There is no better place to kick off the Heyday Pro Watercross National Tour than the beautiful snow-white beaches of Pensacola Beach, Florida. Though the surf was not as big as we have seen in years past, the 20-miles-per hour gusts was more than enough to churn up some gnarly waves to challenge even the most experienced riders. The sunny Florida weather always seems to attract the largest number of competitors and spectators alike.
Before we get started with the recap, we have to acknowledge what a wonderful job AJ Handler and the Pro Watercross team has done with evolving the National Tour to what it is today. Not only have they set the level for professional competition in the United States, but also continue to raise the bar higher each and every year.
After opening ceremonies had commenced, the racing weekend kicked off with Pro-Am Ski GP. An interesting addition to this year’s Ski GP class was the introduction of the new Kawasaki SX-R. It did not take long for Chris MacClugage to get used to the new craft as he captured the moto 1 holeshot with Jimmy Wilson and Franco Tobler in tow. MacCluggage’s lead would eventually come to an end as he would retire with a fuel issue. Jimmy Wilson would go on to win moto 1 with Franco Tobler in second and Broc Harris finishing up third.
Moto 2 started with drama for Jimmy Wilson, as he lost his hood on the way to the first buoy. Franco Tobler captured his first Pro Watercross holeshot aboard his Team Mean Racing built Trinity. As the surf grew bigger, Tobler would eventually be hunted down by Factory Kawasaki’s Craig Warner on the new SX-R. It was not long until Chris MacClugage would also pass Tobler to slide into second place. Moto 2 finished with Warner on the top step, MacClugage in second, and Tobler hanging on to third place.
Moto 3 started with Warner grabbing the holeshot, but Jimmy Wilson was latched on right behind him. Wilson stayed on Warner for the entire race, relying on his amazing natural surf riding talent to outweigh the advantages the new SX-R had in the surf. Eventually, Warner bobbled on the front straight and Wilson capitalized on this opportunity. Wilson continued to lead until the checkered flag and capture the Pro Ski GP overall for the weekend. Warner came out with a second overall, followed by Broc Harris in third.
Next up were the fastest runabouts on water, Pro-Am Runabout GP. Jason Russo took the Moto 1 holeshot and ran with it all the way to the checkered flag, but Sea-Doo’s Erminio Iontosca was right on his back door ready to capitalize on any mistake. Tim Ducat would round out the top three of Moto 1. Iontosca went on to an uncontested victory in Moto 2 with Claude Clayton and Jeff Dyckowski rounding out the top three. Moto 3 saw Jason Russo back up top with an early lead, but Iontosca was on a mission to gain the lead. Trey Frame eventually passed up to third and joined the fight with the top two. Erminio Iontosca came out to be the Pro-Am Runabout GP overall champion for the weekend, followed by Claude Clayton in second, and Tim Ducat in third.
The Sport classes continued to completely stack the gates full of competitors. The Sport Stock class was forced to run two heats on Saturday and two motos on Sunday. Eric Gabryel won Heat 1 and Gary Hopkins would win Heat 2 with a wounded boat, but it was Jeff Mcphail that would take the overall with a 1 – 1 in both motos. Sport GP was packed full of action across all three motos. The front straight in Moto 1 seemed to cause some trouble for many riders in the pack, but this was not the case for Billy Dearman and Broward Motorsport’s Sam Nehme.
Nehme made Dearman work for it the entire moto and finished only a few boat lengths behind. Jules Hopkins rounded out the top three for Moto 1. In typical fashion, Sam proved why he is the National Champion and led the entirety of Moto 2 from start to finish with no one to challenge him. This would change in Moto 3, as Johnny Smith pulled the holeshot and battled it out with Nehme until Nehme missed a buoy. Smith led most of the race until a mistake caused him to eject from his ski, giving Nehme the overall for the weekend.
Pro-Am Ski Stock saw plenty of new faces, but the whole weekend turned out to be a MacClugage vs. Wilson showdown. These two battled it out through every single moto, but it was Jimmy Wilson who came out on top with a 2 – 1 – 1 to give him the overall. MacClugage came second on the podium and Matthew Richuk would round out the podium in third.
Sea-doo had to be pleased with Erminio Iantosca’s performance in the Pro-Am Runabout Box Stock class aboard his RXP-X 300. It was a flawless weekend for Iantosca as he went wire to wire in all three motos to capture first overall. Troy Snyder finished up second overall for the weekend, and Jason Russo would end up with third overall.
We are sure we speak for the whole jet ski community in saying that our hearts are with Tim Ducat. Tim was severely injured in Moto 3 of the Pro-Am Runabout Box Stock class and suffered many internal injuries. If you have not already, please go visit his GoFundMe page and consider making a donation. We wish you a speedy recovery, Tim!
The 2017 Heyday Pro Watercross National Tour opener was definitely one to remember, and we cannot wait to see what the rest of this year has in store for us. We will see you this weekend at the beautiful emerald waters of Panama City Beach, Florida!