World success follows fightback from injuryWednesday, 17 December 2008

Winning first back-to-back world titles and then the prestigious Thailand Jet Ski King’s Cup World Grand Prix capped a great season for Melbourne-based former Gisborne girl Kylie Ellmers.

Six weeks before the world champs in September, Ellmers’ championship challenge looked over as she was T-boned by another jet ski, travelling at more than 110km/h in Melbourne.

Ellmers won the race but spent the next five weeks learning to walk again.

Ellmers normally prepares her ski in Australia but this year decided on a change in approach — selling it before she left for the world champs in Lake Havasu, in the United States.

Once there, Ellmers bought a new Supercharged Sea Doo RXPX (255hp) which turned out to be a “slow dog” — a Friday-afternoon-built ski.

Ellmers stripped it down while race mechanic Les Cooke, from the Sea Doo Centre in Melbourne, rebuilt it, gaining an extra 20hp.

However, it was not all plain sailing. During testing on the practice track, a standup pole ski rider going the wrong way hit Ellmers’ ski head on at high speed.

His pole ski disintegrated as it went under Ellmers’ ski but that did not stop Ellmers from continuing her normal routine of entering the men’s class, to test the ski and get a good look at the track.

After qualifying third, Ellmers got the holeshot (first to the first turn) twice and won both races.

Unfortunately for Ellmers, she was disqualified as officials did not like her carbon-fibre seat.

Undaunted, Ellmers qualified first for the women’s class and when race day arrived felt like she had won Lotto. The weather had changed and Lake Havasu had a one-metre chop. Even wearing a helmet, Ellmers — one of the best rough-water riders in the world — could not hide her smile. She won both final races.

After the champs, the ski was sent to Pattaya for the King’s Cup World Grand Prix, while Ellmers returned to Australia.

When it was time for Ellmers to fly over, Jet Star had cancelled her flight into Bangkok due to the unrest.

Undeterred, Ellmers got a flight into Phuket while 250,000 people were trying to get a flight out.
After negotiating a $1300 taxi fare ride down to $400, Kylie headed for Pattaya, 600 kilometres away.

Because foreign riders had trouble getting to Thailand, the Thai Jet Ski Association delayed racing for three days.

The delay meant the Thai princess, who normally represents the king, was not in attendance.

The only woman competing in the Pro-Am R/A Open class (approx 400hp), Ellmers was delighted to see a slight chop as she prepared for race one.

Fifth to the first buoy, Ellmers worked her way up to first as the crowd, who remembered her from last year, went wild.

Then came a second placing in an incident-packed race two.

After being third to the first buoy, the ski in front of Ellmers snagged the buoy and dragged it a short distance, forcing Ellmers to miss it which meant she would have to do a 360-degree turn around the buoy before the end of the race.

There was more to follow. On lap two another rider’s rope got dragged in front of Ellmers’ ski. It got caught in her jet pump and caused it to cavitate under acceleration.

During the next two laps Ellmers went round the missed buoy twice, passing other riders on the outside of corners hoping her ski would not flip.

That night it was back to the workshop for Ellmers as the jet pump was stripped down and rebuilt to get rid of the cavitation.

Inrace three, Ellmers got the holeshot, only to be passed by aturbo-charged ski. But after lap three Ellmers regained the lead andstayed there to give her the race and first place overall.

Winningthe Jet Ski King's Cup World Grand Prix is one of the highest honoursin the jet ski racing world. After the race, the helpful Thais wouldnot even allow Kylie to carry her helmet.

Although regarded insome countries as a "minor sport", in Thailand the media and public areright behind the championship - with the event being broadcast to 80million households.

Ellmers said she would not have had the success without tremendous support from sponsors and family.

She dedicated her wins to her father, Bruce, who died in March this year.

She said if it were not for his passion for motorsport, she would not be where she was today.