season to open
without 07 champion Miss Elam Plus
for Unlimited racing is being developed
(June 27, 2008) This years Madison Regatta
could turn out to be an exciting battle to the finish in the wake of
the surprise announcement June 19 by national defending champion Miss
Elam Plus team to skip the first three races of the 2008 season.
The team won two of the last three season National High Points Championships
and the last three Madison Regattas. The team also would have been the
defending champion of the season opener in Evansville, Ind., and the
upcoming 100th anniversary race at the APBA Gold Cup in Detroit.
by Don Ward
Miss Elam Plus, piloted by Dave
Villwock, rounds Turn 4 as it heads
down the homestretch at last
years Madison Regatta.
Miss Elam Plus owners Erick and Sven Ellstrom, along with
several constituents, said they have been investing a large amount of
money and time to develop an international series of races in other
countries and did not have time to prepare for the eastern swing of
the American Boat Racing Associations 2008 schedule.
Because of all the energy and time this has taken, and the continuing
demands, our company just cannot afford the time to compete at the first
three eastern races this year, said Erick Ellstrom. We have
an opportunity, if we play our cards right, and diligently work out
all the details, to have a seasonal circuit that will race in foreign
lands. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Monte Carlo, Oman, Muscat, England and several
other wonderful locations are working with us to fashion an actual race
circuit that would begin in late November and conclude in early January
The announcement, which came only eight days prior to the season opener
in Evansville, Ind., surprised everyone in the hydroplane racing community.
We were surprised by Ericks announcement that he will miss
the first three races of the season, said ABRA chairman Sam Cole.
ABRA has had numerous discussions about taking this sport worldwide,
and we support anything the Elam team can do to further that vision.
The six-race series for the Unlimited hydroplane eastern swing began
June 27-29 in Evansville for the Thunder on the Ohio. From there, the
competition moves to Madison, Ind., on July 4-6 for the Madison Regatta
Indiana Gov-ernors Cup. We still are planning on having
nine to 10 teams make the eastern swing, and we believe the competition
will be as good or better than it has been in the past two years,
said Cole in a late June telephone interview. All things considered,
this could be the best season ever for competition.
Ellstrom said the international series has taken more than a year to
organize. Many people are involved, including several heads of state,
the Boeing Co., and numerous city council members and city officials.
were surprised by Erick (Ellstroms) announcement that he
will miss the first three races of the season."
Sam Cole, ABRA chairman
This is no longer a dream. We have an actual signed
agreement that will allow, in the first season, 2008, four hulls to
be brought over to these countries and put on exciting exhibitions in
the various cities, with the hope that in 2009 the (Abu Dhabi International
Boat Racing Association) ABIBRA World Championships will be held in
Abu Dhabi, much like they are doing with Formula One Racing and even
golf, he said.
These people are extremely excited to have us come and have opened
the door to an opportunity that may never come again. We have been doing
all we can to make sure we present ourselves professionally, and responsibly.
Ellstrom said organizers for the international circuit are considering
race purses so teams can once again compete for money as
well as trophies. This is going to change and make the racing
even more exciting and challenging, he said. We need to
grow, mature and fully realize our potential. This gives us an opportunity
to do just that.
This season, for only the second time in its history, the Ellstrom team
will have the U-1 painted on the side of the boat for the 2007 Team
High Point National title. Sven Ellstrom also won the National Team
High Point Championship in 2005.
Driver Dave Villwock, the winningest active driver in the sport with
55 career wins, will once again pilot the Elam. He is also the defending
National High Point Driver Champion, an honor he has taken nine times.
We love to compete and do so very well, said Erick Ellstrom.
The decision to not compete is also very tough on our driver,
Dave Villwock, and our dedicated crew. But they also understand the
total picture and how and why we are investing in the future.
Ellstrom said he believes the move will add international publicity,
which in turn will increase sponsorship support, bring in millions of
new fans and help to stabilize a sport that had seen some pretty rough
years back in the early part of the decade. After nearly being dissolved
in 2004 following a split over numerous issues, including controversial
fuel restrictions, team owners regrouped to form the ABRA under Coles
leadership. He promised to field eight boats per race and has made good
on that promise. Since then, ABRA has put on a solid showing with well-administered
races and continues to return each year with more sponsors backing more
by Don Ward
get up close and personal with
the Unlimited drivers each year
during the Madison Regatta
autograph sessions, which take
place Saturday and Sunday.
The dedication of the owners to this sport is unparalleled,
and the caliber of professionalism and competition has not been seen
for many years in boat racing, said Cole. We have seen increased
participation in each of ABRAs previous seasons, and it is because
of the strong support we get from this group of owners that Unlimited
Hydroplane racings resurgence continues.
A rule change this season is that boats must remain on plane
during warm-up to increase flying starts. Cole believes
this will provide not only more competition among the boats but will
provide spectators more action and excitement. People want to
see action, and we intend to provide that, he said.
We have made it so that drivers are now able to drive, and things
will be settled on the race course, not a rule book.
Cole said all of the teams have worked over the offseason and will come
into the 2008 season highly competitive. While the Ellstrom-Elam
team is always in the competition, the Oh Boy! Oberto came on strong
at the end of 2007, and it looks to be even more competitive this season,
The Oh Boy! Oberto-Miss Madison, driven by Steve David, won the last
two races of the 2007 season to finish second in the national high points
standing. We made some changes over the winter that should put
us in at least as good as or even better shape than what we were in
at the end of last season, said Bob Hughes, president of the board
of directors for Miss Madison Inc. We certainly like to win, but
this year it looks as though all of the teams will be highly competitive.
ABRA Unlimited Historian Fred Farley, who has written extensively about
the sport for more than 30 years, said the competition this year should
follow the upturn that has been seen in the sport over the past few
years. We have seen tremendous competition over the past few seasons,
and this year should be the same, if not better, he said.
We want to wish all the teams a very safe and successful eastern
campaign and to look over their shoulder in Tri-Cities and Seattle,
said Erick Ellstrom.
After Madison, the series moves on July 11-13 to Detroit for the Chrysler
Jeep Superstores APBA Gold Cup and then the west coast for the remaining
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