Can you recap the racing career of Leif Borgersen?Hydro-Prop News
clearly had what it took to be competitive.He
was always in the hunt.But his
fatal flaw was his
inability to put together three good heats in one day.At a time when race winners were determined on the basis of total points, this was absolutely essential.Consequently, he
never won a race.
As a youngster, Borgersen
raced outboards in the Seattle area and eventually graduated to inboards.I've seen a Bob Carver photo of Leif blowing over in an outboard runabout on Lake Sammamish in 1961. Borgersen served as a crew member on Chuck Lyford's CHALLENGER, a top 7-Litre Class hydroplane of the early 1960s.
Leif's friendship with Lyford eventually led to his
being hired as driver of the turbine-powered U-95 in 1973-74.He worked as a set-up man for Bill Muncey's team of three Limited inboard hulls in the 1960s.Borgersen
would prepare them so that all Bill had to do was get behind the wheel and drive.As a crew member for the NOTRE DAME team in 1968, Leif was in the right place at the right time to replace Jack Regas in mid-season after Jack was hurt at Seattle and had to retire.
At San Diego in 1969, Leif
turned a test lap on a 2-1/2-mile course of 116 miles per hour.This translated to approximately 121 MPH on a 3-mile course.
There were two races in particular that Leif Borgersen
had no excuse for not winning.These were the 1969 Tri-Cities Atomic Cup and the 1970 San Diego Gold Cup.
At the Tri-Cities, Borgersen
nullified a victory by jumping the gun.At San Diego, Leif
clearly had the fastest boat there.He
dominated the first two heats.All he
had to do was finish ahead of Dean Chenoweth and MISS BUDWEISER and the Gold Cup would have been his
.What did he
ran with Dean for a couple of laps and spun out, while Chenoweth went on to capture the cup.Borgersen's 1970 San Diego mis-adventure resulted in his being fired after the race by NOTRE DAME owner Shirley McDonald.
did, however, keep his team in the 1970 National High Points race, right down to the last day of the season, and finished second overall to MISS BUDWEISER.
got more out of the Karelsen NOTRE DAME
than his replacement, Billy Sterett, Jr., did in 1971.
managed a second-place in the 1971 Horace E. Dodge Cup at Detroit.But he
had the misfortune, the following week, of being blatantly cut off by Bill Muncey and ATLAS VAN LINES at Madison, Indiana.Borgersen
escaped serious injury but his
boat--the former MISS BARDAHL--was totaled.Mulherin's
team rushed a replacement hull onto the circuit for Leif
to drive.But the replacement hull was never successfully "dialed in." A third-place at Seattle in 1972 was its best effort.As pilot for the U-95 team, Borgersen has the distinction of being the first to drive a turbine-powered hydroplane in Unlimited competition.He
was actually the second choice to occupy the U-95's cockpit.
got the job.
The U-95 experience unfortunately ended after only a few race appearances.The owner died and the boat sank at the 1974 Sand Point Gold Cup.Borgersen
then decided to call it a career--at least for the time being.
The highlight of Leif's tenure with the U-95 was his
first-place finish in Heat 2-C of the 1974 Tri-Cities race.In so doing, he
defeated the National Championship team of George Henley and PAY 'n PAK and averaged the fastest heat of the race at 113.469.This proved that a turbine was indeed competitive with the piston power sources of the day. Borgersen
made one final curtain call as an Unlimited driver with FRANK KENNEY TOYOTA/VOLVO
in 1985.A Jon Staudacher hull, the Allison-powered craft was a wlld-rider.Leif
blew it over at Syracuse, New York, and sustained serious injuries.The boat was wrecked.And Borgersen
retirement--this time for good.
In truth, there was one more "race" that Leif Borgersen
had no excuse for not winning.This was the contest for Unlimited Commissioner in the Fall of 1987 when Leif campaigned as a write-in candidate in an attempt to unseat the incumbent Commissioner Don Jones.
The result: Jones kept his job; and Leif--as an Unlimited participant--hasn't been heard from since.