By Gene Phelps | NEMS Daily Journal
Tupelo jet ski racer Claude Clayton finished seventh overall in the world and third in the United States two weeks ago in the 30th annual IJSBA World Finals in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Clayton qualified for and raced in the Pro Open classification’s finals of the International Jet Sports Boating Association competition.
“That’s the absolute highest in the world I’ve finished in the Pro Open class,” Clayton said. “I’ve only raced Pro Open once before and that was in last year’s World Finals, but I had mechanical problems.”
Clayton, who owns a motorsports business in Tupelo, won a jet ski racing world championship (2004) and a national title (2005) competing as an amateur.
“We had 40 guys racing in the class and the top nine from two heats of 20 advanced to the (World) finals,” he said. “I qualified for the finals. I actually finished in a three-way tie for fifth, but dropped to seventh on a tiebreaker.”
Clayton, racing a SeaDoo watercraft for Judge Motorsports, qualified for the World Finals and its 500-member field, with victories on the U.S. national tour.
He was the top private rider to finish in the World Finals. The two U.S. riders who finished ahead of him are factory sponsored by Kawasaki.
Clayton, who races the SeaDoo brand, said the company is looking to re-launch it racing program. As a matter of fact, the World Finals winner, the United Kingdom’s James Bushell, competed on a SeaDoo.
“It was a prototype,” Clayton said. “He dominated. That’s good; that’s exciting.”
More than 35,000 fans from around the world attended the week-long competition.
“The sport is really starting to turn around,” Clayton said. “It peaked in the late ‘90s. It’s been on a steady climb back.”