Miss Budweiser, driven by Mickey Remund, and Natural Light, with Tom Sheehy aboard, made owner Bernie Little happy yesterday.
Both Anheuser-Busch entries turned in creditable performances to win their respective heats in the first day of unlimited hydroplane competition at the President's Cup Regatta at hains Point. About 10,000 persons looked on.
"I guess that'll help sell a lot more beer," said Sheehy, an airline pilot from Miami. "We're two separate organizations. We have our ownd drivers, our own crews, but it's like owning both Seattle Slew and Secretariat. You put them both on the track at the same time and you got a better-than-average chance of winning."
The other 10 scheduled smaller boat races were canceled because of gusty winds and rough water.
The races will get under way again today at noon. The thunderboats will run heats at 2 and 4 p.m., with the Cup race at about 5:10.
Miss Budweiser took a test run over the 2 1/2-mile course of the Potomac early yesterday and was clocked at 118:2 miles per hour, a remarkable speed considering the water condition.
"She ran very well. But the water wasn't that bad then," said Remund.
The water was still showing whitecaps when Miss Blud, U-22, U-7 and Miss Esquire jockeyed for position 90 minutes after the heat's scheduled 2 p.m. start.
Remund hit the starting line perfectly on the inside and was never headed. Miss Bud averaged 102.412 m.p.h.
Stablemate Natural Light got a break when prerace favorite Atlas Van Lines caught fire during the first lap. Neither driver Bill Muncey nor Jim Lucero, designer-builder of the sliik overcab machine, knew what the problem was.
"She just stopped.I had trouble starting her again," said Muncey.
But the veteran boat racer, considered the dean of thunderboat driving (39 career wins), restarted his machine and got back in the race. Although forced to take an extra lap because of jumping the gun, Muncey avaeraged 93.750 m.p.h.
Sheehy, who averaged 97.150 in winning the heat, said he didn't feel sorry for Muncey but was somewhat disappointed he couldn't duel him in the race.
"He was ahead at the start but I felt I was going to catch him," said Sheehy. "It would have been nice for the fans to see a duel stretch race. My machine was running well and I was hitting 150 when I went by Miss Madison."
Engine trouble and rough water usually spell disaster and/or expense for the thunderboat owners an drivers.
The 28-foot large boats weigh close to 6,000 pounds and have engines up to 2,500 horsepower.
Lucero, said it took nearly two years and some $75,000 to put Atlas Van Lines in the water.
"It's an easy machine to work on, three wrenches and 15-20 minutes and the machine is apart," said Lucero. "I don't know what happened with the fire. We'll just put in another engine today."
Atlas, with its overcab (driver seated in front of the engine) design as opposed to the conventional rear-seat cab boats, received mixed reaction from most drivers.
Guy Lombardo, the orchestra leader, and a former thunderboat driver, said he thought the Atlas was a "beautiful machine."
"We've sure come a long way since I raced," said Lombardo, who competed 1946-56 and won the Cup here in 1955.
Both Sheehy and Remund said they preferred the conventional type.
"When those huge streams of water come over the top, you can crawl down in the seat and let the engine block some of it," said Remund.
Muncy, a five-time winner of the President's Cup, admitted he is still learning how to handle the new machine. He also agreed it might not be the safest boat on the water.
"Yeah, I'll be the first one to the accident," said Muncey. Yesterday he almost was.