Key Take-Aways from CSBK Round 4 at Atlantic Motorsport Park

The 21st consecutive Mopar CSBK National weekend at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Nova Scotia, sponsored by LS2 Helmets, Liqui Moly and Pro Cycle, produced more success for the only two racers to have won a Mopar Pro Superbike Feature race in 2019:  Kawasaki’s reigning Champ Jordan Szoke and BMW’s series leader Ben Young.  However, that raw data does little to explain the wild, unpredictable and memorable events at this year’s Shubenacadie weekend, July 18-21.

New Champ on the Way?

One of the key things a star racer needs in his resume are come-from-behind, no-chance comebacks that put an exclamation mark on a successful career.  Mopar Express Lane/Blackfoot Direct-backed Szoke has any number of such rides during his storied career, including one at AMP in 2002.

17 years ago, Szoke’s Fast Company Suzuki GSX-R1000 was taken down by another front runner in turn two on the first lap.  Szoke was dead last by some margin, but his hairpin fall set up an incredible come-from-behind victory that led to his second overall National Championship.

On Saturday at A.M.P., Young’s Barrie Trim/Scot Build BeeMm suffered a less than stellar start, but by lap three the points leader was on the tail of the leading Parts Canada/One Speed Suzuki GSX-R1000 of Trevor Daley. Then disaster struck when Szoke collided with Young, sending the Champ’s ZX-10RR Ninja into a frightening fall as Young’s S1000RR took to the grassy front straight run-off at top speed.

Young rejoined in tenth, lucky not to fall, while Szoke climbed out of the run-off, lucky not be injured.  From there, Young put on a historic charge, but the Podium seemed out of reach.  Regardless, a solid placing by Young and Szoke’s DNF would put Young into a very strong position atop the standings with three rounds to go.

Daley led, and looked ready to earn his first career Feature victory, until a wild moment dislocated one of his handlebars and slowed his pace.  This allowed Samuel Trepanier to close and pass with his Carrier BMW, looking for his first career victory and first podium of a troubled 2019.

Out of the running was likely podium man Michael Leon, who’s run of ill luck with the Royal Distributing BMW continues.  Just past half distance, seemingly on his way to second, Leon tucked the front end in the downhill turn one and was out for Saturday.

Trepanier looked safe for the win, until Daley regrouped and picked up his pace, as Young’s relentless charge had spectators wondering if he could make it all the way back to the front.  With the top three getting ever closer together, Young launched a desperate, last lap lunge up the inside of Trepanier into the turn nine Carousel, taking the lead for the first time with three turns to go.

However Young was in way too hot, and Trepanier ducked back under in a replay of his fight for the lead with Szoke in 2018.  In the run up the hill to the finish, Trepanier left the door ajar and Young went for the inside gap, winning in style with Trepanier inches behind (.2 of a second) in second and Daley a close third.

Young’s victory might be the decisive moment in the 2019 campaign, and defiantly showed a fiery side to the normally controlled “Braveheart.” With another race the next day for the first time in 2019, the Szoke camp were concerned that they could field a back-up machine in just 24 Hours.

Szoke On the Water

The 21st consecutive Mopar CSBK National weekend at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Nova Scotia, sponsored by LS2 Helmets, Liqui Moly and Pro Cycle, produced more success for the only two racers to have won a Mopar Pro Superbike Feature race in 2019:  Kawasaki’s reigning Champ Jordan Szoke and BMW’s series leader Ben Young.  However, that raw data does little to explain the wild, unpredictable and memorable events at this year’s Shubenacadie weekend, July 18-21.

Sunday’s feature involved rain for the first time since St-Eustache in 2015, and competitors scrambled to prepare after a violent storm wracked the hilly A.M.P. venue.  A brief practice let everyone get a start on figuring out where the puddles were, how Dunlop rain tires work and possible settings for electronics in the changing conditions.

The rain had almost stopped when Young grabbed the hole shot, setting the pace as the pack stayed tight behind him, everyone feeling out the tricky conditions.  Eventually Yong and Szoke built a slight lead, ahead of a tight group including Daley, Trepanier, Leon, Jeff Williams (BMW) and standout Superbike rookie Tomas Casas on the Parts Canada Yamaha YZF-R1.

As the track dried, Szoke started his attack on Young, and the pace eventually dropped into the 1:15s, very quick for rain tires on a kinda-dry line.  Young seemed willing to let the aggressive Szoke lead, and at the finish Szoke won by almost six seconds from the points leader.  

With just the double header at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (August 9-11) left to run, Young is more-or-less a full race ahead in the 2019 standings, with 253 points to Szoke’s 194 total.

An on-form “T.V. Tommy” Casas had his best career Superbike finish, earning a Feature Podium for the first time in third, holding off the determined efforts of Trepanier.  Also showing well in mixed conditions was Williams, a very close fifth, while Leon opted on a careful run after Saturday’s fall, netting sixth.

Looking like a good bet for third, Daley suffered a major high side at the Carousel, but managed to remount and get his beaten Suzuki to the finish in seventh – the second time this season he has earned good points after a tumble.  Ernest Bernhard had his best Feature race outing, staying on pace to eighth with his Yamaha. 

Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike: Casas vs Hornblower

Heading into A.M.P., reigning two-time Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike Champ and Yamaha bLU cRU leader Tomas Casas was on a run, and he needed to be – after a crash in the opener, Will Hornblower had a solid lead and a decent shot at the crown with his BlueStreak/402 Cycle Yamaha YZF-R6.

In Saturday’s ultra hot conditions, Casas took control early, as Hornblower made a couple of early mistakes.  Settled in second, Hornblower looked for a pass, but never had a solid chance that he could exploit.  Hornblower almost made a move work on the run to the finish line, coming up just .09 short, while Sebastien Tremblay was also in the mix, the third place Turcotte Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja rider continuing to recover from recent shoulder surgery.

On Sunday, the Pro Sport Bike riders raced early, before the rains arrived, and the hot and humid conditions were again an issue – they seemed to take a tole on several front runners, particularly Casas.

This time, Hornblower took control and set the pace, with another A.M.P. effort that might turn out to be crucial in a Championship season. Tremblay was again close, winding up two seconds back on victor Hornblower.

Casas was lucky to claim third, since he was under serious threat from the ever-improving Playground Poker Club Kawasaki of 2018 Brooklin Cycle Racing rookie of the Year Samuel Desmarais.  The ambitious Desmarais was looking everywhere for a safe pass but ran wide of Casas and off-track in turn one, falling and bringing an early stop to the action.

Possible 2019 BCR Rookie of the Year Nicolas Meunier wound up netting fourth in another strong effort, just clear of third-in-the-standings David McKay’s Kawasaki and the Pro Cycle Millson Suzuki of out-of-retirement Jacob Shaw-O’Leary.  

It will be interesting to see just how the expected “draft and pass” lead pack works out at the final Double Header at C.T.M.P.  Hornblower would seem to be in a good spot, ahead in the standings (238-204 points) from Casas, but a tight group of front runners could make for very unpredictable outcomes.     

Amateurs in A.M.P.

Mopar Express Lane Amateur Superbike racers often struggle with tricky conditions with the late-in-the-schedule National, and the rainy conditions Sunday afternoon at A.M.P. were a real challenge.  Christian Allard hung in for an impressive win aboard the Turcotte Performance Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja.

Allard wound up 13 seconds clear of second in the red flag and ran-shortened Round, with local Scott Alexander runner up on another Kawasaki 600.  First big bike home was the Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja of Guillaume Fortin in third.

With two races left to run at C.T.M.P. in the only Amateur double headers of the year, Fortin continues to hold first overall with 165 points, followed by Allard at 142.  Aprilia’s Dave Natale, the early season pace setter, crashed at A.M.P. in the first start and injured his shoulder.  Even with his recent DNF’s at St-Eustache and A.M.P., Natale still holds third in the Championship standings with 115 points, just ahead of Andrew Haick at 112.

Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike ran earlier, in better conditions, and Allard earned his first win of the day with a two second victory over arch-rival Jake LeClair, last year’s Lightweight Champ on a bLU cRU Yamaha YZF-R6.  Connor Campbell was a good third on his Kawasaki, just edging local Honda racer Chad Whitehead.

The A.M.P. win helped move Allard ahead in the points, giving him a 19-point edge, 197 to 178, over LeClair with two races left to run.  Now the series heads to LeClair’s home track, and the tile is almost certainly going to either Allard or LeClair:  third overall Campbell is 55 points (one race) back at 123, and fourth overall Jordan Bauer (Yam) is fourth at 122.

Lightweight Gets Tight

For most of the 2019 TSN’s Motorcycle Experience Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike season, Princeville Nova Scotia’s Avery Hart has had great ultimate pace but has struggled with consistency.  On his return to home ground at A.M.P., Hart finally had a solid, all-star weekend with his WRBF Yamaha YZF-R3, earning clear victories in the ninth and tenth race in the 12 contest Lightweight Championship chase.

On Saturday, Hart gradually pulled clear to beat Championship rival Ben LeClair’s R3, winning by over three seconds, while Calabogie break-through victor Trevor Dion was right with LeClair for third with his Kawasaki Ninja 400.  Hart’s young-gun team-mate Keegan Gaudet from Ellerslie, PEI had a good fourth at his home track, holding on the ambitious efforts of Honda CBR500R-mounted Matt Simpson, who wound up fifth.

Sunday offered a slightly lesser pace, with a few changes in a red-flag interrupted run.  Hart was further ahead this time, an unusually large margin of five seconds ahead of Simpson, who had a great run to second and edged third overall LeClair by less than a tenth of a second! Local ace Patrick Pelletier netted fourth with his Ninja 400, just holding off Gaudet.

All of this means that the Championship chase is oh-so-close heading into the final two races coming up at Ben LeClair’s home track of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park August 10 and 11. With over 100 points up for grabs, LeClair holds a narrow edge at 414, with Hart right there at 400.  The consistent Simpson is now up to third in the standings at 321 from the 315 of Gaudet.  So, it looks like LeClair and Hart will need to do their best in the slipstream of “old Mosport” to ensure their best shot at the Ltwt National Title.