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It took me a few minutes to even figure out that I have to keep alternating the jump/shoot buttons to fill up the bar... but no matter how hard I try the bar never gets more than 60% full or so. And I can't keep even that up for very long. So the pirate always wins.

Is this even possible?
Isn't it the left and right arrow keys? Anyway, you don't really have to alternate between them, just mash them like a madman.

The question is though, why bother? From what I've seen, all you get is your health refilled. Not worth the hassle, I think.
You can earn the gold gloves powerup (the ones you loose after getting hit 3 times), on some of the harder levels, but after while they really do become impossible. And yeah usually not worth the hassle anyways.
You can either get your health filled or 3 golden fists (in the later stages of the game) from winning the races.
They're not impossible, just very difficult. I completed all of the bonus levels, and they get more and more tedious as you reach higher levels. Possible, but leaves you with very sore fingers.

Are they worth it? Probably not, unless you're a masochist like me and enjoy these races.
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Alysiane: You can either get your health filled or 3 golden fists (in the later stages of the game) from winning the races.
They're not impossible, just very difficult. I completed all of the bonus levels, and they get more and more tedious as you reach higher levels. Possible, but leaves you with very sore fingers.

Are they worth it? Probably not, unless you're a masochist like me and enjoy these races.
Wasn't there an issue with one or two of them relating to framerates? I haven't encountered this problem yet but I'd like a warning ahead of time.
Try to cap frame rate to 30 fps
I personally only managed to beat the bonus level of the Marshes of the Awakening as I think it is the easiest.