The last time the Unlimiteds raced at Kelowna in 1999, Dave Villwock won in the Miss Budweiser. However, the Pico American Dream won three of the final four events on Okanagan Lake. Miss Bud and the Pico are pictured (left) at Madison in 1998. (Courier file photo)
The last time the Unlimiteds raced at Kelowna in 1999, Dave Villwock won in the Miss Budweiser. However, the Pico American Dream won three of the final four events on Okanagan Lake. Miss Bud and the Pico are pictured (left) at Madison in 1998. (Courier file photo)
Unlimited hydroplane racing will return to Canada for the first time since 2006.

The American Boat Racing Association has announced the addition of an exhibition race in Kelowna, British Columbia, for 2009.

The exhibition, organized in Kelowna by Vancouver-based Sports For All Management, would be staged on Okanagan Lake and operate out of Waterfront Park on Aug. 8-9.

In the works for some time, the exhibition was put on the ABRA schedule after the Kelowna City Council narrowly approved running of the exhibition.

The race will be run with no National High Points at stake as both the city and the American Boat Racing Association work out further details for a potential points race.

The last races held in Kelowna in the late 1990s were considered a success on the water, but left organizers more than a million dollars in debt. The last time the Unlimiteds raced in Canada was at Valleyfield, Quebec, in 2006.

The ABRA and organizers in Kelowna hope the exhibition in 2009 will open the door for a full-blown points race there as early as 2010, but that proposal hinges on several factors

One of the biggest issues facing the potential race is environmental impact and Kelowna Councilor Charles Hodge voiced the biggest objection to the race.

"I have some serious concerns with noise and with the environmental issue," Hodge said. "I'm not concerned we've done a good job in the past and that we will do a better job this time. I'd like to have seen a report on that and how we load the cranes into the park."

Because of the objections, the council asked for and received the promise of a full environmental review after the 2009 exhibition before committing to a full-blown race in 2010.

The Unlimiteds have raced in Kelowna six times, the last time in 1999. Mira Slovak won the first race in 1966 aboard the Tahoe Miss and was followed by Mike Thomas aboard the Miss Budweiser the following year. After nearly 30 years away, the hydros returned for four-straight years, with Dave Villwock winning aboard the PICO American Dream in 1996 and again aboard the Miss Budweiser in 1999. Mark Evans won the two races in between, both aboard the PICO.

While the announcement does not change the number of actual races on the 2009 ABRA schedule, it does give the organization more events on the water. A possible exhibition in Chattanooga, Tenn., is also being negotiated.