There was a change of scenery atop the timesheets at the Grand Bend Motorplex, as Scot-Build BMW S1000RR rider Ben Young set the pace in Friday practice at the second round of the 2018 Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship.
Young, a perennial front-runner out of Collingwood, ON, topped the morning session with a time of 1:04.057, over three-tenths of a second faster than three-time defending champion Jordan Szoke in second. Things got closer as the track heated up in the afternoon, though Young would ultimately hold off the Mopar Express Lane BMW Motorrad S1000RR of Szoke once again, this time clocking in at 1:03.684 - just 0.029 faster than the veteran out of Lynden, ON.
"It feels great out there. The bike's working good, I'm enjoying the track, and everything's pretty comfortable so far," Young said. "Now we're just looking forward to the weekend."
Meanwhile, it's unfamiliar territory for Szoke, as the 12-time Mopar Pro Superbike Champion is often the one in Young's position. However, the current title holder says he is not too worried about the early results, with still plenty to be determined at the Grand Bend Motorplex.
"The gap is really close, so we're not too concerned," Szoke cautioned. "We have a few changes to make, but overall we're just excited to see what tomorrow brings."
Behind the front-running duo in both sessions was St. Isidore, QC's Samuel Trepanier, who is looking to take a step in the right direction after a tough season opener at Shannonville Motorsport Park. The Blysk Racing BMW S1000RR rider ended the morning practice with a time of 1:04.657, before improving to a 1:04.415 in the afternoon session.
"The bike felt alright. We had some problems [earlier] but I think we're okay now," Trepanier said. "We just need to keep getting quick laps in and see how tomorrow goes."
Behind the trio of BMW's up front, it was a surprising – and impressive – day for a pair of young local riders, with Will Hornblower and David MacKay finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in each session. Both riders were piloting their 600cc machines with which they contest the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike class, which carries far less horsepower than the 1000cc Superbikes.
Coincidentally, both riders were at the front of the Pro Sport Bike division as well, with Hornblower topping both sessions aboard his Yamaha YZF-R6. The Sarnia, ON native narrowly held off MacKay (Hamilton, ON) and his Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja in the morning practice, before outpacing defending champion Tomas Casas and his Parts Canada sponsored Yamaha in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, McKay, fresh from his first Pro Podium two weeks ago at the Shannonville opener, suffered a big fall in the afternoon Pro Superbike session. McKay’s machine will require considerable repair prior to Sunday’s National racing.
Casas, the 19-year old reigning Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike National title holder out of Peterborough, ON, was third-fastest in the morning session and will look to improve in Saturday afternoon’s Official Qualifying session.
It was another dominant day for Blackstock, ON teenager Jake LeClair in the brand new Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike class, as the double-race winner from Shannonville topped both practices on Friday and will look to make it a perfect three-peat to open the season in his first race on Saturday. LeClair also feel during his LTWT session, but had already set a lap time good enough to stand as the afternoon’s best.
The Magneti Marelli Amateur Superbike class had perhaps the most competitive day of any division, with Pamerston, ON's Mike Grass pacing the morning session ahead of fellow local rider Andrew Haick (Innisfil, ON) and Maple, ON's Ivan Babic. It was then Haick's turn to top the timesheets in the afternoon ahead of Grass, while Ottawa, ON's Max Kathron clocked in third.
As for the Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike class, it was a battle of two Quebec-based riders up front, with Mirabel's Luc Labranche topping the morning practice, while 15-year old phenom Nicolas Meunier out of Verdun paced the afternoon session as he dropped nearly three full seconds off his lap times.
The qualifying sessions, which set the grids for Sunday's races, will begin at 10:00 am on Saturday with the Lightweight Sport Bike class up first, while the Dalton Timmis Insurance Pro Superbike SuperPole is set to kick off at roughly 2:50 pm.
Full results and the rest of the weekend schedule can be found on the official series website at www.csbk.ca.