The annual visit to the east coast for the Mopar CSBK regulars provided all the challenges associated with the 2.56 km long, hilly, eleven turn “roller coaster” venue, including ever-changing weather. The penultimate round of the series offered a great range of results, and some first time surprises.
This type of title usually refers to the ongoing, record-breaking performance of Jordan Szoke, as “Jordan of the Jungle” continues to adjust the Record Books for the National Superbike tour. So it is important to state that Szoke has now won ten races in a row, and has not been defeated since Grand Bend back in early June of 2017.
Szoke heads to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the final races of 2018 with a convincing Championship points lead with his Express Lane/Motovan BMW, and is trying for his fourth career perfect – all wins – season, the only rider in the history of the series to have ever swept. Szoke now has 70 career Superbike Feature race victories, with two more available before the season is completed on the Podium at CTMP August 12.
However, there were some new faces making their National race-winning debut at Shubenacadie, and the young guns of the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike series certainly put on a show. Finally recovered from a pre-season concussion, Jacob Shaw-O’Leary made good on the promise he showed in his rookie Pro season late last year, taking the win in the wet Saturday aboard the Pro Cycle Honda CBR600RR.
Shaw-O’Leary was favoured to win the next day, but in the dry series veteran Sebastien “the Shaker” Tremblay put on a clinic aboard his DB Moto/Moto National Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja, holding the lead race-long under very heavy pressure. Tremblay earned his first career National victory, and has series regulars wondering if David McKay (Kaw), Will Hornblower (Yam) or impressive rookie Pro Samuel Desmarais (Kaw) could earn their first National successes at CTMP.
In Amateur action at A.M.P., we almost had two first time winners in one day, but Kawasaki mounted “Nico” Meunier took his first victory just after lunch and his second a couple of hours later. The teen-ager won Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike, and then repeated his success aboard the same middleweight Kawasaki in Magneti Marelli Amateur Superbike.
The Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike series continues to yield very close competition, with expected Champ Jake LeClair facing off against the strong contingent of east coast aces from the Society of the Atlantic Racing League. Oshawa Cycle Yamaha pilot LeClair would have been justified to concentrate on his points lead, but instead on Saturday he battled the home town heros to earn his sixth victory from seven 2018 National LTWT starts.
On Sunday, local Kawasaki Ninja aces Avery Hart and Scott Alexander pushed LeClair down to the bottom step of the LTWT Podium, LeClair’s worst result of the season. Hart became the fourth first-time winner over the course of eight National races in two days at A.M.P. It was definitely an encouraging weekend for the development of the CSBK Series over a busy program sponsored by Honda Canada and Pro Cycle.
Some superbike fans are focused on seeing a new winner in the Feature class, and the choices are obvious – second in points Ben Young and rising star Samuel Trepanier are both chasing Szoke hard, and due for their first CSBK National race victories. Both were strong on the East Coast, Young challenging in Qualifying, but Trepanier’s Sunday A.M.P. race effort looked the most likely to yield success out east.
Both third year Pro racers are keeping the pressure on Szoke, who has found a little more pace under pressure from his fellow S1000RR racers. Next up is Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, where Szoke faces his typical end-of-season challenge: try and win the races while building his Championship lead, and clinching his 13th titles as soon as possible.
During the past three seasons, Szoke has won on Saturday at “old Mosport” and clinched his number one plate, allowing him to race all-out on Sunday. This has led to some entertaining battles, since the slipstreaming nature of the uphill back Mario Andretti straight means that it is very hard to get away from the chasing pack. Many of the races have been decided on the drag race out of the last corner, with the rider in third beating the others to the finish line!
Last year, Trepanier was the rider attracting the most attention, pushing Szoke, leading lots of laps and generally establishing himself as a front runner. Young has run well in both Sport Bike and Superbike at C.T.M.P., his smooth style suiting the fast, ten turn circuit, but “Braveheart” still waiting for the major break through that seems especially imminent in 2018.
Both Michael Leon on the Royal Distributing/Pro6 BMW S1000RR and Trevor Daley with his One Speed/Rockstar Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja had good, if not great, runs out east. Both went 4/5, or 5/4, over the two Superbike Feature races, and have looked ready to interrupt the recent Szoke/Young/Trepanier podium parade.
Leon had a great performance in Dalton Timmis Insurance SuperPole on Friday, netting his first Q Podium position, but couldn’t keep up with the top three in either race.
Daley had a big crash in D.T.I. SuperPole, bringing out the red flag a minute before the session was scheduled to end, when he lost his Ninja on the brakes heading into the turn nine carousel. The bike was not severely damaged, even though it vaulted the Bottle Bags and wall, and “T-Rev” was back up to speed for the races.
Still, both are due for a step up onto the box, and C.T.M.P. is their last chance in 2018 to make that step. At C.T.M.P. last year, Leon ran with the lead group, and this season his BMW has shown very strong horsepower numbers on the Official Series Dynojet Dyno. So far, the only low point in his 2018 program was his crash from contention in the Shannonville opener.
For Daley, his shoe-string budgeted Kawasaki program has produced the most consistent performances of his Superbike career, covering Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha programs over the past few years. Daley wasn’t planning to attend every race in 2018, so the fact that he holds fourth in the standings suggests a more organized effort in 2019 would be worth the effort.
While the first time winner status of Tremblay and Shaw-O’Leary pulled focus from the points race atop the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike Championship standings, those points are the principal focus of reigning number one Tomas Casas. “TV Tommy” made the podium twice out east, and is working his way toward a second straight National Pro number one plate (in a class not won by Szoke since 2010!) aboard his Peterborough Cycle/Parts Canada Yamaha YZF-R6 in the middleweight division.
Second in points belongs to the Fast Company/Shoei Yamaha of Mitch Card, who struggled with a variety of small issues out east, including the foot he damaged in Superbike qualifying at the start of July at Autodrome St-Eustache, QC. So the net-net was Card’s fade in the standings, and now he will need lots of help in the two final races of 2018 at C.T.M.P.
The good news for Card is that he has a fantastic recent record at “old Mosport,” winning twice each of the past two years. This season, Card’s R6 seems even more potent than previous, so he might well be the man pulling the rest of the pursuing pack on each and every trip up the back straight.
So Card will be looking forward to racing with a fully-healed foot, and looking to work with riders including Shaw-O’Leary, Tremblay and possibly part-time National racer Will Hornblower to keep Casas off the Podium and struggling for big points. The strong entertainment value provided by Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike at A.M.P. should continue back in Ontario August 11 and 12.
In 2017, the C.T.M.P. CSBK season finale offered a pair of invitational Lightweight race to set the stage for the pending 2018 National debut of that category, as the Ninja 300 spec series completed a two year run. Several of the front runners in LTWT (non National) were fast guys and girls from the Society of Atlantic Racing League, and some were riders with Pro status or machines that did not match all the requirements of the new National Lightweight Sport Bike category – no more than 42 Dynojet horsepower and no less than 320 pounds, post race.
At A.M.P. in 2018, local Kawasaki 250 Ninja racers Hart and Alexander showed plenty of pace against the National regulars, and the invitational Regional race featured top Pros Gary McKinnon and Richard Thompson, both Yamaha YZF-R3 mounted. In 2017, Thompson won the Bickle Racing Invitational race on Sunday at C.T.M.P., showing the potential pace of the Yamaha twin.
This year at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the National Lightweight Sport Bike Championship will be decided with rounds nine and ten of that Championship, while the more “open” Bickle Racing Lightweight Invitational event will offer a place for a wider range of bikes and racers to compete. It will be interesting to see how the lap times compare between the two classes.
Meanwhile, Jake LeClair is looking solid to earn the first-ever Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike National title, just a few kilometers away from his home town of Blackstock. This might well be the elder LeClair’s last appearance on his potent Yamaha R3 twin, so expect to see Jake prove his pace before he makes the expected jump to 600cc four-cylinder equipment in Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike in 2019.