Miss Budweiser Brings Home the Bacon With Qualifying Record
Hanging from the Miss Budweiser team truck parked in the pits at Mission Bay are two cardboard pigs with wings.
Flying pigs have become the good luck charm of the Miss Budweiser, which Tom D’Eath drove to a course record of 156.169 m.p.h. in a qualifying run Friday for Sunday’s Miller High Life Thunderboat Regatta.
The flying pigs date back to June and the Gold Cup race in Evansville, Ind., where D’Eath flipped in the Miss Budweiser and landed upside down, tearing up the boat’s front end. A crew member took one look at the boat, which was scheduled to race a week later in Madison, Ind., and said something like “If that boat works in Madison, it’ll be the day pigs fly.”
Working around the clock, the crew fixed Miss Budweiser in time. Since, the pigs have been on every trip.
“We’re old pig farmers from Ohio,” said Miss Budweiser owner Bernie Little, laughing. “What can I say?”
He can’t say enough about his crew, that’s certain. He gives it a lot more credit than the pigs for putting the Miss Budweiser on top of the circuit in points.
“They don’t complain,” he said. “They just do what they’ve got to do. You just can’t believe how bad that boat was wrecked. It was impossible to do what they did.”
Friday, D’Eath set the standards for the rest of the boats in the morning, cutting through the thick salt water without problems en route to clocking a faster lap than the world record of 155.979 set here by Chip Hanauer in the Miller High Life boat last year. Hanauer still holds the world mark, however, because a record can only be broken if it is 1% faster than the previous time.
Budweiser crew chief Ron Brown says the best is probably still to come. He said the engine was set to run approximately 10 m.p.h. below its maximum capabilities. Nobody was expecting a record.
“It threw us for a loop that (D’Eath) even went that fast,” Brown said. “To average 156 and to only go 170 in the straightaways is just incredible. We’re certainly capable of speeds a lot faster than that.”
D’Eath, who hasn’t driven the boat in five weeks, said he thinks so too.
“I probably could have gone faster,” he said. “It takes a little time for the driver to get used to how that feels again.”
The Budweiser team encountered some minor problems afterward. Brown tried an experiment on the second run, putting alcohol in the inlet of the engine in an attempt to add boost. It didn’t work, and the engine heated, causing a malfunction.
Team Budweiser’s problems were minor compared to other boats. Mr. Pringles, driven by Scott Pierce, ran the second fastest lap at 147.517 m.p.h. but had problems on the second run; the rear came loose during a turn on a lap that could have been close to the Budweiser’s course record. Pierce returned to the dock immediately for repairs.
“We had a good number going on that run,” said Pierce, the leader in the driver standings. “It’s tough because we thought we had made some good adjustments. Now we’re going to have to get the boat ready for (Saturday).”
The Miller High Life boat didn’t finish a lap. It wasn’t put into the water until 4 p.m. because the team drove all night to get here from Seattle. When Hanauer pulled away from the pits, it stalled. He managed to start it, but it stalled again just as he got to the course.
“It just felt like somebody pulled the plug,” he said.
Miller High Life team manager Charlie Lyford said he was testing his boat’s new salt water system for the first time, and water was ingested into the engine. Lyford thinks the boat can be fixed for today’s run, but Hanauer is aware it will take more than a mechanically sound boat to end the Miss Budweiser’s three-regatta winning streak.
“I’d say that’s the best I’ve seen their team in 10 years,” he said. “They’re very difficult to beat. I think they’re reaping the benefits of testing projects that were started two years ago.”
Little confirms that. He said Brown told him he changed just about every part on the boat before this regatta.
“And I know he’s telling the truth because I pay the bills.”
Seaco Aviation, driven by Mitch Evans, made the third fastest qualifying run with a 133.630 m.p.h. lap. Oh Boy! Oberto driver George Woods Jr. was fourth with a 129.889 m.p.h. lap. . . . None of the teams with turbine/jet powered boats reported difficulties with salt water, which has caused overheating in the past from added friction. But Bernie Little said he won’t feel comfortable until his boat finishes Sunday’s race. “I don’t care how good the crew is or how good anybody is, that salt water can put you down at the snap of a finger.”