Tremblay’s return throws curveball into Sport Bike class as Simpson leads into Grand Bend

The Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike class has already become known as perhaps the most wild and unpredictable category in the Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship, so it’s hard to imagine any more surprises could be thrown our way entering round two at Grand Bend Motorplex, June 8-11.

Instead, enter Sebastien Tremblay.

The 2021 champion and one of the most successful Pro Sport Bike riders of all-time will return to the class at Grand Bend, piloting a Turcotte Performance Suzuki GSX-R600 as he and Suzuki Canada look to expand their dominance into the middleweight category.

Tremblay left the class after winning his first crown two years ago to focus fully on his GP Bikes Pro Superbike effort, scoring three podiums in 2022 and finishing fourth overall in his Superbike campaign.

Now back on a Sport Bike saddle, it’s hard not to anoint Tremblay the new favourite entering round two even as he takes time to adjust to his new Suzuki, having swept his championship campaign last time out.

The fan-favourite out of Quebec won eight consecutive races from the end of 2019 through 2021, the third-longest streak of all-time, and would have won the 2020 championship if it was awarded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His return is especially bad news for championship leader Matt Simpson, but perhaps more so former rival David MacKay, who would have entered Grand Bend as the overwhelming favourite.

MacKay has plenty of mileage around the circuit as a SOAR regional star, proving that in 2022 as he looked set to win race one before crashing out of the lead, only to get redemption and score his first career national victory in race two.

He could still prove to be a challenge to Tremblay, however, as his experience at Grand Bend is unmatched while his racecraft has improved tremendously from the version Tremblay last saw in 2021.

The Snow City Cycle Kawasaki star recently dominated the SOAR regional opener and already approached his national lap times from 2022, meaning MacKay will at the very least be able to match Tremblay’s pace entering his home track.

As for Simpson, it’s tough to gauge where he stands entering round two, having experienced numerous highs and lows at the venue. The Blackstock Motorsports Yamaha rider captured his first career pro national podium in race one a year ago, but followed that up with a hard crash in race two.

His recent run at the SOAR regional was also challenging, having run off and settling only for seventh. However, regional struggles aside, Simpson has looked like a much more polished rider in 2023, earning his championship lead in round one by finishing a pair of smart races in third and second and avoiding the crash-filled drama around him.

While the list of additional challengers could go on forever, the two other names to watch out for will be the two winners thus far, Connor Campbell and Brad Macrae.

Campbell mastered the wet conditions of race one at Shannonville to score his own first pro national victory for the B&T MacFarlane/Kubota Kawasaki team, before Macrae did the same in race two on his Colron Excavating Yamaha, becoming the seventh different first-time winner in the ten races since Tremblay’s departure.

As for their 2022 performances, Campbell scored what was then a career-best finish of fourth in race one at Grand Bend, as he looks to improve one spot and join the podium once again in 2023, while Macrae battled to finish seventh in race two.

Surprise race one leader and eventual second-place finisher Alex Coelho will be making his first trip to Grand Bend since 2019, where the Lean Angle Motorsports Kawasaki rider finished seventh.

One fan-favourite who was expected to be in a much different position by now is Elliot Vieira, who crashed in qualifying for round one in his GP Bikes Ducati debut and failed to start either race as he couldn’t repair his damaged machine.

Now back at full strength, Vieira will need to at least replicate his 2022 performances of second and fourth if he wishes to keep his championship hopes alive, though you can never count out the double-race winner from a season ago.

As for any local names that may threaten the top of the timesheets, the focus turns to the pair of Jordan Bauer and rookie Sebastian Hothaza, who shared the podium with MacKay in the SOAR regional opener last weekend.

Bauer quietly impressed with a pair of sixth-place finishes at Grand Bend in 2022, his only appearance of the season, and looked strong once again in the final tune-up for the national as he aims for his first pro national podium.

As for Hothaza, the first-year pro won the Scorpion EXO Amateur Sport Bike race at Grand Bend last season, far and away his best result of the campaign, and he proved he has the potential to do so once again as he threatened MacKay’s times en route to finishing second at the regional opener.

Running jointly with the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike class, Jeff Williams will be the favourite to expand his title lead in the developing Pro Twins category, after winning both races comfortably in its inaugural weekend.

The Williams Paving Aprilia rider battled closely with some of the top sport bike’s in round one, finishing as high as fourth on-track in the rain in race one, but all that matters is that he keeps his advantage over his fellow Twins competitors.

The closest of those competitors will likely be British Columbia’s Andrew Van Winkle, who sits second to Williams aboard his FD Racing Suzuki and just ahead of veteran Hans Van Sleuwen, riding his Total Truck Care Suzuki.

The full schedule for the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike and Pro Twins class can be found on the series’ official website, as well as other support class action and the feature GP Bikes Superbike category.