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Murphy’s law states “If anything can go wrong, it will.” I don’t know whether bad luck struck HSR-Benelli in Spain during the International Press launch of its new models, but things definitely did not turn out as they expected.
Things got off on the wrong foot well before the writers and editors ever set foot in Murcia, Spain. The Press Launch was originally scheduled for the beginning of May, but shortly after we were informed that it would be postponed until the end of May. I have attended numerous press launches for motorcycle companies, MotoGP teams and personal watercraft, but this was the first time I was facing a postponement with no serious reason or explanation. When I finally arrived in Murcia I started realizing what the big problem was. It should be noted, though, that the HSR-Benelli crew was excited and enthusiastic about the whole presentation and made sure to welcome the journalists and make them feel at home.
The schedule for test rides was meant to start the very next day at 10:30 a.m., but we were informed during dinner that the truck with the new watercraft had yet to arrive. Call me suspicious, but this incident did ring an alarm bell. I was a 100% sure that the boats would have been there at least two or three days earlier in order to be fine tuned and set up for the journalists. At least that is how the job is done at the motorcycle scene or even the other personal watercraft launches that I have attended in the past. Ultimately, the test ride was delayed and we were rescheduled to start at noon.
The weather conditions were perfect for the test rides. Choppy water, good formation of waves and heavy wind were all we needed in order to put the new vehicles in a real course test field. HSR-Benelli’s Alberto Monti got wet first in order to begin the test ride of the Race Edition Ski. As soon as he left the shore and grabbed the throttle lever on the straight and he started swimming. The hood flew off and the engine compartment got filled up with water. The rescue craft and its crew managed to pull Monti back to shore and the Ski was rushed out in order to changed the oil and bring the engine back into operational condition. Unfortunately, that meant the test ride of the Ski was canceled and the crew started preparing the Runabouts – Series-R Naked and Pro Editions.
As soon as everything was ready the two runabouts, along with a local racer, headed out to the course. Suddenly the rider was catapulted from the HSR-Benelli saddle. Everybody thought that the rope from the small buoys was probably caught by the pump. That was not the case. After remounting and heading farther away to continue his test ride he got catapulted again and was forced to return back to shore.
HSR-Benelli mechanics, along with chief mechanic Alfonso ‘Willy’ Sieber, discovered that the reverse was getting engaged on its own without any reason. Well, just imagine the scene – riding on the straight at full throttle and suddenly feeling as if you have slammed into a brick wall. This may explain HSR-Benelli’s new catchphrase…“Moments before flying”.
HSR-Benelli’s bad luck did not finish here as later on the Race Edition started experiencing overheating problems. Somehow the closed loop system was leaking and the crew rushed to find the cause and replenish the missing cooling fluid. For some reason both of the Runabouts experienced overheating issues.
After all the delays, the time had finally come for me to get a taste of the experience of the new Runabouts. Since the invitation was for two I brought along a very close friend of mine, Akis Malouchos, who is a motorcycle and personal watercraft mechanic as well as a PWC racer. He has won 17 national titles in Pro Ski and Runabout classes and his experience as a racer and mechanic is always useful. I was really happy that by the time we had both finished riding we felt the same about the performance of HSR-Benelli’s personal watercraft.
Entry Level Series-R Naked Edition
The riding position is a mix of Yamaha Blaster and Kawasaki STX-R. The seat foam is quite hard, which reminded me of KTM’s enduro bikes. While the seat is narrow at a reasonable level the deck –engine compartment side panels below the seat- is quite wide. The reason for this is because the hull and deck were originally designed to accommodate the larger V6 Benelli engine. The sharp edges that are formed undoubtedly caused the bruised legs we got after our short ride.
The foot wells are covered with elastic padding that provides exceptional grip. Additionally, the small step enables you to lock your legs and apply the necessary forces when riding the craft aggressively on a choppy race course. Foamy pads placed on the outer side of the foot wells act as lifters too. The steering system feels very rigid and stable and the wide handlebars give you the required leverage.
After making a couple of rounds on the buoy course I realized that the hull behaves very similar to the Kawasaki STX-R hull. Straight line stability is not an issue for the Naked edition since the hull dimensions and the four chines enhance the performance. The sponsons looked familiar to me and seemed to be almost a carbon copy of the R&D Performance Product USA versions that were used on Chris MacClugage’s race 15F two years ago, with the blades positioned to the upper holes. Overall the Naked version feels lightweight and quite accurate going round the buoys.
The three-cylinder engine is good for the entry level standards, though it does not give you the opportunity to test the limits of the hull. The linear power band places the whole performance under certain limits, transforming the race-bred hull to a recreational level performance vessel.
No matter how strong you are on the slim designed trigger lever the engine will expand the 143 horsepower in its own rhythm, reminding you that this is not a race craft but a stylish Runabout for recreational use. This is probably the reason why it is so hard to keep it hooked up at all times, especially under the choppy conditions.
Series-R Pro Edition
As soon as you pop onto the seat of the Pro Edition you feel like you’re riding an entirely different craft. The steamier engine makes a world of difference. The crispier engine and the good throttle response make this craft a real toy for the weekend warrior or surf enthusiast. Bottom end acceleration is all you need to hop from one wave to the other. The hull design enables you to reenter the water smoothly without knocking your wrists on the handlebars. The sharper engine response gives you the opportunity to go round the buoys by following a tighter line without bending over the apex.
Though the sea got rougher once we got on the Pro Edition, you could still feel a big difference between the two Runabouts. Even under these conditions you get a safe ride no matter how fast you intend to ride.
The hull characteristics are awesome and assist in going around the buoy course easier, keeping a more accurate track and pushing the limits without waiting patiently for the craft to accelerate. Under these conditions there was no point of switching on the portable GPS unit in order to get a reading for the top speed. I was told by the mechanic crew that the Pro Edition could out perform the 2-stroke XP 950.
Certainly the Pro Edition felt much faster and with better overall performance comparing it to the Naked version, but I would not be able to judge its performance in such a short test.
HSR-Benelli Series-S Race Edition Specs:
HSR-Benelli Series-R Naked Edition:
HSR-Benelli Series-R Pro Edition:
In Part 2 of the HSR-Benelli press launch, writer Vasilis Moraitis will go over the three-cylinder engines, hulls and new features on the Ski and Runabout models. He will also look at HSR-Benelli’s expansion efforts and give his overall opinion on the press launch.
HSR-Benelli pulls plug on racing
HSR-Benelli breaking new ground
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