Canadian Championship Round One Report... circa 1980

To mark the 40th anniversary of the event considered to be the first Canadian National of the modern Superbike era, we are reprinting “Cycle Canada” magazine’s coverage of the opening round of 1980. 

Edmonton International Speedway

Round one of two – Canadian Championship Roadrace

June 7-8, 1980

Western riders triumphed over a small but strong contingent of eastern hot shots to take the lion’s share of the $ 3,000 in prize money at the opening round of the Canadian National roadracing Championship Series.  Sponsorship was provided by Alberta Cycle, Carling O’Keefe, Champion Spark Plugs and Coca-Cola.

The only Ontario racer with good luck was Expert Superbike Feature race winner George Morin, who took his Doug’s Cycle prepared, Nican Trading-sponsored Kawasaki KZ1000 Mk II to a convincing victory.  Morin ran third in the early laps behind leader Frank Mrazek (Castrol Kawasaki) and local favorite Steve Dick (Alberta Honda CBX) and played it cool as attrition took its tole.  

Morin moved into first when Mrazek lost its counter shaft sprocket.

“I thought Frank was on my tail pushing me for laps and laps,” confirmed Morin. “I tried to concentrate on saving the titres, figuring I’d have to make a last lap charge. The I looked back and saw only Dick was close.  

“Dick’s bike was fast, and he took up a lot of room on the track.  But when it started to get really hot, Dick’s bike really started to slide and wobble.  Then I knew I probably had the win.”

At the completion of 20 laps, Morin was 14 seconds clear of the slowing Dick.  Meanwhile, Morin was just about to lap third place finisher Rueben McMurter’ s ex-Bob Price Kawasaki.

McMurter had a disappointing weekend.  In practice he looked set to join the Morin-Dick-Mrazek battle with his Cycle Engineering and Lang Hindle-backed KZ1000 Mk II.  (Hindle opted to skip Edmonton and race at a Brimaco Regional at Shannonville instead) Unfortunately, while running second in Saturday’s heat race, McMurter crashed his new mount in the rough and tricky first corner.  The result was a bent bike and injured racer.

The Kawasaki was fixed during a midnight session lead by McMurter’ s father, Earl, with former owner, the also injured (From Mosport) Bob Price doing the work.  McMurter was another story.

“After looking at my shoulder, the Doctor told me not to do anything physical for at least a month,” stated Phys Ed student McMurter post race.  “Right now, I’m in agony.”

McMurter raced Sunday with a heavy brace on his shoulder, unsure if he could complete the race.  He stayed with the leaders early, but the pain and heat made McMurter happy to get third following his crew’s massive efforts.

Star of the weekend’s racing was local wild man Dick.  The likeable Dick took his monocoque-framed, home built Can-Am to first in the 125cc Grand Prix event, and then finished fourth with the same single against the Yamaha twins in a strong 250cc G.P. field.  

Dick’s most spectacular efforts were reserved for the six-cylinder Honda CBX 1000.  Widely considered too unwieldly for roadracing use, Dick was dragging everything but his elbows while hustling the monster around his home track.

The easterners laughed at first, but they stopped commenting once they saw Dick’s lap times.  Second overall was an incredible result, especially considering it was Dick’s first start in a Superbike race, let alone aboard the brand new, essentially stock demo model Honda.  Dick’s CBX was backed by event sponsor Alberta Cycle and Wolf Exhaust engineering.

“We didn’t have time to do much to the Honda,” explained the diminutive Dick.  “Brian Hansen, who built most of the stuff on my Can-Am, beefed up the swing arm so a slick would fit, and that was our only major modification.  

“I love riding the CBX, I could throw it around and slide it all over the place.  I had a bit of a weight penalty and the Ontario guys were pulling me a little on the straights.  The towards the end of the race the rear suspension faded, and the back slick began to go off.”

Dick had never raced with slicks before and was thus shocked to see that his rear tire had worn past the depth indicator.  Morin explained that he usually discarded a tire when it had half that amount of use.

Tires were a major issue for the leading riders running slick rubber at Edmonton.  The track was so abrasive and provided so much grip in the very warm weather, that most slicks were coming apart after 15 laps.  The front running racers using the same bike in both the Expert 250cc and 500cc G.P. races were forced to change tires between races, with many Experts going through more than $ 500 worth of race rubber.

The 500cc Grand Prix category shaped up as a major confrontation between 1979 Canadian Champ Steve Gervais aboard his Castrol Yamaha TZ350 and this season’s most successful Yamaha twin pilot Garry Collins aboard his Rocket-backed TZ 373.  Both racers, famous for their exploits on Yamaha’s four-cylinder TZ750, were forced to scrounge equipment due to the unusual 500cc National category choice.

Both elected to run larger variants of Yamaha’s TZ250, Gervais aboard tuner Alex Mayes’ ex-Isle of Man machine, while Collins’ tuner Ron Lefebvre built a 373 (using a single TZ750 barrel) out of borrowed parts from other Rocket-supported racers.

In the Heat race, Collins and Gervais left the field behind and put on a great show until Gervais’ suffered a seizure.  Frantic work in the pits saw Gervais’ crew complete an engine rebuild with borrowed 250cc engine parts.  Unfortunately, the 350’s carbs and exhaust expansion chambers were not well-suited to the 250 barrels, and the bike was now a rough-running slug.

At the start of the 500cc final, Collins lead from Calgary’s Frank Van Sertima, Edmonton’s Rob King and Montreal’s Steve Bragg.  As Collins pulled out a big lead, King and Van Sertima fought for second and Gervais struggled into the top six.  Then Collins slowed and pitted – an obscure ignition problem ended his National challenge.

King, a second year roadracer and first year Expert, won is first National in his debut with the Cycle Works Yamaha TZ250, Gervais working up to fourth.

Collins regained his composure on his regular Yamaha in the 250 G.P. race, taking a clear victory over the ever-dueling Van Sertima and King duo.  King opted to change his clutch between races and didn’t change the rear tire as had most of his rivals.  This slowed King considerably, but he confirmed there was no other choice in the time available.

Collins expected the 250cc win, but really wanted the all-important 500cc class victory.

“The bike ran great in 250 and I played it cool to save the tires,” he explained.  “If I had pushed, I could have taken off the way I did at the start of the 500cc race, but you know how far that got me.  After the 500-class issue, I just wanted to win it, not push it.”

The 250cc G.P. event was marred by a serious accident involving Quebec rider Bragg on a Yamaha TZ250.  Bragg was dicing with Van Sertima for second when they came up to pass an Ambulance picking up a downed racer.  As the duo reached the accident scene, the Ambulance cut across their path.

Van Sertima took to the track’s verge and just missed the van, but Bragg glanced off the side of the vehicle, severely injuring his leg.  Bragg had earlier placed third in the 500cc race, but a seizure put his trick Sachs out of action in the 125cc G.P. class.

In the Junior class 125cc Grand Prix event, Steve Dick’s younger brother Paul also won on their unique Can-Am rotary valve single.  Clayton Underwood from Edmonton finished second, making for a Can-Am one-two.  Medicine Hat racer Klaus Seefried was the most successful Junior TZ250 performer, taking first in 250 G.P. and second in the 500 class.  Edmonton’s Mel Stratichuk was first in 500 and third in the 2500cc class race.

Several issues slowed the successful Alberta Roadracing Club conducted National, including the unfortunate Bragg incident.  Flooding of the track cancelled Saturday morning’s crucial practice, and most of the out-of-town racers were unaware of the numerous and unusual rules and regulations at this venue.

For instance, the operator must wear a helmet any time an engine is started, and fines were placed on teams that broke these rules.  Gervais and Mrazek were fined $ 15 each for arriving late to Scrutineering, and some Rule Book interpretation problems occurred, including with Morin’s winning Kawasaki.

The overall atmosphere was friendly, and it was clear that many Edmonton Club members, including Referee Sukoshi Fahey, had worked hard to stage the opening event of 1980.  The second and deciding round of the Canadian National Roadracing Championship will take place at Shannonville Motorsport Park, ON, September 20 and 21.