For much of the debut Mopar CSBK weekend at Grand Bend Motorplex, it seemed like Jordan Szoke and his multi-title winning Mopar Express Lane/Motovan BMW Motorrad S1000RR squad had the field covered. When the race started, Dalton Timmis Insurance Pole winner Szoke quickly took the lead and seemed set to pull clear at a blistering pace for his 16th straight series victory.
Instead, by mid-race Szoke had decided to ease up for the sake of his heavily worked rear Dunlop slick. The track conditions were extreme for heat, and with little data to go with to predict wear, everyone was worried about possible late race traction.
So Ben Young took control aboard the Scot-Build Developments BMW, early leader Bodhi Edie on his tail with the Z1/Parts Canada Yamaha YZF-R1, Szoke in a solid third, observing his opposition. A wild last lap was expected, until Young fell in the tight, technical section in front of the main Grandstand, forcing a red flag (not Chequered Flag) end to proceedings.
Edie got his second career Feature class win, and the first Pro Superbike success for Yamaha since Steve Crevier’s Shannonville victory on the Fast Company R1 back in the 2007 series finale. The Grand Bend success was also the first for tuner and bike owner Zaid Saleemi, and a return to CSBK and front line success for “Thermos Man” American Mike Fitzgerald, who was central to Pascal Picotte’s success over a decade ago.
So Szoke leads in series points but is no longer on (this specific) historic winning streak, heading to the tighter-than-Grand Bend confines of Autodrome St-Eustache June 23-25. Can anyone interrupt his six race run of success at “Twin Peaks?”
Back in 2000, Steve Crevier returned from the American tour to race (and eventually win the CSBK crown) in Canada, and along the way encountered rising star Frank Trombino for the first time. When Trombino ran away at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Crevier uttered the famous Superbike podium comment “holy Frank Trombino” while the Yamaha R1 mounted winner was still out on his victory lap.
Trombino was an unexpected addition to both the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike Championship and Mopar CSBK class with his Prostar built Hondas, backed by White Gold Financial Services and Hindle. In his first CSBK outing since a unique Superbike win for Aprilia at CTMP in the rain in 2014, Trombino showed he was a master of the venue, and certainly showed he has something in the tank at the tender age of 44.
Pole sitter Trombino simply took off at the start of the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike race, pulling clear from an aggressive pack of young up-and-comers including the Yamahas of Mitch Card and points leader Tomas Casas and the Kawasaki duo of David MacKay and Kris Garvie. Second generation ace Card eventually annexed second, and probably was surprised that Trombino was by then safely clear in first.
Meanwhile SMP victor Casas held on to his Series lead with a third, making the most of an unfortunate collision between the impressive MacKay and luckless Garvie. In a rare CSBK start, SOAR Regional regular Dylan Bauer earned a very good fourth on a Yamaha, ahead of Louie Raffa’s Honda and series rookie Josh Fantin on a Honda.
Now the question is, can Trombino join the series late and make a run at the Liqui Moly crown? His presence among the rising stars should be very entertaining for race three at Autodrome St-Eustache in Quebec.
Last year’s top 600 class Amateurs, Chris Brent and Jacob Shaw-O’Leary, had a tough outing after showing so well in the Pro debut two weeks earlier at S.M.P. Brent was ill going into the weekend and ultimately opted not to race, while O’Leary injured his hand in a first lap fall.
It is rare for a “one race” entrant to have a big effect on a Pro/National level competition, but there were several local stories to follow at Grand Bend, even if you don’t count former National hero Trombino. The stars of the opening SOAR event, veteran Scott Rupert (Suzuki GSX-R1000) and first-time superbike racer Steve Nickerson (Honda) made it into the Dalton Timmis Insurance top ten SuperPole session, earning ninth and tenth on the grid for Sunday’s second National Superbike race, even though both fell during early Qualifying!
Trombino was further up the grid in a remarkable fourth on his well-travelled Honda, just .7 of a second away from Szoke’s Pole-winning effort. At a narrow track that had the regular series runners worried about traffic and tough passing, Trombino’s unusual approach was attracting a lot of attention – in a good way!
In the race, Trombino didn’t get the best start, but ran as high as fourth, winding up fifth after fading back from the impressive efforts of second year Pro Samuel Trepanier on the fourth placed Neuroperforma/T2 Design BMW. Meanwhile Nickerson on the striking Dewildt/Nexosports backed CBR1000RR couldn’t get by the BMW of veteran Jeff Williams, and these two were joined by the charging Rupert late in the race.
When the race results reverted to the previous lap due to the Red Flag for the Young incident, Nickerson was credited with 8th in his first Pro Superbike counter, while Rupert was scored ninth ahead of the newer GSX-R1000 of Andrew Nelson. For Rupert, this was an improvement on his “National Curse,” since Rupert often experiences strange issues when attending CSBK Rounds.
For much of the Grand Bend weekend, Shannonville double Amateur winner Samuel Desmarais on his Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja looked ready to seriously extend his points lead in both series. He earned pole in Shoei Premium Helmets from Aaron Burns (Yamaha) and Kyle Newman (Suzuki), and in Magneti Marelli Superbike would start second behind the Yamaha 1000 of Ernest Bernhard but ahead of the potent and tuneful Aprilia RSV4 of Dave Natale.
But Desmarais didn’t make it past the start of the Amateur middleweight counter, crashing and forcing a red flag. Jean-Francois Aubin took the win just clear of fellow GSX-R600 mounted racer Newman, third overall Burns making a last lap pass of Louis Levesque on a Triumph triple for the final podium spot. These results mean Aubin leads the overall points with a solid 99 to the 63-point total of Burns and Levesque at 61, Desmarais a close fourth with 59 counters.
In Magneti Marelli Amateur Superbike, Bernhard took a solid win with his R1 ahead of the v-four Aprilia of Natale, who just edged third placed Aubin. Newman netted fourth, with a careful Desmarais taking fifth at the finish. This means Bernhard with 92 points takes over the series lead heading back to his home venue of St-Eustache, Desmarais and Natale tied, right behind in second, both with a total of 87 points.
In a weekend with very few racers matching their success of the Shannonville opener, Moto Journal-backed Ninja 300 spec competitor Xavier Paradis seemed to find his groove in his second career National event. The 16-year-old, winner of the second race on Sunday at Shannonville, was solidly fast throughout the Grand Bend event, earned pole by close to a second, and took both the Kawasaki victories to pull clear atop the standings after four of ten 2017’s schedule races.
Second quickest in Q, first race winner Jared Walker fell in Saturday’s Grand Bend Kawasaki opener, hurting his chances at the title. Amy Szoke netted second, well ahead of Kirk Shergold, who scored his first career podium with third.
On Sunday, Paradis took control but Szoke’s Ninja was much closer, the final order the same as the day before. This time, however, Jake Leclair worked up to net third, ahead of the resurgent Walker and Shergold. After a carer-best fifth on Saturday in his third National weekend, Jacob Black slid off in the final turn, and was the only Did Not Finish of the second race at Grand Bend.
Heading to the mid-point of the season in Quebec, Paradis is styling in first with 198 points, Szoke second at a total of 152 with Walker third at 145 points. It’s expected that both the next races at St-Eustache and the following event July 13-16 at Atlantic Motorsport Park will feature some new competitors that could shake things up in the Kawasaki twin cylinder series.