HydroFest Race Roars into River City

It has been called one of the premier tracks on the circuit, but it hasn't been raced in close to a decade. The new year marks the return of a long-lost fan favorite in Evansville.

High costs and low interest forced “Thunder on the Ohio” to shut down in 2009. Coming in 2017, is new leadership who aim to revive the roar on the river.

Officials say this race will be different than the last time hydroplane boats were racing in the River City. This event has been a work-in-progress for the better part of a year.

Finally an advertisement on the back cover of Propeller Magazine, bi-monthly subscription for hydroplane enthusiasts, the 30-year tradition will make its grand comeback.

The new event is called “Evansville HydroFest,” and organizers are recruiting teams to join the weekend event now.

As many as seven classes, ranging from 1-litre engines to Grand Prix, are open and officials say they will take a minimum of 10 boats in each class. However, they say it's unlikely they will fill all seven classes.

The event is slated to be a 1.25 mile tri-oval track, raced over Labor Day weekend. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, September 1-3, with non-stop racing action from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

“We're very intent on doing things the right way, that to a high degree of quality,” says Randy Lientz who serves on the HydroFest board.

The last hydroplane race was back in 2009, well past its prime in the 80's. Officials said rising costs and waning interest forced the races to leave town.

HydroFest officials hope to revive the love of the sport once more with a different approach – focused on the fans.

“The past is a good teacher,” says Lientz, “as much, learning what should be done as [well as] what needs to be changed.”

Lientz says hydroplane racers have always called Evansville one of the best tracks in the country, and the course won't change.

“You want to win the Indy 500, you want to win the Daytona 500,” he says. “The racers will tell you Evansville, from a competitive stand-point, has that type of track.”

Dress Plaza serves as one of the best amphitheaters for the sport too, Lientz says. You'll still get the best view money can buy. “We have the finest facility that there is,” Lientz adds.

HydroFest officials, together with Mayor Lloyd Winnecke plan to release more details including the cost for spectators at a news conference January 18.


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