Hydro Racing

July 27, 1987: Hydros bring high speeds, hot words; Budweiser sets record, but Hanauer cries foul

It wouldn't be an unlimited hydroplane race on the Columbia River without world record speeds and controversy.

A crowd estimated at 40,000 got their annual dose of both Sunday.

Jim Kropfeld and the Miss Budweiser set a world competitive lap record of 146.460 m.p.h. during the first lap of the final heat, and then won the Columbia Cup with an average lap speed of 133.856 m.p.h.

Miller American driver Chip Hanauer, who earlier in the day set a competitive lap record with a speed of 139.391 m.p.h. in winning Heat 2A, immediately protested that Kropfeld had illegally cut him off between the first two turns on the 2 1/2-mile course in the championship heat.

The protest was disallowed by the Unlimited Racing Commission, but that didn't stop some hard feelings between the top two drivers.

"I'm disappointed in the way Jim (Kropfeld) drove today," Hanauer said. "Jim left me very little room in the corner. It was a dangerous situation. I had a choice of either hitting the buoy or going up in his roostertail. I went up in the air and I'm just lucky I came down on the right side."

Kropfeld, informed of Hanauer's comments, didn't agree.

"I'll have to talk to the referees, but I thought it was my race course all the way around and that there was enough room for Chip. I have no idea if it was my fault. If it was, I'm sure they would have disqualified me. I've been disqualified before."

There also was controversy in Heat 2A when the two boats staged one of the most competitive and fastest races in the history of the sport.

Minutes before the start of the heat, Miss Budweiser went dead in the water. Kropfeld eventually was able to get the boat started and finished slightly ahead of Hanauer in the heat, but he was disqualified because his boat was not running when the one-minute gun sounded.

Had he not been disqualified, Kropfeld would have set the 12 1/2-mile world record with a speed of 138.285 m.p.h. As it was, Hanauer set the world record in second place at 136.291 m.p.h.

Kropfeld later said he did not know he was disqualified, something Hanauer questioned.

"I saw him and he wasn't running at the one-minute gun," Hanauer said. "I thought he would do the gentlemanly thing and pull into the infield. But all of a sudden he was racing. I felt I had to win the heat to get into the final. He never responded to the black flag so I had to endanger myself and my equipment."

Kropfeld said he never saw the black flag indicating he had been disqualified.

"It was the hardest race I ever drove," Kropfeld said. "We were running so darn hard and at those speeds, I didn't dare take my eyes off the water for a second."

Hanauer couldn't understand that. "Then how does he see the checkered flag? How does he see the start?"

Kropfeld added the radio between his boat and the pits did not operate during that heat. "It only works about 60 percent of the time. There was so much static I could only make out a word here and there."

Hanauer, who has won the Columbia Cup the last two years, called the heat "the most exhausting race I've ever run."

Hanauer needed to win the heat because he was in danger of not making the final after going dead in the water in Heat 1B, which was won by Mr. Pringle's.

Miss Budweiser won Heat 1A while Mr. Pringle's won Heat 2B and 1B.

Mr. Pringle's, driven by Scott Pierce, was also third in the championship heat at a speed of 121.651 m.p.h., followed by Oh Boy! Oberto and driver George Woods at 116.439 m.p.h.; Milner Irvin and the Frank Kenney Toyota, Mazda, Volvo at 109.522 m.p.h. and Pietro's Pizza and Todd Yarling at 106.221 m.p.h.