this country is on the East Coast, but we hope to stimulate more interest in West Coast racing," Penhall said while his crew put the finishing touches on Ocean Spray at its Huntington Harbour headquarters. "It has had its peaks and valleys out here, but it's starting to climb up again."

Their main goal, however, is to win the world offshore championship in a two-race series, Nov. 9 and Nov. 13, at Key West, Fla.

"If we can win, we will be one of a small number of athletes to win world championships in two widely different sports," Penhall said. "That would be neat."

This is the first real season in offshore boats for both. Penhall raced part time in 1993 with Nigel Hook of England; Sigalos competed briefly on Lake Mead. When they compared notes last fall, Penhall said, "Hey, Dennis, we've got to do this together. Let's get our own boat."

With financial help from Dennis' father, Tony, they formed TBD Racing Inc. and set out to build a top-of-the-line boat that, Sigalos said, "cost about equal to a nice house in Laguna Hills." It costs $7,600 an hour to run it in a race.

"It's a rich man's sport, no doubt about it," Sigalos said.

The Sigalos family owns an Orange County catering business with a fleet of 200 trucks and 2,500 vending machines. Penhall's family owned the largest concrete demolishing company in the world.

In TBD Racing Inc., Tony Sigalos is the owner, Penhall the pilot and Dennis the throttleman.

The two families have been virtually inseparable since the boys were 7 or 8 years old and their fathers raced flat-bottom SK runabouts against one another.

On New Year's Day, 1975, Penhall's mother and father and Sigalos' mother were killed in a plane crash while returning from a skiing trip at Mammoth Mountain. Tony Sigalos was in another plane. Bruce was supposed to have been on the trip, but begged off to practice for the Newport Harbor High baseball season.

Ocean Spray's main competition Sunday is expected to come from Ragamuffin, a 32-foot Skater, owned by Ford, a Jamaican who lives in Norco. Ford was run over by his 4 1/2-ton trailer on Oct. 2 when thieves attempted to steal his boat while he was hooking up the trailer. Ford clung to the bottom of the trailer as long as he could, but when he let go, the trailer nearly severed his body.

Ford, given only a 20% chance to live at the time, is now undergoing rehabilitation at Riverside General Hospital and is expected to recover. Craig Archer, a former racing partner of world champion Betty Cook, will take Ford's place in the boat.

Motor Racing Notes

PAGE JONES--Doctors and family members have been encouraged by signs of movement, but the 22-year-old son of 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones was still unconscious Wednesday from an accident 18 days ago at Eldora Speedway. He is in stable condition and has been sitting up in the intensive care unit of Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio.

MOTORCYCLES--The see-saw battle between Harley-Davidson teammates Chris Carr and Scott Parker for the American Motorcyclist Assn. dirt track championship will end Sunday with the Del Mar Mile on the Del Mar Fairgrounds track. Carr, of Valley Springs, Calif., can win his second title by finishing second, even if Parker, a four-time champion from Swartz Creek, Mich., is the winner. Parker had a five-point lead going into last week's race at Pomona, but when his engine blew up on the eighth lap and Carr finished third, the lead went back to Carr. The program will also spotlight a Lap of Legends, in which former champions Joe Leonard, Brad Andres, Floyd and Don Emde, Ralph White, Dick Mann, Ed Kretz and Jack Milne will ride.

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