Bringing the Heat: Temperaments Rise with the Temperatures at P1 AquaX St. Pete Beach
Beautiful St. Pete Beach, Florida was once again host to a summer stop on the P1 AquaX tour, with the Pro and Am classes returning to the beaches of the Postcard Inn to race on Father’s Day weekend. Also celebrating Team Pilot Amanda LeCheminant’s 30th birthday, the team headed to the gulf coast early to soak in the sun and get settled before the race-weekend craziness ensued. Within minutes of arriving on Thursday afternoon, it became brutally apparent just how hot the next few days were going to be, but if we were going to have to endure the heat, it was certainly a great place to do it. From relaxing pool site with some of the other racers who turned up early to enjoy the pretty gulf-coast sunset, it was nice to take a minute (even if just a short one) to slow down and prepare to go fast.
After Friday morning’s logistical snafu settled down, we spent the day unloaded, prepping and teching in the blistering sun before once again taking some much-needed downtime to celebrate teammate Amanda’s birthday. The racing community made a great showing at the beach bar where we gathered, and everyone had a great time enjoying cake and toasting our lady rider as she entered a new decade.
By the time Saturday morning rolled around, though, it was all business, and by 9:00 am the beach was packed with riders anxious to get to some racing in after the delays and disappointments of earlier rounds. For the Pros, this was only the second stop on the USA tour, and having only gotten in one race at the season opener in Miami back in April, points were very much up for grabs. For some, the pressure was greater than others, as Eric Francis just been named the world number one racer days before, followed in ranking by Chris Maccluggage and Brian Baldwin. Francis would prove worthy of his top spot over the weekend, winning both of the weekend’s motos, and making it look easy despite the intense heat and marine life delays that plagued us.
For some of the Pro riders, the weekend’s racing wasn’t so easy at all. There was no shortage of drama, as, during the first start run of the weekend, several riders collided, leaving Mike Klippenstein with an injury to his right arm Johnny Smith taking a scary blow to the chest, and sending both riders to the hospital. Luckily for everyone, nothing was broken and no serious injuries were sustained. Unfortunately, however, the rough and rowdy Pro race would be the only one of the day, as marine life returned to the course and racing was put on hold.
The mood turned somber as a tribute was conducted for P1 Superstock racer, Mike Salber who had perished just two weeks prior in Jacksonville in a race-course collision. His memory was honored P1 staff and safety marshals who were so apparently distraught over the loss of a great friend, fellow marshall, and passionate racer. It was a sad, touching moment for the racing community and warm embraces were shared all around.
Sunday started off hot and steamy once again, with racers’ frustrations and skepticism rising as hot as the summer temperatures. After even more marine holds, the Amateur riders finally took to the water for what would be their one and only race of the weekend. In the 300 class, Team Pilot George Holmquist would prove himself well prepared for the conditions, coming from behind to finish in 5th place out of the twenty-eight racers on the course, making it the best place finish of his 300 class career. It would be newcomer Tyler Hill, however, who would take the win in the 300 Class followed by Tommy Olswang and Dave Davidson respectively. Team Pilot Ted Acker finished in 16th place, overcoming persisting injury and showing that there is much more to come from our Rookie Endurance racer!
In the 200 Class, there would be no lack of excitement, with Team Pilot Amanda LeCheminant taking the holeshot and holding onto the lead for the majority of the race. Overtaken by Scott Reeves in one of the final laps, she ended up finishing in second position, but was later disqualified for her breather hose coming loose.
While we waited for the results of an appeal on Amanda’s DQ, we watched the Pro class put on their final performance of the weekend. It came as no surprise that Eric Francis once again took top spot, followed by Brian Baldwin and Aero Aswar, but just as in the first Pro race of the weekend, the casualties were many, with several collisions and many riders having to abort the race due to mechanical failures, hull damage and outright exhaustion.
Despite the many hiccups that plagued the weekend, and with Amanda and the team doing our very best to overcome the harsh disappointment of their our ever disqualification, we walked away proud of our riders for their display of hard work and some of their best finishes ever! With only one race left in the season, it will all come down to who shows up to race at the final stop in Ft. Lauderdale this November and who’s ready to put it all on the line.