When Jason Russo purchased his first Jet Ski after his graduation from Bayshore in 1995, he believed it was going to take him far. Today, the 38-year-old has exceeded his own dreams, but he could be just getting started.
He is become one of the top professonals in the P1 AquaX competition, which will be one of three events this weekend in the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival.
For Russo, things have been happening rapidly on and off the water. AquaX is the fastest growing personal watercraft championship in the world. He is part of the P1 AquaX Enduro Series, which is only for professionals and finished fourth overall in points last year.
The Sarasota event will be the second of six races this year that will determine the P1 AquaX champion. Russo, who rides a Yamaha FX SVOH, is in 13th place with 32 points.
“I bought a Jet Ski right out of high school, and a couple of years later decided to give this a try. It’s been a passion ever since,” Russo said. “Our skis can go in excess of 80 miles per hour. It’s a thing of endurance. I ride what’s called a Wave Runner, a Yamaha 1.8 liter motor, and we have big motors in them, 300 horsepower.”
The first series was launched in the UK in May 2011 and the series grew quickly by attracting a mix of races to create a new style of racing. In 2013, P1 rolled out a second series in the USA, and by the end of 2015, AquaX had received more than 400 entries from 11 countries.
“I got into it because I really enjoyed the water craft and the fact that you go out there and are on your own in the water,” Russo said. “I have my own business fixing boats and people were always asking me how come you never got into boat racing. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but it’s a little more affordable racing watercraft than a big power boat.”
The series are divided into Enduro and Sprint and Pro and Amateur. Sit down craft come under the Enduro rules, where the craft must remain stock except for minor handling modifications. They are then identified by horsepower.
Russo says Enduro is a test of endurance and will. Participants need to be in top physical shape and their equipment needs to be mechanically sound. This year’s Pro Enduro Championship began April 23d in Daytona and will finish in Fort Lauderdale in November.
“I am not doing as good as I wanted. I ended up ninth out of 30 in Daytona, but it’s a new ski for me so I had some learning curves to overcome,” Russo said.
Russo got a break in 2013 when he joined the GEICO racing team, which is one of the best in the world and has the resources he needs to reach his potential. It also entered the P1 Superstock series this season for the first time and will try to dethrone two-time champion Team Barbados.
This is the fourth and final event in the P1 Superstock series, which has turned into a tight battle among four or five teams including Team Barbados and GEICO, which has made a change in its team and put three time world champ Craig Wilson back into the driver’s seat.
“I raced in the P1 Superstock series overseas, which is the bigger boats with twin 680 horsepower engines. I am familiar with these series, and then they started it here and I got GEICO involved,” Wilson said. “It was just fitting for me to get involved and bring in two younger drivers and teach them so next year they can jump into my seat and keep youth in the sport. We are battling for a championship this weekend so we have a lot to lose and a lot to gain. This is our first year in the series.
9 a.m. AquaXPro & AquaX AmRace1
10:45 a.m. SuperStock Race 1&2
11:45 a.m. Sarasota Invitational Classes, practice
2 p.m. Super Stock Race 3&4
3:45 p.m. AquaX Pro & Aqua X Am Race2
9 a.m. AquaX Pro&AquaX Am Race3
10:45 a.m. Cat Lite, SuperVee Lite, P1-311 classes
12:15 p.m. SuperCat, SuperVee, Extreme, Extreme LTD
2:15 p.m. Invitational P4-7 Class
3:45 p.m. SuperStock Race 5