The Mark Evans Story
Norman Mark Evans first took the wheel of an Unlimited hydroplane when he attempted to qualify Evergreen Roofing for the 1979 Tri-Cities (Washington) Columbia Cup. The boat, a former Miss Budweiser, was owned by his father Norm Evans, who had raced Unlimiteds between 1956 and 1970.
Mark's first major Unlimited assignment was in 1991 when he was hired to drive Ron Jones, Jr.'s American Spirit, a seven-year-old hull borrowed from Steve Woomer, which had previously raced as Fran Muncey's Atlas Van Lines and Miller American. The combination of Evans and Jones raised many eyebrows when they qualified for five Final Heats in a row in 1991.
In his third race with the Jones team, Mark won the Indiana Governor's Cup at the 1991 Madison Regatta, where he outran Mike Hanson in Valvoline Miss Madison and brother Mitch Evans in Miss D.O.C. in the winner-take-all Final Heat.
Mark Evans competed for many years in the 4-Litre Limited Inboard Class and won many trophies. These included first-place at the 1987 4-Litre Western Divisionals of the American Power Boat Association.
Mark's best Unlimited season was 1997 when he drove Fred Leland's PICO American Dream to four wins in a row at the Tri-Cities (Washington), Kelowna (British Columbia), Seattle, and San Diego. By far his most impressive performance that year occurred in Seattle. After winning Heat 1-B, Mark flipped upside-down in Heat 2-A. Evans was uninjured and rebounded to win the Final Heat.
Never before in the history of Unlimited racing had a driver flipped a boat upside down and come back to win the race, all on the same day. (It has only happened one time since--when Dave Villwock duplicated Mark's feat with Miss E-Lam Plus at the Tri-Cities in 2006.)
In 1995 and 1996, Evans was the back-up driver for Bernie Little's Miss Budweiser team. When regular pilot Chip Hanauer quit in mid-season 1996, Mark stepped in, finished the season, and won two races back-to-back at San Diego and Honolulu.
The 2000 Tri-Cities race with Sven and Erick Ellstrom's Miss E-Lam Plus was especially memorable. Mark handed the Ellstroms their first victory after seven years of trying. Evans took the checkered flag--and the Columbia Cup--at a speed of 139.735 in the Final Heat, followed by George Stratton in Appian Jeronimo at 138.097 and Nate Brown in Oh Boy! Oberto at 134.676.
Inactive during 2001 and 2002, Mark returned for his final year of competition in 2003 with Bill Wurster's Llumar Window Film. This was the rebuilt version of a hull that Evans had briefly driven in 1995 as Miss Budweiser (Turbine-4). It was now converted from a tendem-wing to a single-wing hull shape. Mark finished second in the Indiana Governor's Cup and first in the Tri-Cities Columbia Cup in 2003.
The Tri-Cities race was competitive as well as controversial. Several incidents of "bumping" occurred in the action-packed Final Heat with half of the boats returning to the dock with hull damage. Tempers flared but referee Rick Sandstrom allowed the results to stand with no change in the order of finish.
The victorious Llumar Window Film averaged 142.774 in the Columbia Cup Final Heat. Defending champion Nate Brown took second at 140.796 with Miss E-Lam Plus, followed closely by Mitch Evans in Vacationville.com at 140.443.
Mark won ten races between 1991 and 2003. During that time period, he also finished second ten times with ARC Construction, Miss Exide, Miss Vons, Miss Budweiser, PICO American Dream, and Miss E-Lam Plus.
Brother Mitch Evans also emerged victorious in 2003. He won at Evansville, Detroit, and San Diego with the Ed Cooper team. This is the only time in Unlimited history that members of the same family have achieved victory in the same calendar year.
The racing career of Mark Evans ended unhappily. While competing for the APBA Gold Cup at Detroit in 2003, Llumar Window Film did a 360-degree flip on the backstretch of lap-two during Heat 3-A.
Mark's injuries were quite serious. He suffered a broken right leg, a fractured vertebra, and blood clots. From his hospital bed, he learned that brother Mitch had won the race.
In the years since his accident, Mark has kept his options open about returning to competition. But as of this writing, he has not done so--even though he owns a boat, the American Maid, named after his wife's janitorial service. (This is the hull with which he won the 1997 Seattle race as PICO American Dream.)
Mark remains one of the Unlimited sport's best ambassadors of good will. He is still a fan favorite and has demonstrated his skill with a microphone as an announcer and commentator.