The penultimate round of the 2017 Mopar CSBK tour at Atlantic Motorsport Park certainly provided lots of drama on the east coast a little over a week ago. While the much-anticipated poor weather only affected practice, the much hotter pace of the majority of the racers made for a drama-filled weekend around the demanding twists, turns, hills and bumps at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia.
With one weekend, and two races per National class, remaining with the upcoming big season-ending event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park August 18-20, several riders are in control of their own destiny with just “old Mosport” left to run this season.
With two Feature races left to go, reigning and 11-time overall National Champ Jordan Szoke holds a full race worth of points in hand over Kenny Riedmann, 266 to 206 points. This means that if Szoke can have a solid result on Saturday at C.T.M.P., he will cinch the title for the Mopar Express Lane/Motovan BMW Motorrad S1000RR team.
Szoke has now won 12 National Superbike Feature races at A.M.P., and goes into C.T.M.P. with a total of 12 wins at that track, too. Interestingly, Szoke has typically won both races of the Double Header, or none at all.
Last year, pressure from Claudio Corti’s Aprilia and Riedmann’s Kawasaki at C.T.M.P. brought out the best in Szoke, and he won both times, clinching the title on Saturday and then pushing the pace Sunday. That will be Szoke’s aim again in 2017, but the lottery-nature of the slipstreaming-oriented races, with jostling for position throughout the race, is not much to Szoke’s liking.
Meanwhile Riedmann had an overall strong weekend on the east coast with his Sturgess Cycle/Liqui Moly Kawasaki ZX-10RR, moving into second overall in the standings, the position he has held much of the time since his start in the top class in 2015. Riedmann has been in the wars recently, particularly with some battles against the Z1 Tuning/Parts Canada Yamaha YZF-R1M of Bodhi Edie.
At A.M.P., Edie and Riedmann got together on lap one at the first start, then more dramatically on the last lap, and Edie lost his second place points status with a wild tumble into the gravel trap exiting the back straight in turn seven. On Sunday, Riedmann briefly kept pace with “see ya later” Szoke, and established himself as a solid second in the race and the Championship chase.
Edie switched to his spare bike on Sunday, changed set-up and tire choice, wasn’t feeling too great, and faded back to an eventual sixth from a challenging third. Expect both his Yamahas to get a serious tune-up in time for C.T.M.P.
A host of BMWs were also on the second place pace, including the resurgent Ben Young (up to third in the standings from his Grand Bend crash, even though he used his spare bike too), Michael Leon, up-and-coming Samuel Trepanier and veteran Jeff Williams. Also among the front runners was un-retired Andrew Nelson aboard the new GSX-R1000 with backing from Kimpex and Racer5.
These riders will all be busy tuning their machines during the month break in preparation for the anticipated drafting battle up the Mario Andretti back straight at C.T.M.P. Since the launch of the BMW S1000RR in 2010, the Bavarian blaster has always been impressive when it comes to straight line speed, and Mosport has confirmed this fact time-and-time again.
Even stock BMWs can run with the “built bikes” at C.T.M.P., and the rider who most famously demonstrated that factor was Saskatchewan teenager Edie when he earned an upset win on a BeeMm tuned by his Dad back in 2013 – the last time the popular Edie did the whole series until this season.
One of the talking points going into the east coast Pro double header concerned the return to the “Roller Coaster” venue of Frank Trombino and the ProStar Racing Hondas. Trombino lived up to his considerable A.M.P. reputation, winning the opening Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike round on Saturday, holding off the wild battle between Yamaha’s young rivals and showmen Tomas Casas and Mitch Card.
Unfortunately, Trombino didn’t make it a lap in the opening Superbike feature race Saturday, bringing out the Red Flag when he was involved in a collision on the compression section of the “Roller Coaster.” Fortunately, the crash looked much worse than it really was, but Frank’s face took a battering, the popular veteran looking like a pummelled hockey player upon his release from the Hospital on Sunday.
Trombino Tuner Ben Gartner expects the team to return for C.T.M.P., although the status of the well-travelled, oft-repaired CBR1000RR Superbike is unknown. Frank has a strong Sport Bike CBR600RR, so that might be his focus – he has started three Middleweight Liqui Moly rounds this year, and won two of them!
Meanwhile the Saturday falls of Trombino in Superbike and the all-out Card in Sport Bike mean that Tomas Casas has all but locked-up the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike Title. Three time 2017 winner Casas leads Card and Trombino, 243-166-154, and should be able to clinch Saturday at C.T.M.P.
Of course last year, the two Sport Bike rounds at Mosport were wild affairs with great, race-long fights for first between winner Card, Casas, Riedmann (Kaw) and Will Hornblower (Yam) – who will join the slipstream festival in middleweight this year?
Our Mosport money is on Kristopher Garvie, who skipped A.M.P. with his potent ZX-6R Ninja, built with parts left over from Szoke’s dominant middleweight works Kawasaki efforts close to a decade ago.
In Magneti Marelli Amateur Superbike, the season has evolved into a battle between the middleweight class Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja of Samuel Desmarais and the 1000cc Yamaha YZF-R1 of Ernest Bernhard. So far, Desmarais is faster but less consistent, and so far, Desmarais has held the upper hand. With four races down and two to go, anything can happen – particularity because C.T.M.P.’s pair of races certainly favor the bigger-displacement machinery.
Desmarais leads the Amateur Superbike standings with 195 points, Bernhard close behind at 177. Jean-Francois Aubin, a spoiler with his second place finish between Desmarais and Bernhard at A.M.P., in third on his GSX-R600 with 157 points. One of these three is likely to take the crown, but there will probably be a number of non-Nationals regulars on 1000cc machines affecting the standings.
And Desmarais as well as Aubin have other important factors to consider at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, like the Shoei Premium Helmets Amateur Sport Bike title chase.
In the official Middleweight class, Aubin holds a slim series lead, 186 points to 17 points, over Desmarais. Desmarais has won three of the four races, but his first lap crash at Grand Bend has forced him to play catch-up over the short, six race CSBK Amateur tour.
Yamaha R6 pilot Vincent Levillain also has a mathematic shot at the Championship, currently holding third in the Shoei series points, but more than 50 points (one race) behind. Levillain also holds sixth in the Superbike standing, so he could well serve as a spoiler at C.T.M.P. on August 20, too.
The longest series on the CSBK tour is for the Kawasaki Ninja 300 spec racers, with a total of ten points races over the course of the 2017 tour. Canadian Tire Motorsport Park next month marks the end of the two-year term for the Ninja campaign, and a big finish is expected at a venue where the bikes made their debut two years ago.
Cycle Canada/Moto Journal magazine’s Xavier Paradis has a good lead atop the standings with 386 points, fellow teen-ager Jared Walker second at 346 and Jake Leclair back in third at 239 points. Although she missed the A.M.P. races, Amy Szoke is still in fourth in points with a total of 225, but it looks like the title battle will come down to Paradis vs Walker for the number one.
Walker did what he could out east, winning both races after inches-close battles for the lead, Paradis second twice and local ace Patrick Pelletier joining the front-running fun, earning a pair of strong thirds in his first Nationals of the 2017 tour.
So Walker will need some help at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, with the goal of squeezing at least a couple of riders between himself and Paradis. However, Paradis has proven a quick learner in his first year on the CSBK tour, and while Walker might know the venue better, Paradis is likely to be right with him. These two races for the 300cc twin class should prove very interesting to watch.