Being my first trip to Thailand, I was a bit unsure of what to expect from the Jet Ski World Cup Grand Prix in Pattaya, Thailand. Not what you’d call a “world traveler” I was a little hesitant to venture so far from home; how would I like the food, the smells and sights of such a foreign land? And of course, how would the racing be? Well, like everything, it all depends on where you go. I saw food being cooked on the back of a bicycle parked on the side of a street while I walked to a 5-star restaurant. The smells of beautiful orchids filled the air. And the sights? Imagine sunlit beach, amazing temples and a nightlife like no other.
A massive list of International and local riders lined the beach at Jomtien, Pattaya, welcoming 50 more riders than last year. With 4 days of racing, there was plenty on offer the spectators, family and friends. Every class you could think of was going for a world title, from Amateur Novice Ski to Pro Freestyle, Pro-Am Endurance to 1100 Super Stock.
The first day was mainly Amateur racing with the Pro Endurance class coming in to finish the day. With 38 riders on the line for this heat – one of two 30-minute (plus one) lap races. Last year’s winner, Christian D’Agostin was there to try to hold onto the trophy. Unfortunately, he popped an intercooler hose in the first few laps leaving him out of contention for Moto One. Aero Aswar was flying and unlikely to be beaten until he had engine failure with only three laps to go. This left it wide open for the Frenchman, Jean-Bruno Pastorello, who took the day’s win. Pastorello also went on to take the second moto, as D’Agostin experienced another hose failure and leaving him in 19th.
Pro Runabout GP was also packed over the heats and finals. This year with numbers up, heats were held with the Top 7 going through to the final. With a line up of names like James Bushell, James Masterton, and Chris McCluggage, the race was guaranteed to be fast-paced and action packed. McCluggage was strong from the start with a solid lead in Moto 3. His smooth style and reliable steed (on loan from Hungarian György Kasza) let him take out the win in all three motos and the $45,000 check, closely followed by Burbayea in second overall.
Pro Ski GP was a great bit of racing with a strong field and some beautifully turned out skis. Jeremy Poret from France was the man to beat. He was unstoppable and took the win in all four motos. Another great bit of racing was Pro-Am Runabout. It was a full class with 16 riders from 9 different countries. The racing was close, with three different winners throughout the four motos; Masayuki Chigira of Japan, Shinji Kugizaki also from Japan and Wu Rong Hua of China battled it out for first, second and third. Wu was set to take the title until he broke a drive shaft in Moto 3. His team managed to get the ski fixed and ready for the last race, which he took second and third overall. Expect to see a lot more from him and his team.
Freestyle was also a crowd favourite with current IJSBA World Title holder Mark Gomez making his first appearance at Kings Cup. Also on hand was crowd favourite and former world champion, Lee Stone and Taiji Yamamoto from Japan. Lee was back to try and reclaim his title from Gomez after having engine trouble at Havasu back in October. Gomez was strong and consistent in round one, throwing out Superflips, Can Cans and a Scarecrow flip. He was smooth and looked on track to hold his title.
When it came to Lee’s ride, people were expecting to see the infamous Double Back Flip. This put a lot of pressure on Stone who pushed to execute it as the first trick of the round. Doing so takes the trim to be pre-set meaning that no other trick can be performed while this is in place. Once Stone lands the Double Flip he can then reset the trim to standard. Unfortunately for him, Stone didn’t land the trick and the ski would not restart, putting him out of the heat and leaving him with an uphill battle to take back the title. Gomez went out strong in the second heat and was declared the World Champion once again. Stone went on to take second after a showing that he is one of the best freestyle jet skiers ever.
So how was my first trip to Thailand? Everything was an eye-opener. In all, it’s a place you should see at least once, especially the Kings Cup. It was the best jet ski event in the world by far, being the most professionally ran event I’ve ever encountered, and the nicest setup I’ve seen or heard of. And let’s not forget the biggest checks for the place-getters too.
Pro Ski GP 1. Jeremy Poret, 2. Botti Jean Baptiste,3. Raphael Maurin, 4. Kevin Reiterer, 5. Dustin Motzouris; Pro Runabout GP: 1. Chris MacClugage, 2. Muhammad Burbayea, 3. Waleed Alsharshani, 4. Hajme Isahai, 5. James Bushell; Pro Freestyle: 1. Mark Gomez, 2. Lee Stone, 3. Taui Yamamoto; Pro-Am Endurance: 1. Jean Bruno Pastorello, 2. Suphathat Footrakul, 3. Teera Settura, 4. Jin Won Kim, 5. Chaiyaporn Nornua; Pro-Am Women Ski Limited: 1. Kylie Ellmers, 2. Yukiko Kume, 3. Orraphan Teerapatpanich; Pro-Am Runabout Stock: 1. Marjak Pancho, 2. Abdullah Al Fadhel, 3. Aqsa Sutan Aswar