Lake Michigan was not going to let anybody off easy at the sixth round of the P1 AquaX National Series in Chicago, Illinois, and many came home with the scars to prove it. Timing of the event couldn’t have been more ill-timed as so many participants hailing from Florida had left home as Hurricane Irma pounded on their doorsteps. While the skies remained clear, the charging surf often crested at 5-to-6 foot heights, causing some riders to disappear from view, only to immediately reappear spectacularly airborne, high above the chop.
Contention for the leader position in the National Series came to a head this past weekend as Eric Francis pushed to shrink the gap between he and leader Chris MacClugage. The two traded places all weekend long, and had many on their feet as the two neared Sunday’s conclusion. Beginning with Saturday’s two heats, Francis snagged the holeshot both times, giving the RIVA Racing Team rider a much needed edge. Francis, normally aboard a Yamaha GP1800, traded for his wife Sophie’s FX SVHO, only moments before practice.
The move to the larger runabout fared Francis well, as he fended off MacClugage in the first heat. The reigning champ fatefully pulled his lanyard, stalling his engine, and allowing Francis to pull ahead. Undaunted, MacClugage gave chase, but his continued to sour, breaking down on the final lap of the first race. As he and Francis had already lapped most of the field, the breakdown cost MacClugage only four spots. Erminio Iantosca heard opportunity knock, and charged forward to take second place.
The second heat again had Francis in the lead and MacClugage close behind, until a second engine failure abruptly halted his ski, sending MacClugage into the handlebars, dramatically slicing open his chin. The injury put MacClugage out of the race, putting Brian Baldwin into second and Mike Klippenstein into third. Yet, while Francis passed the checkered flag, Tommy Olswang swooped past Klippenstein, grabbing third (and third overall at the halfway stage) from under Klipper.
Saturday concluded with Klippenstein taking second place (behind Francis) and Baldwin just two points behind earning him fourth, as Chris Saxon and Antony Radetic were tied for fifth. As noted by AquaX, Jay Edworthy, Iantosca, Victor Nolan and Eric Lagopolous concluded the Top Ten. As part of the shared venue with the North East Series, Edworthy continued his unbroken winning streak in the Pro Am 300 class. His win was no cake walk, as Christian Daly nearly took the lead from him, until needing to back off, giving Jason Lester second place.
Looking to reverse his course from the day before, MacClugage, who’s 4th place and DNF during the last two races, came back swinging on Sunday. The champ grabbed back-to-back wins, pushing back Francis’ assault on the his championship lead. Nevertheless, Francis didn’t waiver, putting in two solid second place finishes, despite unable to parallel Macc’s blistering speeds (who proceeded to lap the field yet again).
Baldwin wisely raced his own race, and put in a super-consistent pair of third place finishes, although as noted by AquaX, puts him out of contention for the championship. Klippenstein was bested twice more by Olswang in the final moments of both of Sunday’s races, clinching 4th place overall. Concluding the rest of the field was a showdown between Chris Saxon, Erminio Iantosca and Antony Radetic, resulting in Saxon besting the two Sea-Doo riders for 5th overall.
Mother Nature was going to let Jay Edworthy off so easily, who beat the Pro Series and the North East Pro/AM series champ to a pulp, resulting in a 9th place overall finish. The final spots went to Victor Nolan, who capitalized on Eric Lagopolous’ absence in the final heat. As many journeyed home – some to find that Irma had spared much of their property – others look to lick their wounds, repair their craft and prepare for the final round of the championship in Ft. Lauderdale in November, concluding the series and crowning 2017 Pro Series champion.