The 2015 Pro Watercross Hidden Trails National Tour’s first round of racing action commenced this weekend in picturesque Panama City Beach, FL. With over 120 entries you could tell this was the racers’ favorite. A who’s who of PWC racers littered the white sand, center stage in front of the Boardwalk Beach Resort. With perfect surroundings and perfect emerald blue surf, closed course racing for 2015 is off to a big beautiful start!
There are a few things developing on the 2015 Pro Watercross Tour we thought deserved mention before we get into the racing action. First, this is the first time in years, anywhere other than Lake Havasu’s World Finals, we have seen any class large enough to have to run qualifying heats. Pro Ski GP riders did it this weekend: two qualifying heats leading to a main in Sunday’s “Pro Show!”
Speaking of the Pro Show, in anticipation of the live television coverage coming later in the season, and because most of these guys were/are Pro Racers, Sport GP is now a feature in the Pro Show for the 2015 Pro Watercross season.
Finally, we are seeing an attempt to move towards a more stock runabout or what some would call a “manufacturer’s class.” Pro Watercross is now offering an Amateur and Pro Box Stock Runabout Class. We are interested to see if it grabs hold in closed course racing like it has in other racing disciplines, and if the old adage “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” will ring true for the PWC manufacturers.
Amateur Runabout Box Stock racer Jeff Thornton told The Watercraft Journal, “My first national tour stop with the Pro Watercross tour was full of a lot of ups and downs, from my ski having problems, to getting the first couple holeshots on Eric Francis’s Kawasaki. It was a great to experience racing with good competitors to spar with, choppy and challenging conditions and seeing a lot of great talent and racing legends!”
Pro Ski GP Class was one of the best shows of the weekend. Or should we say, watching Chris MacClugage school the field on how to ride a standup was a great show! We witnessed the GOAT flawless, smooth and relaxed all weekend as he rode to all firsts in Pro Ski GP and Pro-Am Ski Stock. The rest of the riders in both classes were left fighting for second! Jimmy Wilson, and Dustin Motzouris of Team Komander, battled increasingly rough water conditions on Sunday to round out the podium in 2nd and 3rd for the weekend in Pro Ski GP.
As noted, MacClugage took all first in Pro-Am Ski Stock motos 1-3, followed by Rob Flores who had the fastest heat time aboard his Factory Yamaha SuperJet and Wilson in third on the podium. We met up with Flores who said, “What a great event Round 1 of the Pro Watercross Tour was… two heats of Pro Ski GP, and lots of Yamaha SuperJets all over the beach!”
In Pro Runabout GP, Saturday’s story was top Sea-Doo rider Erminio Iantosca with major mechanical issues taking him out of Saturday’s Moto 1 early on. Unfortunately, after one blown motor in the race and another blown motor after swapping the first motor out, we didn’t see Iantosca on Sunday.
Abdullah Al-Fadhel made a strong comeback to US closed course racing this weekend and picked up right where he left in 2013! Both Al-Fadhel and his Dean’s Team Yamaha teammate Troy Snyder took the top two podium spots, followed Dylan Osborn in his Pro Class debut in third.
Osborn stated, “Panama City Beach is always a great season opener with the nice blue water and fast skis in the surf. Glad to bring home a podium finish for the first time ever racing in the pro level.” Snyder noted the absence of corporate support, telling WCJ, “Without the presence of Factory Yamaha and their support riders, I feel the presence of runabout racing at the first round of the Pro Watercross Tour wouldn’t have been much… The ski and [Sport classes] had a very impressive turnout.”
Saturday in Pro-Am Runabout Stock Class we saw Al-Fadhel taking another first place finish, and Eric Francis and Brian Baldwin in the second and third positions. After Sunday’s Motos 2 and 3, things got turned upside down in the overall standings when Al-Fadhel came off in Moto 2. The top podium spot was occupied by another Dean’s Team Yamaha rider Brian Baldwin in first, follow by Eric Francis and Al-Fadhel. Baldwin echoed, “It was a great weekend, with challenging conditions and great competition!”
As mentioned earlier, for the first time this weekend in Panama, the Hidden Trails National Tour included Sport GP in the Pro Show. Making his Pro Show debut on top of the podium this weekend was Team Faith’s rider Kelly Smith. We are excited to watch the competition heat up even more in this class throughout the rest of the 2015 season. Next stop is Pensacola Beach, FL. for Round 2 of the Pro Watercross Hidden Trails National Tour this coming weekend.
Clay Barbee, ‘84 World Cup Ski Champion, World Freestyle Champion, competitor in Runabout Stock and NA in 2012-14, now spectator and friend of everyone summed it up best: “Congratulations to everyone, and great seeing the race family. I’m enjoying the weekends and watching all my friends battle it out in Pensacola!”
Full results from Round 1 of the Hidden Trails Pro Watercross National Tour can be found HERE.
Images courtesy of Kristen Eck of MrsRSRacingImages