Claude Clayton received mixed results – success and pain – when he stepped up a classification in watercross racing last year.
During his first attempted full season on a powerful, four-stroke 1200 CC jet ski, the Tupelo native grabbed a pair of top three finishes in two national events and landed in a hospital bed, too.
“I was in a collision racing at Orange Beach (Ala.) and suffered some internal injuries,” he said. “I was out for a couple of weeks.”
At the time he was hurt, Clayton says “he was knocking on the door” with his Sea-Doo racer.
“We worked on getting the bugs out in the offseason,” he said. “We worked on the boat to make it really competitive for this season.”
The offseason work paid off July 4th weekend when Clayton captured his first victory in the 1200 pro runabout open class at the Liberty by the Lake watercross race in The Colony, Texas.
“It wasn’t part of a national tour, but it was a big race,” said Clayton, who previously competed on an 800 CC jet ski. “This is the premier class. These are the best riders on the best boats. It’s hard to get a win.”
Clayton promoted Tupelo’s successful Watercraft Cup races the last three summers, but said the annual event at Veterans Park “wasn’t in the cards” this year.
“We couldn’t get it together this year, but we want to get it back together for next year,” he said. “In the three years we had it we had nothing but positive feedback.”
The Tupelo Watercraft Cup was part of a regional jet ski racing tour that awarded points to competitors.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal