The weekend of October 26-27 marked a new beginning for professional watercraft racing. As the immediate future of Australian national racing is still pending after last years fatal accident, 2013 has been a limited race schedule for current national Australian titleholder James Masterton.
Eight months after winning the prestigious ‘King of the River’ crown on the Swan River in Western Australia, the Chinese government along with event organizers invited James to represent Australia at the very first Asian Aquabike Grand Prix, a UIM sanctioned event.
The event featured a timed qualifying session on Friday and two 20-minute races across Saturday and Sunday with combined points for the overall and 120,000RMB ($21,000AUD) prize money.
A sixth place qualify time saw James start on the second row of a rolling start grid on Saturday. After multiple battles with front riders, James moved into second by half way point. With race leader almost half a lap ahead, James charged for the remaining 12 minutes narrowing the gap to just eight-tenths of a second, finishing in second.
A second place result in moto one meant James began moto two from grid position two behind the local Chinese favourite. When the flag dropped, James stayed within striking distance of the leader and on lap six he made a pass to take over race lead to the roar of 30 thousand Chinese and Asian spectators. The lead however was short lived as Chinese lapped riders made attempts to block Masterton allowing the Chinese rider and original race leader to take back the lead and eventually win the race at the 22-minute chequered flag. “I am disappointed with the lapped rider scenario on Sunday however I had a blast and rode well. A big thank you goes out to Hong Kong BRP/Sea-Doo distributor, Smooth Marine for providing the skis and transportation. This race would not have been possible for me with out their support.”
A welcomed approach has seen James invited back again next year for a shot at an enormous $500,000USD prize purse, money that is unheard of in Personal Watercraft racing and to compete in further Asian championship rounds.