Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous racers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Wind, on the other hand… The morning of Feb. 27 – the dawn of the 17th annual Mark Hahn 300 – promised a sunny day full of Havasu blue water under bluer skies and Mother Nature followed through on that promise, but she definitely added a curveball too. As Race Director Ross Wallach stated, “Separate the men from the boys and the girls from the women.’’
That curveball came in the form of a breeze that kicked up about the time the 8am riders’ meeting wrapped up. That breeze just kept blowing, and by the time 40 teams and solo entries lined up on the familiar sands below Crazy Horse Campground, there were few riders that were not casting concerned glances out at the expanse of chop and churn that stood to be their home for the next several hours.
Following the hallmark LeMans start, which rolled out in two waves, with stand-up classes following quickly on the heels of the heavier classes, the impact of those wind-whipped waters and the accompanying chill could be felt by riders and seen by spectators. “I was just trying to survive out there,’’ said Mike Neumann, who, along with teammate Leslie Adams, took first overall in the Manufacturers Stock class. He did so without his trademark sidesaddle riding style, however, in deference to the riding conditions.
Those riding conditions, brutal by any standards, took their toll on both man and machine, as 20-to-25 mile-per-hour winds put an even sharper bite in the cool air. Each circuit of the 10-mile course, which under calmer conditions typically takes racers from 7-to-9 minutes to complete, was eating up 12-to-15 hard-fought, exhausting minutes during the first hours of the race. Leaderboard changes were frequent during those slow-paced laps, and the #110 team of Tory Snyder and Christian Daly, the #8 team of Lee Phan and Tony Hoa, and the #176 team of Christopher Landis and Valentina Lezcano all snagged time in the number one overall spot.
“I loved and hated it,’’ Lezcano said of the brutal conditions. “The cold was not good for my Miami iguana skin, but the experience of pushing my body to limits I didn’t know I could was amazing. Motivated me a lot of for the race season.’’ “It was a nice wake up call!’’ added Lezcano, a relatively new face on the PWC circuit.
The weather took its toll across the board. Even sport icons Dustin Farthing and Troy Snyder felt the impact. “Three hundred miles in those conditions definitely make you dig Deep inside your inner self to continue to fight onward,’’ Snyder told The Watercraft Journal. “Dustin and I had a few issues that took awhile to fix; like the 14-lap head start we gave them and still came back and won Pro 4-stoke Stock! I’d like to thank Ross (Wallach) and Hot Products and IJSBA for the continued support of the racers. Great job to all competitors this year.’’ Snyder said.
But by 4:30pm, when the wind finally began leveling out and the front-runners were heading into lap 20, the number of skis on the water had been cut nearly in half and the battle for the top overall slot seemed to be falling to a battle between two red, white and black Yamahas – with the #720, solo-piloted by Cassius Sanders, battling the #212 team of Mike Klippenstein and Eric Lagopoulos for every inch and every minute.
With only three laps left, Sanders trailed the #212 by less than 90-seconds. Both teams screamed through a last minute fuel-stop in the last few laps, but it was Sanders who took the white flag, and held on to that lead through the final lap. After the chaos, Lagopoulos admitted, “This year’s Hahn was extremely challenging on body and equipment! It was definitely the ultimate survival of the fittest!”
In an even more surprise finish, sport neophytes and local Lake Havasu High School students Ryder Bliss, Logan Blanchard and Jake Tobin piloted the first stand-up to cross the finish line. “I thought the race was fantastic. [It] had everything – water conditions and great competition. My hat’s off to everybody that participated in congratulations to the winners and everyone that just finished,’’ Wallach told The Watercraft Journal. He also confirmed that the 18th Annual Mark Hahn 300 is on the books, set for February 26, 2022.
Winners: Runabout Overall: Cassius Sanders; Pro/Am 4 Open: Mike Klippenstein, Eric Legopoulos; 4-Stroke N/A Open: Pete Strobl, Greg Matta; 4-Stroke Stock: Troy Snyder, Dustin Farthing; 4-Stroke Mod Standup: Jake Tobin, Ryder Bliss, Logan Blanchard; Vet Masters Open: Cassius Sanders; Sportsman 2-Stoke Standup: Hunter Dunn, Jeremy Newton, Deegon Newton; Manufacturers Stock: Mike Neuman, Lislie Nadeker