Editor’s note: There are seven days until the APBA HAPO Gold Cup Heat 1A race takes place on the Columbia River. At the same time, the Tri-City Water Follies’ annual event is celebrating its 50th year of racing unlimited hydroplanes. So the Herald will take a daily look at past storylines leading up to the Gold Cup. These are in no particular order:
July 26, 1993: Bud, Hanauer win again.
Chip Hanauer drove the Miss Budweiser to victory at the Columbia Cup for the second consecutive year.
But he also paid the price.
Hanauer survived what he called “the most violent five laps of my career” to win his sixth consecutive unlimited race.
“I’m real tired,” he said.
Hanauer won all three of his heats and led from start to finish in the final.
“I can’t describe how violent it was out there,” Hanauer said. “My vision was blurred. You combine rough water and a fast race course, and it’s dangerous. It was like a long Brahma bull ride. I can’t believe the boat is still in one piece.”
At least Hanauer kept the boat right side up.
The Circus Circus and The Tide had a couple of scary flips.
Dave Villwock flipped his team’s other Circus Circus boat at the Detroit Gold Cup, while The Tide went over two weeks earlier at Kansas City.
With overcast skies and gusty winds, Villwock took the Circus Circus out for the start of Heat 1A.
As the five boats jockeyed around the course to get lined up straight for the flag start, the group entered the first turn, and Villwock lost power.
“I got caught up (in the corner) by the two rookie drivers (KISW’s Ken Dryden and Mike Jones of Pete’s Wicked Ale),” Villwock said. “I was on the radio telling the (Unlimited Racing Commission) that they need to talk to Dryden and Jones, that they need to pick a lane.”
Villwock had to let up on the gas, causing the boat to lose power. By the time he regained power, the rest of the field was halfway up the course.
That’s when he noticed the white flag was out, signifying that it was up to the referee to start the race with the green flag if he felt the situation was right.
“They put us in a horrible position,” Villwock said. “I don’t know why they started the race. They threw up the white flag with Hanauer still in the infield. I’m not saying it’s the referee’s fault or the URC’s fault, but they have to be careful about what position they put us in.”
URC official Doug Ford said the white flag didn’t mean the race was ready to start.
“When the white flag comes out, it means the referee can drop the green flag if he thinks they’re lined up,” Ford said. “It doesn’t mean he will. If the Circus Circus hadn’t been lined up, (URC referee) Jim (Codling) probably wouldn’t have started it.”
Codling was unavailable for comment.
Villwock put the pedal down and streaked down the backstretch. Near the turn, the boat lifted up, flipped over and landed sponsons-first in the water.
“I don’t know what happened,” Villwock said. “It shouldn’t have gone over at that throttle setting. It just launched. I hung there for a while and didn’t come back down.”
Villwock was not seriously injured.
“The knee’s a little sore, and I got a bump on the head,” Villwock said.
The boat, however, was done.
“We won’t fix it right at this time,” said Dan Walters, Circus Circus’ crew chief. “We won’t decide on a boat until winter time. We’ll salvage what we can. This boat can be fixed. But the time and energy we’d spend on it would just as well be for a new hull.”
Meanwhile, in Heat 3A, The Tide backup driver Nate Brown was involved in a hot battle for third with T-Plus driver Steve David.
Entering the west turn, The Tide’s right side lifted up. The boat flipped over and landed upside down.
“I’m fine,” Brown said. “I’m more upset that I hurt the boat.”
David got a firsthand view of the accident.
“We were both racing hard,” David said. “Once the boat went up, he had no control over it.”
Brown said that with Bud and the Winston Eagle battling for first, the two boats left huge rollers in the river.
“The water was churning, and the wakes don’t dissipate one iota,” Hanauer said. “They’re all stored there in the first corner. The holes were as deep as your waist.”
Mark Tate, the driver of the Winston Eagle, agreed.
“The current isn’t strong enough to flatten the river back out, so it was marked by holes that just wouldn’t lay down,” Tate said. “It was one of the roughest races I’ve ever run.”