“Hey Chief,” came Mike’s usual greeting. Most conversations would begin the same way. “Chief” was Mike Follmer’s go-to nickname for pretty much everyone, I found. “Could you put this up on the magazine?” The entry form for the 15th annual Mark Hahn Memorial Havasu 300 had been live for a month or two, and we had shared the new poster back in September. “You got it,” I relied. And that was it. All I knew as of last week.
So the news that this coming February’s “Hahn 300” (as many of us called it) was going to be the last one came as a complete shock. Citing surmounting costs and “practicality” as the key deterrents, Follmer and DSM Events’ Jim Russell decided that the 15th anniversary of the “world’s longest continual PWC race” would be its last. Suddenly, I began rifling through my budget for early 2019 to see if I could not only attend but maybe even participate.
Follmer began the race back in 2004 after his long-time friend died suddenly during a race the year before. The first few years were far more frantic than what many know the Hahn to be; refueling was done in knee-to-ankle deep water, often by the racer and co-pilot themselves; no extravagant quick fuel systems or pit crews had even been imagined. Only once the race was moved to the Crazy Horse Resort further down the island did the maxim “the race is won or lost in the pits” coined.
Racers from across the globe came to compete. Australian teams flew in early, purchased brand-new machines from Southern California dealerships, and towed their skis to Lake Havasu with rented trucks. French teams shipped in finely-tuned Kawasakis, spending nearly a week in the desert down adjusting fuel mixtures and boost pressures to correct for barometric pressures. Dyed-in-the-wool US teams practiced pits stops again and again in empty parking lots.
These stories, like so many others, will remain as the race’s unique history. I personally competed twice, only finishing once. The cost to compete – to truly compete – is substantial, and that I fear was the race’s Achilles’ Heel. Of course, there are other factors: Follmer had retired from racing Yamaha WaveRunners back in 2011; Mark’s widow, Sandy had passed away from cancer in June of 2016; Follmer’s long-time sponsor and partner, R&D Performance, closed earlier this year; and so on.
So come February, we lose an event that has been unique to this sport for 15 years. While I am sorry that I cannot be there in person to hear Jim’s shotgun ring one last time, I know what it’s like to lose track of how many laps I’ve completed, to reek of gasoline for hours afterwards; to feel the numbness in my hands for days later; and to hear Mike say as I pulled up the beach for the last time, “Great job, Chief!”
Here’s the Facebook post published yesterday afternoon, where Mike Follmer wrote,
The Hot Products Mark Hahn Havasu 300 will be presented for the 15th and final time in 2019!
[An] agreement was reached today between Mike Follmer of Follmer Specialties and Jim Russell of DSM Events LLC to confirm the production of this historic race for Saturday, February 23, 2019.
The entry deadline previously announced is now removed. The ever escalating costs to produce this, the world’s longest endurance race for personal watercraft, had created some questions as to the practicality of continuing with this most challenging race, but Follmer and Russell have agreed to proceed as originally planned for the 2019 competition. However, please note it will be the last one!
Thanks to the long term sponsorship by Yamaha, Hot Products and the IJSBA, we will be able to again offer this unique race to the toughest endurance racers in the world. Three hundred miles of non-stop, guns-on-the-table racing for the 15th and final time.
If you have ever wanted to accept the challenge and join the legends of the Mark Hahn 300 now is the time to get your entry in to as there will be no more. As of today there are only 45 slots still available in the starting line on the beach when the shot gun fires to signal the start of this internationally famous race for the last time.
Whether professional factory team or family fun team this is truly a team competition with rider changes and refueling all on real race time…just like a NASCAR race! As always the race will be followed by the world renown dinner and awards presentation with those super trophies by Follmer Enterprises. Enter now to reserve your spot. For entry and information go to www.MarkHahn300.com. But do it now, don’t miss being part of PWC history.