UL Boats In San Diego [2009]

Mark Evans Wins, But Race’s Future Is Cloudy

A name from the past became the winner of an event with a questionable future.

Mark Evans, who twice won the Bill Muncey Cup when the Unlimited Hydroplanes were the featured attraction, won the 44th Bayfair Regatta’s main event September 19th on Mission Bay.

Evans, racing for the first time since his horrific accident in Detroit in 2003 driving the LLumar Window Film in the Gold Cup, took the Unlimited Lights feature.

But the biggest story on Mission Bay wasn’t Evans’ triumph.

It was the crowd, actually the lack of one.

Clearly, the absence this year of the Unlimited Hydroplanes adversely impacted the crowd.

Where spectators once packed the shorelines of East Vacation Isle and Fiesta Island, there were wide gaps of open beach yesterday. And sidewalks that once were packed to the point where walking was difficult were easily navigated by bicyclists and skateboarders.

“I thought the racing was good, but no one is here,” said Greg Shepard of Los Angeles. “It’s incredible how many fewer people there are from last year and five years ago.

“Can they survive without the Unlimiteds?”

What will be the burning question in weeks to come as officials of Thunderboats Unlimited review the books.

This year, the organization could not afford to bring the Unlimited Hydroplanes to San Diego. Next year, can they afford not to?

What is really left when you take the spectacular out of the spectacle?

The Unlimited Lights and G Boats featured yesterday are neither as big nor as fast as the 200-mph Unlimiteds. They might be louder. They might be more competitive. But they are not nearly as eye-popping to Thunderboat partisans.

What transpired on Mission Bay this year did not pack the visual impact of the Unlimiteds. Actually, the competitive level of this year’s event was probably on par with past Unlimited events.

Evans used the same formula that carried him to victory here in the Unlimited Hydroplane features of 1996 (Miss Budweiser) and 1997 (PICO American Dream).

Forced to start in the outside lane - this time because he was the only supercharged boat in the field - Evans simply raced around the field.

“I’m used to running outside here,” he said. “If you’ve got the boat, this is actually a good place to be on the outside because there’s not a lot of chop coming back off the shore.”

Even Evans, however, admitted it was “odd coming to San Diego without the Unlimiteds.”

The event and the Unlimiteds were so intertwined,” Evans said. “There was Seattle, Detroit and San Diego, the big three races.”

Evans won a total of 11 Unlimited Hydroplane races before that fateful day in Detroit in 2003. The injuries to his right leg were so severe that he nearly lost the limb. But it was the injuries to his back and neck that kept him away from the sport.

He returned this year for a couple practice runs in a 5-Liter Hydro before getting into the UL-11 for the feature race.

“I’ve been in this sport for so long,” Evans said. “I didn’t want the memory of my last race being getting carried out on a gurney.”

Many fans are probably hoping their last memory of San Diego’s race won’t be 2009.

Unlimited Lights
San Diego Bayfair Results
September 19-20, 2009

 

Unlimited Lights
Boat Driver Team Points
UL-11 N. Mark Evans Power Punch - K&N Filters 1500
UL-72 Kayleigh Perkins Foster Care - Vitamin Water 1150
UL-14 Paul Becker Miss Critical Logic 825
UL-20 Robert Smets Smetco.com 676
UL-9 Joe Souza U.S. Army - NAPA Auto Parts 479
UL-00 Will Muncey WamingPower.com 222
UL-3 Chris Grant SuperTravelZone.com 222
G-Class Thunderboats
Boat Driver Team Points
G-93 Marty Wolfe Renegade - Warning Power 1325
G-17 Dustin Echols WarningPower.com 1150
G-10 Cal Phipps Titeflex Special - Frazee Paint 1000
G-329 David Warren Power Punch 338
G-13 Dick Lynch Jet Chevrolet - Tempo 296

 

NOTE: Cal Phipps, driving the G-10 Titeflex Special, won the G-Class race in San Diego by virtue of winning the Final Heat. Marty Wolfe collected the most points.

 

— Source: Bill Center, San Diego Union

[Reprinted from Thunderboat, November 2009]