by Scott Frazier
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The European Tour round in Mirandela, Portugal is an event that will forever change the way participants view the sport of Personal Watercraft Racing. One who decides to attend truly must arrange their travel so they land in Lisbon during the daylight hours. When the plane begins to descend into its landing pattern, passengers are treated to a beautiful view of where the Atlantic Ocean meets Lisbon at the Bay of Cascias.
The waters are a clean, clear, translucent blue and is dotted by yachts, powerboats, and several PWC. With at least two visible large sandbars and a few marinas, this setting is a treat to the eyes of any water sports enthusiast.
It is fascinating to contemplate that Portugal is host to the premiere round of the Corona European Tour. Portugal has bragging rights as the nation which lead the eras of discoveries. The founder of the last and most expansive period of advanced discovery was Portugal’s Prince Henry “The Navigator.” Prince Henry was first to commission exploration of areas of Africa below Morocco which were then unknown (at least formally) to European civilization. Creating a college of navigators and mapmakers, Prince Henry was fundamental in forging Portugal’s role as the pioneers of discovering yet-to-be introduced lands.
It was here in Lisbon that Christopher Columbus first pitched his plan to explore new routes and prove his hypothesis of the correct size of the Earth’s circumference. Portugal would reject Columbus’ proposal (although some scholars believe that Columbus served Spain while remaining a secret agent of sorts for Portugal) but that would not diminish Portugal’s other roles, most notably being the first to round the Cape of Good Hope. In the 15th Century, Portugal’s dominance of waters had Lisbon as the economic gateway to Europe. Six hundred years later, Lisbon would carry on this tradition in the form of being the gateway to Europe’s best PWC racing.
Lisbon is a notably clean, calm and friendly city. The architecture is strongly antiquated yet appears as in tact as national capitals which are centuries younger. Merchants sell assorted breads and pastries while street side restaurants purvey salted fish, spider crabs, and giant slipper lobsters. The townspeople are very inviting and I, personally, have never felt safer in a capital city.
Throughout Lisbon and all parts of Portugal which I visited ( Porto and the two hour drive to the race site at Mirandela), the sense of peacefulness and calm is permeating and soothing. Portugal is a clean place, most buildings look as if they were freshly painted, the streets are litter free, and arriving in Mirandela felt like being suddenly emerged in a town plucked out of a story book. Mirandela is a beautiful town located among small mountain ranges and enjoys an excellent climate. The small town is split by the River Tua and each side is joined by several bridges including the very famous Ponte Velha, a very old bridge comprised of more than 10 arches of varying shapes and sizes. After three paragraphs, I suppose it is time to start talking about racing, but it is quite difficult to stop talking about this wonderful town.
The Mirandela stop of the Corona Euro Tour is well regarded as the crown jewel of the prestious European series. This event was put on by Francisco Pita, President of the Portugese Jetski Federation. Mr. Pita did an exemplary job of putting on a PWC race. Friday started with opening ceremonies. That evening followed with a Nation’s Parade. The city of Mirandela was out in full force with cheers and warm welcomes for the competitors and their families and staff.
The event, which was separated by two motos on Sunday and one on Sunday for a total of three that would combine points to determine the overall round winners. Pita would like to credit the riders, their family and helpers, IJSBA, the City of Mirandella, and the Portugese Federation staff for making this event a success.
Saturday Morning’s events began with the Ski Stock class. Chris MacClugage went wire to wire on his Hydrospace S4 and would repeat the win in the second class that afternoon dominating a class of fourteen. Next, six riders battled it out in the Runabout Limited class. Angelo Bertozzi and his Yamaha GPR would sweep both motos. France’s successful competitor, Brice Lopez, would win both rounds of the Ski Limited class, leaving fourteen competitors wondering what happened.
England’s James Bushell fended off ten competitors to clinch both rounds of the Runabout Stock class. Vicky Beale would take moto one of Ladies Ski due to penalties assessed on another rider. Audrey Dujardin would go on to win moto two. Franky Zapata rode an amazing race dominating the time trial and moto one of the Runabout GP class. Zapata would put on an impressive show in moto two but failure to pick up the make-up buoy would hand the win to James Bushell who was sweating it out on a Superstock. Both pilots were clearly ahead of the other 5 riders.
The nine riders in Veterans Ski would have to accept a two moto sweep my Laurent Boucher. A line of 16 very talented Juniors Class racers saw a moto one win by Kevin Reiterer with Nico Lasselsberger taking the honors in Moto 2. Ski GP was the most anticipated event of the day. Rius would sweep the time trial and both Saturday motos while fighting off advances by Chris MacClugage who would later suffer mechanical problems. Troubles were soon forgotten as the late afternoon turned into a barbecue of fish, pork, and Mirandela’s famous sausage called Alheira. This barbecue was courtesy of the Mirandela City Council who also furnished the event with free bread and Brock Stop Beer. The night came and a evening freestyleshow attracted thousands. It was an experience to remember.
Sunday saw a lot of familiar faces in the winners circle. Chris MacClugage won moto three of the Ski Stock class for a total three moto sweep. Andre Cribier would take the Runabout Limited moto three win on his Kawasaki STX-R. Brice Lopez would earn a three round sweep in Ski Limited, as would England’s James Bushell on his RXP in Runabout Stock.
Audrey Dujardin would score another win in Ladies Ski. Franky Zapata, on his Franco Detorri powered RXP, would effortlessly win moto three of the Runabout GP class. Jim Goodchild of England and his SXR would deprive the lone Hydrospace of a sweep by taking the moto three win. France’s Clement Perez would take the moto three win in the Juniors event which delivered Hydrospace a brand sweep for this class of young competitors. Nicholas Rius did Yamaha proud in the Ski GP class by winning all three motos despite some pressures from Renaud Urbain in the final competition. The day was wrapped up by three freestyle competitors who impressed a crowded seawall with numerous tricks and displays of acrobatic skill. All were Yamaha competitors and while Jean Regis Villette of France and Belgium’s Tom De Pooter both showed well, Romain Stampers of France put on the best show taking the day by a 3.8 point average lead.
In my opinion, the gold star of the race goes to UK hero, Bob Crabtree, who did a phenomenal job of running the technical inspection aspects of the event. Mr Crabtree insisted on the most detailed inspections for all persons. It was very pleasing to see so many competitors endure the sometimes hot and cramped spaces. Racers seemed anxious to comply with Bob’s requests in order to best ensure the integrity of the event.
Aside from an audio track which featured too many renditions of “Who Let The Dogs Out” and this bizarre techno mix track based off of the theme to the television show, “Dallas,” the weekend was otherwise perfect. The location was one of the best in the world while the hospitality was out of this world. As always, the racers are the model of camaraderie. The event was comprised of competitors from France, Norway, Dubai, England, Italy, Austria, Belgium, United States, Portugal, Netherlands, and Morocco. Another awesome event, filled of awesome people, and put on by an outstanding IJSBA Affiliate. Anyone who is interested in having the best possible international experience outside of the World Finals absolutely must attend this event in 2007.
Ok, if you have scrolled down this far in the article then you deserve a bonus.Let me tell you something the magazines wont report. On the other side of the River Tua there is this carnival that is put on each year. It has a few snack vendors and some flea market type goods. In the middle is this bumper car track which has no fencing around it, people are allowed to stand right at the edge of where the cars collide with the curb surrounding the tracks surface (this thing is a lawyer’s dream in America).
Always a group to take thing up a notch, the PWC racing community has modified the rules of the track. Apparently, last year, some racer got the idea of taking off his shoe to whack people in rival bumper cars. Even more amazing is that the invention was welcomed as a great idea. If you ever needed evidence that PWC racers have a screw loose some place, please check out some of these video clips. They were taken from a camera phone so the quality may not be great.
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