Editor’s note: There are 9 days until the APBA HAPO Gold Cup Heat 1A race takes place on the Columbia River. At the same time, the Tri-City Water Follies’ annual event is celebrating its 50th year of racing unlimited hydroplanes. So the Herald will take a daily look at past storylines leading up to the Gold Cup. These are in no particular order:
July 30, 2000: Ellstrom family gets first victory.
Family patriarch Sven Ellstrom looked out of place on the Lampson Pits docks wearing a tie.
But he didn’t care, nor did anyone else, after his family’s boat, the U-16 Miss E-Lam Plus, won the 2000 Columbia Cup.
“It was wonderful to win for the crew, for the Ellstroms and the city of Ballard,” Sven said through a thick Swedish accent.
Ellstrom joined others in the celebration as they doused driver Mark Evans with suds of Budweiser beer.
“This is speical,” Evans said. “This is a new team that needed a win. Preseverance and persistency paid off.”
The victory snapped a 10-win race streak of Dave Villwock and the Miss Budweiser team.
Villwock’s bid for a third straight title was hampered in part because of the fuel restrictions placed on him for winning the season’s first four races.
The reduction of fuel from 4.3 gallons per minute to 3.9 gpm for the Columbia Cup led to the Bud getting squeezed in the first turn of Heat 2A.
The resulting collision with Mike Hanson’s U-9 Fiesta Bowl & Casino sent both boats out of the race. Villwock’s right sponson was damaged enough that the Bud team withdrew from the race.
For Evans, it was his first victory on the Columbia since 1997.
“It’s been a couple of years and it feels awesome,” Evans said. “We would have liked to have beaten the Bud head-to-head.”
As it was, Evans cruised to a half-mile victory over George Stratton in the U-5 Lowrey’s Beef Jerky presents Appian Jeronimo, which edged the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto and Nate Brown for third place.
Evans, who lives in Lake Chelan, said he could see his relatives up and down the river from the boat.
“There must be hundreds of friends and family here,” Evans said. “I’m sure I’ve got cousins here that I haven’t even met.”
Evans’ victory was one for the entire Ellstrom family.
Team manager Erick Ellstrom called Evans the best driver on the circuit.
“He’s fantastic,” Ellstrom said. “He drives so hard and is such a great person. He comes to every race to win.”
Ellstrom said his team has been waiting to win since they built a new boat five years ago.
“You imagine what a great feeling it will be,” he said after taking a pull off some champagne. “It’s even better. I grew up in Seattle and I was the kid who would pull a toy hydro behind his bike and floated them in a ditch.”