The Watercraft Journal: Brian, thanks for spending a few minutes with us; for those of our readers who aren’t familiar with your racing career, please tell us how you got started.
Brian Baldwin: Watersports have been a huge part of my life since I was born. I grew up on Lake James in Marion, North Carolina. My family bought jet skis around 1986 and I have been hooked ever since. I got a lot of my inspiration watching Scott “Hollywood” Watkins, Larry “The Ripper” Rippenkroger, Victor Sheldon, Harry Goacher,Chris “Flyin’ Fish” Fischetti and Jeff Jacobs. They helped instil a serious passion for the sport in me and racing is basically all I have wanted to do since. My first race was in Daytona in 1999 and I won all rounds of my class. I went on to win the next three rounds and took the overall in my first regional series. The winning continues today with two Pro World Titles and national Pro National Championships.
WCJ: This year, you were one of the big wave of racers who left Sea-Doo for Yamaha. What comparisons between the SVHO-powered FZR and the RXP-X helped you make the switch?
BB: The Yamaha FZR SVHO is the total package. The FZR has screaming horsepower combined with awesome handling making much more rider and racer-friendly. The power coming from the 1.8 liter engine – capable of speeds over 80mph with very few modifications – is insane. After being introduced to the FZR and taking it for as spin, I felt like it was the ski for me. The potential that the Yamaha showed along with the amazing support offered by Yamaha Factory Racing made switching to Yamaha an easy choice for me. I am thankful to have finally had the opportunity to be a part of a totally supportive, forward-moving manufacturer and team like Yamaha Factory Racing!
WCJ: Obviously, being part of the big push by Yamaha this year brought you to joining the RIVA Racing/Dean’s Team. Can you tell us how that happened?
BB: Dean Charrier of Dean’s Team approached me and stated that Yamaha was looking for “a few good men” and after talking to Scott Watkins from Yamaha, I had made up my mind. Scott really pumped me up for the season and it really made me feel good knowing he recognized my potential. With guys like Tim Judge and Dean in my corner I knew the season would be great even though there has been a learning curve. We learn more as the season progresses and I expect to really show what I and this Yamaha can do at the Colonial Beach race coming up. I am continually impressed with how much brute power the Yamaha FZR has.
WCJ: Being part of the Factory Yamaha team is a big deal! I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure on you. What are you mindful of to better represent your sponsors (Yamaha, RIVA, JetPilot, FLY, etc.) than before? And as a followup, for those racers looking for major sponsorship, what do you see where they can improve?
BB: In all racing, the bottom line is all about winning the race and a championship title and that is my plan for the season! There is a lot more to winning than just being on the podium. Not only is winning a part of it, but how I hold myself accountable, my poise and my determination. I feel that no matter the outcome of the race or events that happen to determine the outcome, I win if I handle myself and my situation with dignity around other racers and spectators. And of course, there is that moment when I just kill it and have to give my famous “WOOOOOHOOOOO!” and that is when everyone knows it has been a good day at the races.
The goal to all of this is to make PWC racing exciting and open for the younger racers to become involved and helping the sport grow. The sport has seen a resurgence and looks to be going the right direction. We have some awesome promoters putting on great races in a great venues, and the manufacturers building skis that are raising the bar – its looking like an awesome future for PWC racing!
WCJ: With this weekend’s Colonial Beach, Virginia race marking the half-way point for the Pro Watercross Tour, can you tell us how the year’s gone so far? What’s been working great, and what changes have you had to make?
BB: There have been some growing pains, but we are still in top contention for a National Tour title. A lot goes into tuning and tweaking a winning ski and with the new equipment we are learning every day. The Yamaha powerplant has been awesome and with a few more tweaks, I am confident I will stand in the winners circle the last three rounds
WCJ: When you’re not killing it on the closed course, you spend the rest of your time at Champion Powersports. How’d you come to own and operate your own business?
BB: I realized the need for a competent repair shop in our area and that’s what I set out to do. We have an awesome loyal customer base which we have been fortunate. We are all about doing right by the customer are proving that one customer at a time. Basically, I love what I do and I’m slightly obsessed with jet skis so it makes for good business.
WCJ: OK, here’s your chance for some gratuitous shout-outs; who would you like to thank?
BB: The Good Lord above, Yamaha Factory Racing, Scott Watkins, Tim Judge, Riva Racing, Fly Racing, Jet Pilot, Jet Lift, Viztek, DMack racing, My wife, Maranda, my family, and Dean Charrier.