Reigning Pro National Superbike champion Jordan Szoke took the first step towards defending his title on Sunday, dominating the 2018 Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship season opener at Shannonville Motorsport Park’s Pro Track.
Szoke, aboard a Mopar Express Lane BMW Motorrad S1000RR, started the race from pole position and held the lead for all but a brief few seconds, grabbing the holeshot and eventually defeating Collingwood, ON's Ben Young by 5.73 seconds, Young also BMW mounted.
Third-place finisher Matt McBride was the only other Pro to lead of the race, passing Szoke into corner eight after a near-crash from the pole sitter, though McBride would lose the position moments later on the back straightaway. The Mississauga, ON rider was battling knee issues after a crash Friday, but was able to hold on to finish and complete the all-BMW podium.
"I got lucky today, these guys kept me honest and I had a moment coming into [turn eight], but I regathered myself and put in some hard laps," Szoke said. "It's not over until it's over. It's easy to make mistakes, so you just have to finish hard."
Szoke, searching for his fourth consecutive Mopar Pro Superbike championship and 13th overall, said that he does not let those historic records affect him.
"For me, it's a reset every year," he said. "In my mind I have no wins, no championships. Every year I hit the reset button."
Young, meanwhile, was visibly frustrated as he continues to search for his first career victory, though he is keeping things positive with a long season ahead.
"Me and Jordan both got good starts, but Matt caught me, and I knew he had the pace. I just didn't give up and I ended up catching him, and from there the gap [to me and Jordan] kind of stayed equal," Young said. "I just wish I had a better start, it wasn't what we wanted but we'll take what we have and continue the momentum into the next round."
As for the injured McBride, he was all smiles on the podium after finishing a spirited performance in third.
"I had to take a shot at Jordan at least once," he laughed, referring to his pass in corner eight. "It's too bad I wasn't in better shape. My knee was getting bad towards the end, but we're all just happy to be here having a good time. It was fun for all of us."
Trevor Daley returned to the National series with a fourth-place finish aboard a Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja, while potential title contender Samuel Trepanier (St. Isidore, QC) rounded out the top five aboard another BMW.
Other notable results included usual frontrunner Michael Leon (Beaconsfield, QC), who crashed out on lap three, Tomas Casas, who finished eighth despite running on a smaller Yamaha YZF-R6 sport bike, and Lasalle, QC native Samuel Desmarais, who was the top rookie in 13th and will take an early lead in the Brooklin Cycle Racing Pro Rookie of the Year battle.
It was a similar theme in the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike class, with defending champion Casas dominating from pole position aboard his Parts Canada sponsored machine. The 19-year old from Peterborough, ON grabbed the holeshot and never looked back, winning by nearly seven seconds ahead of last year's championship runner-up, Mitch Card, and Hamilton, ON's David MacKay, with the latter scoring his first ever national podium.
Card also represented Yamaha with a YZF-R6 formerly piloted by American star Jake Gagne, while MacKay was the lone Kawasaki to finish inside the top six aboard a ZX-6R Ninja.
"The plan was to get a good start and just get in our rhythm and set a pace," Casas said. "From there I just pulled out a gap and got comfortable, and we were able to bring it home in first."
The youngster admitted that he will likely have a tougher time in the second round in two weeks at the Grand Bend Motorplex, where Card and MacKay are frequent front-runners in the SOAR regional series.
Potential title contender Sebastien Tremblay also ran inside the top four for much of the contest but crashed out on lap nine, while another usual frontrunner – Sarnia, ON's Will Hornblower – was forced to settle for fourth despite starting the race from 17th after missing Saturday's qualifying due to a family matter.
Teenager Jake LeClair continued the string of dominant victories in the brand new Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike class, taking his second win in as many days aboard a Yamaha YZF-R3. The Blackstock, ON rider finished six seconds ahead of Laval, QC's Alex Berthiaume (also aboard a Yamaha) and St. Thomas, ON's Ryan White, who piloted a Kawasaki Ninja 300.
"We got a good start, and from there I just tried to build a gap," said LeClair, who will take a 26-point lead in the series over Berthiaume after also winning on Saturday. "I really enjoyed it out there."
The Magneti Marelli Amateur Superbike class opener was won by Ajax, ON's Michael Van Ek aboard a BMW S1000RR, who battled back after a poor start to beat the Aprilia RSV4RR of Dave Natale. Luc LaBranche (Mirabel, QC) rounded out the podium in third after a brief battle with fan favourite Amy Szoke, who ran inside the top five aboard an S1000RR for much of the race before running off and settling for 10th.
LaBranche concluded the day with a victory in the Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike class, after a thrilling full-race battle with Ottawa, ON's Max Kathron, who challenged for the victory aboard his Suzuki GSX-R600 but ran into lapped traffic on the final lap. Completing the podium in that event was 15-year old phenom Nicolas Meunier (Verdun, QC), who rode his Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja to third place.
The second round of the five-weekend calendar will take place at the Grand Bend Motorplex from June 8-10, while full results from this weekend can be found on the series' official website at www.csbk.ca.