LAKE CHELAN — Mark Evans followed up his win at Bayfair on Mission Bay last weekend with a victory at the Lake Chelan Hydrofest on Sunday.
Evans finished second in all three preliminary heats in the Unlimited Light class — one on Saturday and two on Sunday — but raced to victory in Sunday afternoon’s finals.
Just one preliminary heat was run Saturday due to high winds on the lake.
“Maybe I should retire,” Evans joked Sunday night. “To get to drive in such a great boat, that’s pretty awesome.”
CHELAN — The accident left him with a broken neck and broken leg, and dried up his competitive juices.
But today Mark Evans is healed — physically and mentally — and back competing in the sport he loves.
This weekend found him racing in the Apple Cup Hydroplane races on his beloved Lake Chelan.
“I clicked off a wave and flipped,” Evans said Saturday, recalling the details of his horrific crash in the Detroit Gold Cup hydro race in 2003. “I landed flat, and the boat turned to the right. I broke my neck and my right leg — both bones. The boat was upright, and I backed into the Detroit Yacht Club.
“It’s the one race I haven’t won,” said Evans, who had posted the fastest qualifying time for the race. “I thought we had it made.
“But I missed on the start and ended up blowing it over.”
Mark Evans’ brother, Mitch, actually won that race and made an emotional call to him in the hospital after the victory, but Mark Evans said he doesn’t remember much about the call.
“He talked to me on the phone, and he was crying, but I don’t remember much of that call,” Mark Evans said.
Evans spent more than a week in the intensive care unit, and developed a number of complications that slowed his recovery.
“I had aneurysms to the lungs, and that’s what about killed me the first time,” Evans said.
Evans also had a rod inserted in his lower leg, and later developed a Staph infection in his leg, as well as a secondary infection in his ankle.
“They damn near amputated my right leg,” Evans said. “I was laid up for 18 months, and I had to inject these huge vials of antibiotics.”
Evans had flipped boats before — he even came back to win the finals after flipping in a heat race in Seattle in 1997 — but had never been injured so severely.
Maybe even worse than the physical damage, the crash had taken away Evans’ drive to compete.
“One year to the day I took a boat out for a spin, but I was still hurting so bad,” he said. “The next couple years, I didn’t have that burning desire. And I’ve always felt if you don’t have an aggressive nature, maybe you shouldn’t be out there.”
So Evans reassessed his life, and eventually made his way home to Chelan, where he was able to connect with family and friends.
“I had been traveling like a gypsy for 20 or 30 years. I’ve been married and divorced twice; that lifestyle was hard on my wives,” he said. “The last couple years I’ve been hanging out with my local friends and family. I had really felt disconnected from them.”
Eventually, though, Evans knew he would take another crack at racing.
“My dad, Norm, he raced in the ’50s. He was big in the unlimited,” Evans said. “My dad being in racing, we’d been around it since we were born. It’s in my blood.”
Not being able to compete took a toll on Evans.
“I couldn’t go to races for a couple years because it just ate me up,” he said of being a spectator rather than a competitor.
Evans made his triumphant return to racing last weekend at the Bayfair at Mission Bay hydro races in San Diego, winning two out of three heats and the finals in the Unlimited Light class.
“They considered him a rookie, so he had to start on the outside in the back,” said Bob Schellhase, owner of the boat Evans raced in San Diego and Chelan. “He’s a shoo-in for rookie of the year.”
To get ready for his return, Evans made a couple of practice runs in a five-liter hydro — a less powerful boat — belonging to Wenatchee racer Craig Bonar. But he admitted he still had butterflies last weekend.
“I was a little nervous in the first practice run in San Diego,” he said. “I got a few test runs in, and in the first heat I thought I’d try to take it easy. But you can’t. It’s like a coyote chasing a rabbit. It all kind of came back.”
Evans competed in San Diego, and again this weekend at Lake Chelan, in a boat sponsored by Power Punch, Roxy Radio and K&N Filters, and owned by Schellhase.
“For him to give me this opportunity to race in his boat, that’s pretty cool,” Evans said.
The boat has roughly 1,400 horsepower and can reach a top speed of 160 miles per hour.
Evans said getting back up to 90 percent power was no problem.
“It’s the last 10 percent that you’re really hanging it out there,” he said. “If you’ve been out a while you better sneak up on it.”
Evans, 52, said he plans to return to racing full-time next year, and will continue to race as long as he can.
“It just depends on the body, how long it will hold up,” he said.
In addition to working to get back into racing shape, Evans has also been working on another project.
“I’m writing a book — ‘Dancing With Disaster’ — and it will be out around Christmas,” Evans said.
Corey Voegele; 661-5223