Top racer’s departure fuels Hydrospace rumors – September 4, 2006
September 4, 2006
Filed under Features
Hydrospace, the Austrian manufacturer of the industry’s first production four-stroke stand-up personal watercraft, unexpectedly terminated the company’s contract with high-profile race team leader Chris MacClugage in mid-August.
As is probably to be expected in today’s age of almost immediate online communication, rumors almost immediately began to swirl following the announcement. They were spurred in part by a press release on MacClugage’s own MACCRacing Web site, which implied that Hydrospace continued to tinker with the boat’s design, and in fact may still have not produced enough actual product to be legally homologated in Europe.
Those rumors soon took on a life of their own, with several industry insiders speculating that the company was already on shaky ground before even gaining a foothold in the United States.
Not so, says U.S. distributor Dave Bamdas of Florida-based Riva Motorsports, the largest personal watercraft dealer in the country.
According to Bamdas, the company continues to boast a strong presence in Europe. The process of setting up a U.S-based dealer network also reportedly continues as usual. Hydrospace has achieved its National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA) certification, and Bamdas expects the last hurdle to mainstream retail sales in the U.S., Coast Guard approval of the boats, to be completed by the time this issue hits the street.
“We’re just waiting to get our Coast Guard certification before we start our actual distribution to the dealers,” said Bamdas. “We have been selling to racers, however, for competition.”
Bamdas also puts to rest rumors that Hydrospace is pulling out of the remaining stops of the European tour. He says MacClugage’s remaining two teammates will indeed contest the tour’s final rounds, as well as represent the company at the World Finals in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., this fall.
Although speculation has persisted that Hydrospace continues to tinker with the product, the boats are homologated for racing in Europe, and will therefore be legal to race since Havasu is an international event. Homologation in the United States should be complete before the start of the 2007 season.
“The plan is to be homologated in the United States by January ’07,” said Bamdas. “We should have 100 units in circulation. I’m in touch with both the APA and IJSBA, and as we import each container we document that.”
Riva has reportedly already taken possession of two, 28-unit shipments from the company. “We’re basically 50 units away from homologation, which we should have by January.
“We’re just taking it slow and steady.”
Mac To Race As Privateer
According to Bamdas, MacClugage’s exit from the company in no way reflects upon Hydrospace’s future, or commitment to the industry.
MacClugage, a multi-time champion in both the Ski and Runabout classes, was roughly 18 months into a two-year contract with the company.
“There was a personal matter between the company and the rider, and the company felt it was in its contractual rights to terminate the contract,” said Bamdas, who as the U.S. distributor had no direct involvement with the Austrian company’s race team operations. “It’s not because Hydrospace is doing poorly, or out of money, or anything like that. They just had a situation with MacClugage where they felt they needed to be no longer working together.
“They just parted ways professionally.”
A recent statement from MACCRacing indicates MacClugage will contest the remainder of the 2006 season as a true privateer, sponsored by the performance shop that he began in late 2004. The California-based shop plans to complete two signature-model Kawasaki STX-15Fs for MacClugage to campaign in the Pro Runabout class, as well as a single SX-R standup for Pro Ski. Aftermarket sponsors joining the team include Monster Energy Drink, R&D Racing, Vortech Engineering, AP Designs, Maxima, Oakley, Hahm Motorsports, and Edgell Automotive. MacClugage will contest both Pro Runabout and Pro Ski in Havasu, and may make an appearance at the APBA National Championship as well. psb