Ken Maurer Remembered


Ken Maurer
 Photo by the Tri-City Herald

By Fred Farley  -  H1 Unlimited Historian

Since 1966, the Tri-Cities of Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Washington, has been a mainstay on the Unlimited hydroplane calendar. From Day-One, the Tri-Cities race has set the standard for a well-organized aquatic festival that brings credit and prestige both to the sport and to the community that hosts it.
The man most responsible for this great success is Ken Maurer, who passed away on August 4, 2014, at his home in Pasco, Washington. He was 89 years old.

As one of the five original board members of the sponsoring Tri-City Water Follies organization, Maurer guided the race through good times and bad until his retirement in 2003. For many years, his advertising agency, the Maurer Group, ran the day-to-day operations of the Water Follies.
In the words of Denny Jackson, “To me, Ken Maurer was the epitome of a race site promoter. He had more knowledge of putting on a race than the rest of us combined. As a president of the Madison Regatta, I looked up to him.”

Raised on a wheat farm in Davenport, Washington, Maurer served in the U.S. Army during World War II and opened his ad agency in 1957.
Ken was an incredibly hard worker and expected a lot from people. But, in all fairness, he never expected of anyone else what he didn’t demand of himself. And yet, deep down, Maurer was a staunch fan of the hydroplane sport. After his own race was over and done with, he would head over to the Seattle Seafair Regatta and just kick back and enjoy being a spectator.
In the early years, the Tri-Cities race was called the Atomic Cup. When the Unlimited hydroplanes first came to town to do competitive battle, the Columbia Park pit area was a wilderness dustbowl. It was a far cry from the modern well-developed recreational facility that it is today.
There’s the often-told story of how Ken and the core group of the future Atomic Cup committee drove down to Stateline, Nevada, in September of 1965 to observe the Lake Tahoe World Championship Regatta. The group included Maurer, Jack Hamann, Mark Pence, Keith Bowers, and Wally Reid, all prominent Tri-Cities area businessmen.
They arrived at Lake Tahoe armed with cameras, tape measures, notebooks. And they asked questions. Lots of questions. When it came time for sanctions to be awarded for the 1966 Unlimited season at the 1965 APBA Convention, the Tri-Cities group had all of their ducks lined up.

The 1966 Atomic Cup was one of the best organized first-year races ever witnessed–an unqualified success that garnered rave reviews from fans, participants, and the media alike.
It is interesting to note that there were four new race sites on the Unlimited schedule in 1966. Of the four, only the Tri-Cities has demonstrated staying power. The other three (Tampa, Sacramento, and Kelowna) all vanished rather quickly.
The twelve boats that showed up for that first Atomic Cup had almost nothing in common with their modern counterparts that compete for the Columbia Cup. All were piston-powered and all but one used government surplus Allison or Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engines, left over from World War II. 
The 1966 Atomic Cup proved to be the first-ever victory for MISS BUDWEISER team founder Bernie Little, who went on to win a total of 134 races prior to his death in 2003. Little had been racing since 1963, but this was his initial trip to the winner’s circle.
Little and Ken Maurer became close personal friends, which explains the long-standing Budweiser sponsorship of the Tri-Cities race. When Bernie would be in town for the race, he would often have dinner at Ken’s house.

Maurer was also close to the boat racing superstar Bill Muncey and appreciated all of the times that Bill stopped by during the off-season to help promote the Tri-Cities race.

Ken had many fond memories of those early Atomic Cups. Probably the best all-around competitive show of that era was the 1969 classic, won by Dean Chenoweth in MYR’S SPECIAL. Six heats of 15 miles each were run that day (July 20) and six different boats won them.
July 20, 1969, was also the day that man first landed on the Moon. Throughout the day, between heats, radio reports of the lunar mission were piped over the P-A system to the thousands of spectators lining the Columbia River on that historic afternoon.
 After nearly four decades as head honcho for the Tri-Cities race, Maurer decided to sell his ad agency and retire from active promoting. But his story does not end there.
In 2008, author David Williams published his book HYDROPLANE RACING IN THE TRI-CITIES and dedicated it to Ken Maurer. On the dedication page, Williams wrote, “He, more than any other individual, is responsible for the Water Follies position as one of the longest running and most successful community festivals in the nation.”

Bardahl In Motorsports HOF

Ole-Bardahl-CrewReprinted from the Madison Courier –

Ole Bardahl, one of the most successful owners in Unlimited hydroplane history, was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Detroit on Wednesday.

Bardahl, who died in 1989 at the age of 87, joined six others in being inducted into the prestigious institution, headlined by NASCAR great Rusty Wallace.

Bardahl immigrated from Norway in 1922 and moved to Seattle where he found work as a building contractor. In 1939 he purchased a small chemical company which eventually became Bardahl Manufacturing, one of the top producers of oil additives in the world.

After hydroplane racing boomed in the Seattle area in the early 1950s, Bardahl jumped on board and founded his own team which became the predominate power in the sport. Between 1958 and 1968, the Miss Bardahl won 27 races, six National High Points Championships and five APBA Gold Cups. Some of the sport’s best drivers, including Ron Musson, Mira Slovak and Billy Schumacher, drove for Bardahl.

Musson’s death at Washington, D.C. in 1966 shook Bardahl. After initially saying he was done, Bardahl returned to the sport and won national championships in 1967 and 1968 before calling it quits for good. His 27 wins were the most sport’s history at the time and still stands fourth behind Bernie Little (134), Bill Muncey (29) and Erick Ellstrom (28).

Bardahl is the 11th Unlimited hydroplane driver or owner to be honored by the Motorsports Hall of Fame. The other 10 are: Bill Cantrell (1992), Dean Chenoweth (1991), Tom D’Eath (2000), Danny Foster (2005), Chip Hanauer (1995), Ted Jones (2003), Bernie Little (1994), Bill Muncey (1989), Ron Musson (1993) and Mira Slovak (2001).

Legendary hydroplane radio personality Jim Hendrick introduced Bardahl at the ceremony.

Liddycoat In 37 For Bayfair

Scott Liddycoat

Scott Liddycoat

Schumacher racing has confirmed that the 37 will be at Bayfair in San Diego and Scott Liddycoat will do the driving.

Liddycoat was the 2011 H1 Rookie of the Year driving Ted Porter’s 7 Valken and won the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship in Doha, Qatar that season.  He has been with the 37 team this season and listed as the backup driver.

Liddycoat says he is excited about the opportunity, saying, “I am really looking forward to driving this boat.  When I saw the way Dave had it running in the Tri-Cities it looked great.  They got it freed up and It was fast and loose and showed a lot of potential and speed.”

Liddycoat added that he looks forward to working with crew chief Bob Catapovic and many of the members of the crew he worked with in 2011 who will be in San Diego with the team.

Plans are still in the works for sponsor Bill Cahill, owner of Beacon Plumbing, to assume ownership of the team but that probably won’t happen until  after San Diego.

Chip Hanauer To Washington Sports HOF

Chip82AtlasCongratulations to Chip Hanauer!  On Sunday Chip will be inducted into the Washington State Sports Hall of Fame, joining other hydro racing legends Billy Schumacher, Bill Muncey and Stan Sayres.

Hanauer is in good company. Joining him as new inductees are former NBA standout Detlef Shrempf and “Mr Mariner” Alvin Davis.

Others in the class include softball “king” Eddie Feigner, the “Throwin’ Samoan” Jack Thompson, Indy 500 winner Tom Sneva, and retired sportscaster Keith Jackson.

Davis, Hanauer, Schrempf, and Feigner will be honored August 10th at Safeco Field prior to the White Sox-Mariners game. Thompson, Sneva, and Jackson will be honored Aug. 28 in Seattle when Washington State plays Rutgers in the WSU football season-opener.

The newest class raises the total of inductees in the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame to 189. The Hall of Fame was started by late sportscaster Clay Huntington in Tacoma in 1960 and is located in the Tacoma Dome. The Web site is

Shane & Oberto Retain Points Lead

6 & 21 Seattle

Photo by Chris Denslow – H1

Despite a less than perfect weekend and a third place finish in the final heat at the Alert Lee Appliance Seafair Cup, Jimmy Shane and the 6 Oberto team will head to San Diego’s Bayfair with a fairly comfortable lead in series points. 

Shane leads Seafair winner J. Michael Kelly in the 1 Graham Trucking by 923 points.  Kelly’s team mate, Cal Phipps in the 7 Graham Trucking II, continues a series of strong finishes to hang on to third place but is getting a challenge from Jon Zimmerman who is a close fourth in the 9 Les Schwab/team RedDOT.

Series points after Seattle - 

#        Boat Name Madison Detroit Tri-Cities Seattle San Diego Doha Total
6 Oberto 1469 2100 1200 1350     6119
1 Graham Trucking 1280 1739 607 1570     5196
7 Graham Trucking II 1015 1485 1154 917     4571
9 Les Schwab/Red Dot 1205 305 1297 1480     4287
21 Fox Plumbing 975 1650 607 815     4047
22 Webster Racing 0 1067 555 646     2268
11 Peters & May 660 0 795 739     2194
96 Spirit of Qatar      855 360     1215
12 Miss DiJulio 225 30 157 479     891
18 Bucket List Racing     433 326     759
100 Sahara Pizza       394     394
37 Beacon Plumbing     525 -150     375
17 Our Gang Racing     209       209

Jimmy’s Jet Ride

Jet JimmyJust before Seafair weekend, Oberto pilot Jimmy Shane had the opportunity to ride along with the Patriot Jet Team on one of their practice flights.

Jimmy says, “It was a real experience.  My pilot was named Curly and we practiced some of the maneuvers in formation with the other planes.  We pulled about 6 G’s for about 15 seconds.  I probably had about five seconds to go before I would have blacked out.”

“I’m glad I did it,” Shane added, “But I think I’ll leave the jet piloting to those guys and stick to boat racing.  I have a new respect for the Blue Angels and the Patriots and everything they do in the air.”

J. Michael Kelly Is Seafair Champion

1 Final Feature

J. Michael Kelly starts the Final Heat in Lane 2. Photo by Chris Denslow – H1.

Sunday got off to a dramatic start at the 2014 Albert Lee Appliance Cup and when the roostertails settled on Lake Washington five hours later, there was more drama and a finish that sent H1 race officials to the video review booth.

J. Michael Kelly led all five laps of the Championship Final Heat in the 1 Graham Trucking with Jon Zimmerman second in the 9 Les Schwab Tires/TeamRedDot and Jimmy Shane third in the 6 Oberto, finishing with a broken front wing.

6 broken wing

Jimmy Shane finished the final with a broken wing on the 6 Oberto.
Photo by Chris Denslow – H1.

Then word spread of a possible one minute penalty on Kelly for encroaching on Shanes’s lane -  a penalty that would have cost Kelly the victory.

After further review – Kelly was ruled to have had a legal overlap on Shane at the point of the possible call and the driver from Bonney Lake, Washington and the Graham Trucking team hoisted the Seafair trophy with Zimmerman second and Shane third.

Kelly said he had a problem with his front wing and was trying to keep the boat on the water while running a wide  race course in an attempt to keep Shane and Zimmerman behind him.

“I knew I had to have the inside and make a good start,” said Kelly.  “After that I just did what I had to do to win the race. When you’re out front you make your boat as wide as possible.  That’s boat racing.”

Both Shane and Zimmerman commented on the wide path taken by Kelly, which worked to Zimmerman’s advantage.  With the leaders running outside, Zimmerman was able to move up the inside to overtake Shane.

When Kelly and Shane met at the awards stage, Shane extended his hand and said one word, “Congratulations.”

Podium Seafair

Left to right: Jimmy Shane-J. Michael Kelly-Jon Zimmerman
Photo by Chris Denslow – H1

The initial running of Heat 2A, the first racing on the Sunday schedule, lasted only a quarter of a lap.  Kip Brown in the 96 Spirit of Qatar got caught between roostertails in the first turn and rode the skidfin wake of Zimmerman’s boat up and over.  Brown freed himself from the overturned boat and was not injured. The hull was not damaged but crew chief Mike Hanson said the team would have to build some parts before the race in San Diego in September.

The rerun was a deck to deck battle between Zimmerman and Kelly, with Kelly taking the win by inches at the finish.

Heat 2B was all Shane as he drove the Oberto away from Cal Phipps in the 7 Graham Trucking. Phipps finished second with Greg Hopp third in the 12 Miss DiJulio.

Tom Thompson needed a strong finish in Heat 3A in the gbr11 West Coast Collision Center/Peters and May to put his team in the final and Thompson delivered.  In the middle of the field at the start, Thompson timed his start perfectly and was the leader out of the first turn.  Jon Zimmerman got around everyone to take the win with Thompson second and Phipps third.

Shane and Kelly went into Heat 3B with spots in the final virtually assured but still waged a spirited battle for the inside lane. Shane won that contest and the heat and both set up for the final.  Mike Webster was third in the 22 Boitano Homes/Performance Tool.

That set up the final where Kelly, Shane and Zimmerman were joined by Thompson, Phipps and Bernard. Bernard finished fourth and Phipps was fifth.

Next stop on the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane tour will be Bayfair on San Diego’s Mission Bay September 12 – 14.

Final order of finish –


U-1 Graham Trucking

J. Michael Kelly




U-9 Les Schwab Tires-Team RedDOT

Jon Zimmerman




U-6 Oberto

Jimmy Shane




U-21 Fox Plumbing & Heating

Jeff Bernard




U-7 Graham Trucking II

Cal Phipps




U-22 Boitano Homes presents Performance Tool

Mike Webster




U-11 Peters & May

Tom Thompson



Zimmerman and Kelly Win Seafair Prelims

9 and 21 1A

Bernard and Zimmerman at the start of Heat of 1B. Photo by Chris Denslow – H1

Jon Zimmerman in the 9 Les Schwab/Team RedDOT and J. Michael Kelly in the 1 Graham Trucking both used the inside starting position to control the rest of the boats they drew and drive away with victories in the first two heats of racing at the 2014 Albert Lee Appliance Cup on Seattle’s Lake Washington.

Zimmerman’s win was predictable, as he was the only one of the top five qualifiers drawn into 1A. Jeff Bernard led the field across the line in lane two in the 21 Fox Plumbing and Heating, but Zimmerman took the lead out of the first turn and never looked back.  Bernard finished second.

Cal Phipps in the 7 Graham Trucking and Mike Webster in the 22 Boitano Homes/Performance Tools staged a deck to battle for third with Phipps taking the spot in a close finish.

6 Damage Crop

Crew members inspect damage to the 6 Oberto. H1 photo.

Heat 2B was full of drama and surprises. As the drivers battled for position before the start, Jimmy Shane in the 6 Oberto and Dave Villwock in the 37 Beacon Plumbing both turned into the infield to gain position.  Villwock’s boat struck Shane’s resulting in the disqualification of the 37 from the heat and a suspension of the winningest driver in the history of the sport for the remainder of the event.

At the start, Shane was on the outside and behind the leaders – J. Michael Kelly in the 1 Graham Trucking in lane one and Kip Brown in lane 2 in the 96 Spirit of Qatar.  Shane was not able to catch Kelly or Brown and they finished in that order.

Racing will resume with Heat 2A Sunday at 10:10 am with the Champion of the 2014 Albert Lee Appliance Cup to be decided in the winner take all Final Heat at 4:34 pm Sunday Afternoon.

Results for Seafair Cup 1A

Finish Boat Driver Avg. Speed Points
1 U-9 Les Schwab Tires-Team RedDOT Jon Zimmerman 133.045 400
2 U-21 Fox Plumbing & Heating Jeff Bernard 130.119 300
3 U-7 Graham Trucking II Cal Phipps 127.484 225
4 U-22 Boitano Homes-Performance Tool Mike Webster 127.168 169
5 U-12 Miss DiJulio Greg Hopp 114.043 127
DNS U-18 Bucket List Racing Kelly Stocklin 0 0

Results for Seafair Cup 1B

Finish Boat Driver Avg. Speed Points
1 U-1 Graham Trucking J. Michael Kelly 137.648 400
2 U-96 Spirit of Qatar Kip Brown 135.56 300
3 U-6 Oberto Jimmy Shane 135.189 225
4 U-11 Peters & May Tom Thompson 116.275 169
DNF U-100 Miss Sahara Pizza Dave Warren 0 0
DSQ-150 U-37 Beacon Plumbing Dave Villwock 0 -150