Bob Nordskog wins his first big boat race in 1965 Colorado River Nine Hour Enduro.
FEBRUARY 21 and the third running of the Colorado River Nine-Hour Enduro was a day and a race of reckoning for many previously unheralded marathoners.
For though the race had attracted the top marathon teams in the nation – including the winners of the 1965 Orange Bowl Nine Hour and the *64 Salton City 500 – none of the first 15 drivers to cross the finish line had ever won a major endurance race.
And only a few of the top finishers could be classified as well-heeled “Sponsored” entries supported bv large pit crews and extensive beachside facilities.
The Colorado Rlver Enduro is the season opener on the Far West marathon circuit, held over a section of the mighty “C” entrapped between two dams near Parker, Arizona. The annual event has become a sort of premiere outing for new and experimental outboard and inboard designs that continue on campaigning throughout the year in competition with proven performers of past seasons.
Most unique about the ’65 contest was the triumph of the supporting cast in the big show over those entries, new and old, that had been accorded feature billing.
Leading 29 boats still running at the end of nine hours (from an original entry list of 106 and a starting field of 89) was 51-year-old Bob Nordskog, a Van Nuys, California aircraft and marine equipment manufacturer.
Nordskog, a relative newcomer to boat racing, competes, he says, for relaxation, but he travels first class all the way. And – rare these days even for veterans, who generally share driving chores with a co-pilot-Nordskog prefers to solo.
His boat, Shark’s Tooth, bears testimony to Nordskog’s tastes, independence and indlviduality. The craft is a handsomely customized modified Rayson Craft hull powered by a re-modified, modified 427 Ford engine. In winning, Shark’s Tooth showed its class by totaling 49 laps over the 13 mile course within the span of nine hours eclipsing the previous lap record of 47 set last year. The inaugural event in 1963 had produced a 42 lap winner.
Nordskog’s victory came as a surprise to pre-race prognosticators largely because of his limited (but by no means lack-luster) racing experience.
As an entry in the 1964 Colorado River Enduro, he had placed eleventh with 39 laps driving an early model inboard-powered Mandella hull called Whimsy II. With the same boat, he finished third in the 90-mile Redondo ‘Round Catalina ocean race later that year.
At last year’s Salton 500, Nordskog entered both Whimsy and Shark’s Tooth, but both were qualifying casualties and failed to make the starting field.
The real debut of Shark’s Tooth into the marathon arena took place last January at Miami, Florida, where Nordskog piloted the boat to third place in the Orange Bowl Regatta’s Nine Hour Enduro.
Thus, it was difficult to rate Nordskog and the 11-3-DNS-3 track records in view of the formidable competition he was to face in the Colorado River Enduro.
Among tile heavy-weights in the race the team of Butch Peterson and Lou Brummett, fresh from victory in Miami’s Orange Bowl Regatta Nine-hour Enduro; Rudy Ramos, 1964′ top marathon driver and wInner of the ’64 Salton City 500; and Mike Wallace, only triple winner for the Salton – Orange BowI – Colorado River titles and the defending champ at Parker, Arizona.
Top outboarders included smoke-pot aces Jack Oxley, and Jimmy Clinkenbeard, both of whoom had placed first in their division in past Salton 500 races (Oxley in ’63, Clinkenbeard in ’62) Ironically, none of the above finished any higher than sixteenth in the race, a real turn-about as never before had this group collectively been so humbled in a race. Brummett, who has a long history of leading but not lasting, dropped out after 21 laps. Ramos’ Allison-powered Rayson Craft lost a rudder and ran aground after 14 ovals, Wallace came to a pit death on lap 23, while both Oxley and Clinkenbeard hung in for 38 laps.
Others Nordskog had to contend with who had entered boats as difficult to appraise as Shark’s Tooth included AiResearch Manufacturing Company, which fielded its unusual turbine powered craft piloted by former drag boat world’s record holder, Jacque Pettijohn, of Phoenix, Ariz.