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San Diego Mission Bay H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Races


Friday, September 24, 2010

 
 
 San Diego Mission Bay H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Races

After not taking part in last years San Diego BayFair event, the unlimited hydroplanes were back on Mission Bay this year. As a kid growing up in Washington back in the early seventies, there were no events bigger each year in Seattle than the hydroplane races on Lake Washington. If you weren’t there you were likely watching it live on Wide World of Sports with Jim Mckay calling the action. The San Diego event usually followed a few weeks later. The sunny days, blue skys and calm conditions of Mission Bay were much envied, as we sat watching from our Seattle living rooms with rain coming down outside. I remember the first year watching the telecast on our new RCA color TV, the old black and white unit having been banished to the den.

Now legendary drivers like Dean Chenoweth, Bill Muncey and Chip Hanauer dueled it out each year in boats named Miss Budweiser, Atlas Van Lines, Circus Circus, Pay & Pak and Miss Bardahl. These boats were piston powered, oh so loud and wicked fast. Powered by World War II surplus fighter plane engines originally manufactured by Allison and Rolls Royce, their average lap speeds were reaching 140 mph.

By the mid eighties the transition to todays turbine powered boats was well underway. These are highly modified jet engines such as Lycomings, first produced for and used in Vietnam era Chinook helicopters. Average lap speeds now can push into the 170 mph range. But I have to say I miss the sound of an old piston powered unlimited hydroplane coming off a turn with its V12 Allison engine running wide open, producing some 2000 horsepower. The stuff a kids dreams were made of.


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