“Aqua Moto Grand Prix is a throwback race series dedicated to the heart and soul of personal watercraft racing origins.” states the official Aqua Moto Grand Prix website.
The brainchild of world champion Chris “Flyin’ Fish” Fischetti, the first ever Aqua Moto Grand Prix turned out to be a great event despite other racing events taking place the same weekend. Paired up with the Lucas Oil Drag Boats at Rotary Park in Lake Havasu City, AZ, the Aqua Moto Grand Prix fetched a solid turnout for the inaugural event.
Lineups consisted of Kawasaki 440/550s and the like – the premiere skis back in the day – for the two-day event, featuring multiple motos each day with “sudden death” racing woven into the competitions – not a common practice found in today’s races, but something that Chris wanted to highlight for those who have never been a part of that style of racing.
According to Patrick Goldsworthy, the “sudden death” matches had two similarly-based boats face off side-by-side for two laps with the winner moving on to the next heat. Ultimately, the best two in each class battled it out for the win and bragging rights.
The motos were six laps of intense riding with several classes leaving the same starting line within seconds of each other. A tight, well-placed buoy track made the competitors not only aware of their competition, but also other classes as they jostled for position.
On Saturday, the weather was calm with no wind whatsoever. By 8am the drag boats started their qualifying efforts in their due process of elimination, reaching speeds of 150-plus-mph on the quarter mile track with times of under six seconds.
While all this was going on, the riders’ meeting was held for the Aqua Moto before the first practice and moto at 11am. Some of the notable riders that showed up to the line on Saturday included Jake Zere, Cory Vancleave, Brandon Felish, Brooks D’Antonio, Jason Schriner, Guy Vinatieri and Chris Hagest.
In the 550 Vintage 1 class Jake Zier took the overall checkers with Brooks D’Antonio edging out Vancleave in the first moto for second place and Cory taking second overall. Chris and Guy were in the Vintage 3 class, both having a solid day battling back and forth with Guy taking the overall and Chris getting second.
Then it was back to the boat racing, but towards the end of the day, the wind picked up where the boats were not able to run for safety reasons allowing the vintage skis to steal the show with an elimination bracket; a short two lap shootout to determine the winner. It was great for the riders because they were able to ride more than normal.
For Sunday, the day was a little more relaxed. Some riders went home as others showed up, including notable names like Mark Gomez, Tommy Bonnacci, Victor Sheldon and even Chris MacClugage who arrived Sunday to witness firsthand what the Aqua Moto was all about.
The morning started of calm as the boats continued to battle but as the wind started to pick up and the event was put on hold, giving more time for the vintage skis. Without already starting Victor Sheldon made his presence known.
Victor quickly came out of nowhere to take the checkers in the first moto. The second moto however was a different story as Tony Beck grabbed the checkers with the two of them banging bars all the way to the end. Mark Gomez also made his mark in Vintage 1 550 by taking the clean sweep in both motos and edging out Jake Zier in the first moto.
In Vintage 5 Jake took the overall checkers on his Yamaha ‘Blaster by beating out Bonnacci in both motos with Bonnacci finishing second. Since the boats could not compete because of the wind; again another elimination bracket was created and the Aqua Moto Grand Prix took center stage, which meant for more riding time to put on a great show for the fans.
Special thanks go to Patrick Goldsworthy for his quick reporting and Theresa Solberg for the extra pics!