A 'STAMPEDE' WIN
The huge Victorian aircraft-engined hydroplane, “Stampede,” staved off a gallant challenge by “Air New Zealand” to win the E.C. Griffith Cup last Sunday and keep the historic trophy and the Australian Unlimited Open Speedboat Championship in Australia.
Stan Jones and his co-owners,
Bob Saniga and Dick Carnie, together with designer Colin Winton, builder,
Dave Gill and their team, pulled off a major mechanical coup to keep the
cup in Australia.
With only four days on the water for pre-race trials, they were able to produce it in perfect condition to win the greatest race in Australia.
But for this, John and Kieth
McGregor would have taken the cup back with them across the Tasman.
With 1600 cubic inches against the Kiwi’s 348, the giant Victorian hydroplane had a tremendous advantage in power – but winning a Griffith Cup with a new boat, at its first start, within one week of leaving the factory, is something that has never happened in the 60-year history of the race.
Stampede staked her claim to the cup when she came roaring out of the traps in the first heat to win the shake-out and allow driver, Bob Saniga to set the race pattern.
After two laps, he was half a lap ahead of Les Ramsay’s, was thrown against the cockpit coaming so hard that he broke his collar bone, and had to stop.
From then on it was a procession, Big Benzol following Stampede home and Jayne Too coming up to take third place, ahead of Yogi Bear and Black Knight.
Vulture finished sixth, with the NSW hydroplane, Eagle, last.
Poser blew up after completing four laps.
Tommy Watts’ big new hydroplane, Exciter, designed for an aircraft jet engine, was hopelessly mismatched with a 436 hemiChrysler, and pulled out failing to complete a lap.
It was Old Master, Ernie Nunn’s Maserati-powered Wasp Too, from NSW, that won the shake out in a star-studded second heat, calling the tune to Air New Zealand, with the very fast Victoria hydro, Super Roo, right on their heels.
Tortoise (NSW) was fourth, with
the Bendigo hydroplane, Redline, a disappointing fifth.
But in the third, driver Gordon
Turvey’s seat began to shake loose and he had to ease off in order
to stay in the boat.
Turvey, concentrating now on merely finishing the heat, had to go slower and slower, and Super Roo went past him.
But in the fifth lap the seat came a drift completely, and he had to pull out. In the same lap, Super Roo blew up, leaving Tortoise to second place.
The New Zealander was now so far in front that when Kieth McGregor misread the flags and stopped a lap short of the finish, he was able to get going again and go on to win with plenty to spare. Impulse was third, Redlineaa disappointing fourth, with Ospray fifth and last.
The Gippsland Hydroplane, Mystic Mist, broke down while chasing that starter boat and took no part in the race. So the stage was now set for expected clash between Stampede and Air New Zealand in the final.
Stampede, with the fastest time had the pole; Air New Zealand’s winning time was slower than Big Benzol’s second, so she started from no.3.
The others were Jayne Too, Yogi Bear, Tortoise, Black Knight, Impulse, Redline and Vulture in that order.
The start was sensational; Stan
Jones, who had the drive in Stampede this time, concentrated on keeping
the New Zealander away from the inside, and Tony Bartlett gunned Big Benzol
through the inside to snatch the lead as they came out of the first turn.
For awhile, it looked like a West Australian boilover, although Stan Jones, stalking Bartlett, said after the race that he was waiting for the expected challenge from Keith McGregor to develop.
He did not have long to wait. The fuel-injected 348 Chev. settled down to its work, and after a lap, Air New Zealand was right on Stampede’s hammer.
Suddenly Big Benzol blew, and the moment of truth had arrived; Stampede v Air New Zealand – four laps of it, with the rest nowhere.
Keith McGregor drove like a man possessed following so closely that for most of the time the tiny New Zealand boat was buried deep in the huge Australian’s rooster tail. But the Kiwi David had no stone to knock out the Australian Goliath.
Although he closed on Stampede
on the turns, getting a through hosing down in the straights.
But the big aircraft motor was husbanding untapped reserves of power, and when Jones saw the yellow, he tramped it. Going out of the straight, he had re-established his 50-yard lead and on the back straight, the huge Victorian hydroplane began to draw away.
Stampede came out of it a clear
leader and went on to win by about 300 yards.
Stampede - the winner
An exuberant Stan Jones, winner of the Cup
Second placegetter in the Griffith