2003 Budweiser Columbia Cup

Evans Makes Mark On Columbia

First Win for LLumar

by Dan Lopez

When the 2003 Columbia Cup was over Bill Wurster had a belated 80th birthday present, Mark Evans had returned to the victor's stand at the site of his last win, and LLumar had its first victory as a sponsor.

Weekend temperatures were typical for this time of year in the Tri-Cities, high 90s or low 100s. Winds seemed slightly lighter than usual with either no air movement or barely perceptible breezes the norm.

Testing and Time Trials

Mitch Evans topped Friday's "qualifying" driving Vacationville, easily the fan favorite for the weekend. He used the same setup as in 2002's 160.3-mph run in San Diego. Evans broke his own piston lap record with a speed of 160.915 mph.

Ten turbine boats tried and failed to match the piston boat's speed. Two of them didn't even record a time Friday. E-Lam lost a prop in the morning and tore up the strut and transom. Jerry Hale was unable to get U-19 Miss Royal Hotel on plane.

Fortune did smile, however, on J.W. Myers. The former Unlimited Lights rookie of the year qualified by making seven laps in Miss Rock and three in U-100 Tony Roma's, all at 130 or higher.

In addition to enjoying the modern unlimiteds, an air show, and each other, fans were treated to the sights and sounds of four of the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum's classic boats. The 1980 Miss Budweiser, 1967 Miss Budweiser, and the replica Oh Boy! Oherto (formerly Miss Lumberville) each made several runs. Initially, Chip Hanauer couldn't get the 1982 Atlas Van Lines started, but later he completed a couple laps in the two-time national champion.

The final order of business Friday was the three-lap Dash for Cash. Dave Villwock in T5 '97 Miss Budweiser started on the inside and led the entire way. The other three entrants, Miss Grand Central Casino (lane 2), Skyway Park Bowl & Casino (lane 3), and LLumar (lane 4), all were late to the start. Skyway ran second, LLumar third, and Grand Central conked out in the first turn of lap 2.

On Saturday, the turbine boats continued unable to best Vacationville's top speed. In fact, only two drivers, Mark Evans in LLumar and Jerry Hopp in Tony Roma's, improved their times. Nate Brown in E-Lam and Hale in Miss Royal Hotel completed qualifying laps.

After time trials Saturday afternoon, the museum took its turn again. With Hanauer in Seattle for a speaking engagement, David Williams drove Atlas. Unfortunately, the carburetion problems that plagued the boat Friday were still present. The engine fired but died almost immediately. At the entrance to the backstretch, Williams had to give up.

Now the 1967 Miss Bud with driver Larry Fuller and passenger Joe Little entered the racecourse. This ride was reportedly Little's first in a hydroplane since the four-seater Tempo. After several laps, the pair returned to the pits, where a smiling Little exclaimed, "That was great! " He described it as "fantastic."

Then the Oberto replica coughed to life, and Williams steered it to the course, where he handed over the controls to his former boss. Bill Wurster, for a couple of laps.

At the drivers' meeting, it was announced that, in a change from previous races, the top two qualifiers would race in the A section, the next two in B, fourth and fifth in A, etc. Predictably, this format elicited grumbling from some drivers, notably Villwock, who didn't want to race against Mitch Evans in the first go-around, and Brown, who didn't want to race against Villwock so early.

Heat 1

Lanes were assigned by order of qualifying.

In 1A, four boats hit the starting line, and although Grand Central Casino (Mike Weber) was first into turn 1, Vacationville exited in the lead only to be passed by T6 Miss Budweiser. E-Lam was third, followed by Grand Central and Miss Rock (Ken Muscatel). At the end of the first lap, Budweiser led by a boat length. Vacationville caught Budweiser entering turn 1, and the red boats battled it out until Evans took the lead in turn 2. After two laps, Evans had about a two-boat-length lead. E-Lam was third. Grand Central fourth, and Miss Rock, which had trailed at the start, fifth. Royal Hotel barely made it out of the pits and got a DNS.

In 1B, Oh Boy! Oherto (Steve David) was first into the turn, but LLumar and Skyway Park (Mike Hanson) accelerated up the backstretch in front with Trendwest (Terry Troxell) fourth and Tony Roma's last. At the end of lap 1, it was a virtual dead heat for first. Skyway gained a slight advantage entering turn 1 and came out in the lead. A third of the way up the backstretch, however, flames shot from the engine compartment, and U-9 coasted to a halt. LLumar, Trendwest, and Tony Roma's passed the disabled craft and paraded on to the checkered flag in that order.

The end of Saturday's action saw a special tribute to Bernie Little. Williams in the '80 Bud, Fuller in the '67 Bud, and Villwock in T5 came onto the course and ran together for several laps.

By Saturday evening, wags were referring to the place as "Evansville," in honor of the brothers' success on Saturday. It remained to be seen whether their good fortune could hold up.

Sunday morning after the test session, three of the museum boats ran again; Atlas stayed on the trailer.

Heat 2

The drivers diced for their lanes.

Mike Weber claimed lane 1 in 2A with Mitch Evans in 2, then Villwock and Brown. Muscatel started on the outside. Vacationville led from start to finish. Budweiser and Grand Central battled for second. At the end of lap 1, those two were dead even, with U-10 inside Vacationville's roostertail and U-1 outside. Budweiser got second for good in turn 2 of the second lap; then in the next turn, E-Lam passed Grand Central. The finishing order was Vacationville, Budweiser, E-Lam, Grand Central, and Miss Rock. Once again. Royal Hotel scored a DNS as it barely reached the racecourse after leaving the pits.

In 2B, Troxell had the inside with Hopp in lane 2, David lane 3, Hanson lane 4, and Mark Evans on the outside. Trendwest led into turn 1, followed by Skyway, LLumar, and Oberto. Tony Roma's trailed. Skyway caught and passed Trendwest at the end of the first lap. LLumar took over second entering turn 1 of lap 3. The finishing order was set by lap 4.

Heat 3

Lanes for the third-round sections were assigned.

E-Lam had the inside starting 3 A, LLumar lane 2, then Budweiser, Vacationville, and Skyway Park. Royal Hotel, assigned the outside, once again failed to reach the starting line.

The five boats quickly settled into place based on their starting positions. The heat was hardly a parade, however, as each position was hotly contested throughout the race, none more than the battle for first. Mark Evans chased Brown for the entire four laps. In a furious, last-gasp attempt to catch E-Lam, Evans raced through the final turn as tightly as possible. With the left side of his boat mere inches from the E-Lam roostertail, Evans came barreling out of the turn only to fall a few yards short at the finish.

Miss Rock was assigned lane 1 in 3B, Trendwest lane 2, then Oberto, Grand Central, and Tony Roma's — now driven by J.W. Myers replacing Jerry Hopp.

Trendwest and Oberto led the field across the line, followed by Tony Roma's and Grand Central. Miss Rock was the last to start. The first three starters jumped and were assessed one-lap penalties. Trendwest quickly took over the physical lead followed by Oberto, Grand Central, Miss Rock, and Tony Roma's. The boats continued to run in this order until the end of lap 4, when Grand Central received the checkered flag for the victory. Miss Rock took second. Despite the efforts of a game Steve David, Troxell brought Trendwest home in third ahead of Oh Boy! Oberto. Myers completed his penalty lap for fifth place.

Provisional Heat

Trendwest started in lane 1 and led the entire heat. Skyway Park in lane 2 was second throughout, though Hanson never backed off from the chase. Miss Rock (lane 3), which lost its cowling on lap 3, was third, and Hale finally got Miss Royal Hotel across the line to end up fourth.

Oh Boy! Oberto stayed on the trailer with a hole in its right sponson.

After the heat, Hanson claimed that Troxell had moved over illegally before exiting turn 1. No foul was called, however, and the order of finish stood.

Final Heat

At the start of the final. Grand Central had lane 1, Budweiser lane 2, Trendwest 3, E-Lam 4, LLumar in the fifth spot, and Vacationville outside.

Brown thought he had room between Villwock and Troxell and came charging up to find none. E-Lam collided with the right side of Miss Bud. Villwock, however, took over first, leading out of turn 1, before yielding to Grand Central, which LLumar quickly passed. In turn 2, things got interesting. Both Villwock and Troxell claimed that Mark Evans moved over in front of Troxell. No foul was called, but Trendwest was washed down and stopped. Budweiser also slowed and was again struck by E-Lam, this time on the left side.

After all this, LLumar had the lead for good. Running second was Grand Central, followed by Vacationville, E-Lam, Budweiser, and the re-started Trendwest.

Grand Central ran strong for a while then started to fade, being passed by Vacationville, E-Lam, and Budweiser, and eventually ended up fifth. Mitch looked for a time as if he could make it a one-two Evans sweep, but he could not hold off the hard-charging E-Lam, especially with U-16 on the inside.

With orange paint on the right side and a hole in the left side, Budweiser could only finish fourth after passing Grand Central. Trendwest finished sixth with a large hole in the top of the right sponson.

After the race, the officials had to sort through the various claims and counterclaims. In the end, no lap or time penalties were assessed, though there were monitory penalties levied. Reports had Brown, Villwock, and Bud crew chief Mark Smith fined, the latter for yelling at Brown "among others."

After all is said and done, Villwock maintains it still is unsafe to have one boat whose fuel flow is restricted below the others.

(Unlimited NewsJournal, August 2003)