Last year, Jordan Szoke won the Shannonville Motorsport Park opener on the perimeter Pro circuit after a slow start and a dice with several other racers. While Bodhi Edie and Kenny Riedmann are not part of this year’s Canadian title chase, 2017 SMP front running challengers Ben Young and Matt McBride are back, and ran on the pace at the front, pushing Szoke – at least initially.
Szoke’s best lap of the 2018 opener aboard his Express Lane/Motovan BMW S1000RR was a tour at 1:04.69, and that compares well to his best lap last year at 1:04.59, given the track was considered to be slightly slower. On the flip side, the new Dunlop slicks were well-received, and Young and McBride did not get down to their best laps of 2017 – they only lapped in the low 1:05s this year.
Several other Pros turned laps in the 1:05 region too, suggesting the fight right behind Szoke could have been closer than it turned out. Trevor Daley got close to the BMWs of Young (Scot Build/Barrie Trim/ACF50) and McBride (Rider’s Choice/Jukasa) with his One Speed Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja, but a slow start put him behind and meant a run at third would have to wait until at least Grand Bend June 10.
Much was expected of Michael Leon, but the Royal Distributing/Bell supported racer fell from his BMW early in the race while running in the top five. His second of two completed laps put him into the 1:05s, and it is reasonable to think he would place in the third or fourth spots, if he could finish.
Also in the 1:05 range were Samuel Trepanier and Jeff Williams, both BMW mounted. Last year’s late season stand-out Trepanier had a huge crash on Friday and could not fully recover. A solid fifth behind the charging Daley was a great effort for a beaten-up racer on a bent bike. The next day, Trepanier was at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for a Pro6 Cycle Track day, so you can’t fault his focus.
2011 Mopar CSBK National Champ Brett McCormick took time off from business in Saskatchewan to coach Trepanier, riding with the third year Pro on Thursday. After staying up all night with the Blysk Racing team to repair the BMW, McCormick thinks that the Blysk Racing rider can up his game.
Trevor Daley had a rough season with Suzuki support in 2015, and then had another bumpy year on his own Yamaha in 2016. Last season, the One Speed/Rockstar/Shoei-backed Daley opted to concentrate on his custom fabrication business, and only raced at the final event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
For 2018, Trevor is considering a full program aboard a well-proven and well-travelled Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja. This bike started out with a rush build for Dan Kruger at Macau, then travelled to Canada where Ross Millson raced it several times as well as lending the machine to Doug Lawrence for his strong 2016 Amateur campaign and McCormick for his recent successful testing efforts.
Trevor is taking it a race at a time, but his relatively strong effort at SMP means he will at least contest the second National at Grand Bend. With most of the front runners BMW mounted, a mean-green entry would certainly enhance the show.
At Shannonville, Daley’s strongest obvious effort was pacing Szoke for several laps during Friday afternoon practice. T-Rev didn’t quite get the lap he was looking for in Dalton Timmis SuperPole, and then a box-out in the first two turns meant he would play catch up, often in aggressive style, for the rest of the race.
Tenth in Superbike was not a satisfying effort for former Amateur National Champ Mitch Card with the Fast Company Yamaha YZF-R1. Another rider who struggled with a poor start, Card was behind his rivals from the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike race earlier in the day, Tomas Casas (Parts Canada Yamaha YZF-R6) and new middleweight recruit Sebastien Tremblay (DB Moto/Moto Nation Kawasaki ZX-6R). While Card lapped fast enough to place eighth, he was too far back to make the most of his pace.
2018 is the first year that Card has put any energy into his 1000cc program, since previously he has only raced the R1 (he now has two!) at CTMP. With Scott Miller and the Fast Company crew now working on the build and set-up, the Card program has stepped it up at least a notch. Still, learning to ride a big bike around the bumpy confines of SMP is no easy program.
In the Liqui Moly Sport Bike race, new number one Casas won for the second year in a row, and took control with a race-long lead for the first time in his career. Shoei/DP Brakes backed Card again had a mediocre start and worked up to second, an improvement over his third place of a year ago.
Casas turned the best lap of the middleweight race at 1:06.47, comparing well to his best-in-class effort of 1:06.27 last year. Card (1:06.6) was next best in ‘18, joined in the 1:06 range by third placed David McKay, come-from-behind Will Hornblower and mid-race faller Tremblay.
McKay’s first CSBK podium was a good reward for a strong overall performance, and promises much for his home round on the Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja at Grand Bend. Hornblower and Card also call the next venue their home track, so a return to wheel-to-wheel action in Sport Bike is a fairly safe bet.
In 2017, Elliot Vieira attended the first couple of races of the season at Shannonville, but had way too much drama with his well-travelled and much-abused Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja. Now the former Guyanese Champ is back with an ex-Casas Yamaha YZF-R6, backed by Aventura Gold/Fly Jamaica/Snow City Cycle, and working on a consistent 2018 debut CSBK campaign.
Vieira’s hometown rag, the Guyana Chronicle, termed his effort a “modest finish,” but it would be fair to say it was a strong debut. With a program managed by former Canadian 125cc, 250cc, 400 Production, Isle of Man and Pro Superbike Yamaha factory racer Clive Ng-A-Kien, Vieira has a studied approach that should move him to the front of the pack over the 2018 campaign.
The biggest challenge for Vieira will be the new tracks he needs to learn, but the Caribbean venues he knows best are similarly tight and fairly bumpy when compared to some of the Canadian layouts. Of course, Atlantic Motorsport Park is the biggest test for a new rider, especially in the Pro class, but Vieira insists video will help with his learning curve.
While it is very early in the season to make any secure observations in the Amateur ranks, it might be safe to say that young Jake LeClair is quite good at the new Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike division. After two non-Championship and two points races at Shannonville, LeClair has dominated the three races he has started aboard his Oshawa Cycle Salvage Yamaha YZF-R3. He also earned points for pole positon and most laps lead, so his current points total of 108 reflects a perfect start to 2018.
On Saturday, LeClair edged Kawasaki Ninja 300 mounted Johann Plancque by just over five seconds, but the margin was misleading: the race was interrupted by a Red Flag and second and third on the road were penalized by Tech for performance excesses. Honda CBR500R media bike-mounted Neil Graham worked up to third, making for three different brands on the “corrected” Podium.
On Sunday, Leclair won by six seconds over the Yamaha of Alex Berthiaume, with the Kawasakis of Ryan White and Plancque next up and Graham earning fifth. Berthiaume sits second in series points with 82, Plancque next up, third in the points with 74.
While it is difficult to imagine anyone seriously challenging LeClair after two of ten scheduled 2018 LTWT races, Grand Bend should shake things up at least a little – most of LeClair’s pre-season efforts have focused on Shannonville. The series also expects some more 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400s to sign up, and that machine has proven to be the bike to beat, depending on rules adjustments, in both MotoAmerica and FIM Euro Cup action.