Four-time defending Mopar Pro Superbike champion Jordan Szoke will start from pole position on Sunday, securing the fastest time of the day on Saturday as he will start from the front of the grid for the final Canadian Superbike Championship race at Autodrome St-Eustache.
The 13-time National champion took longer than expected to score his first pole position after returning to the Mopar Express Lane Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja program this offseason, but all it took was a trip to La Belle Province for the Lynden, ON veteran to get things back on track.
After pacing the initial qualifying session with a time of 46.383, Szoke made no mistake in the Top Ten SuperPole session, setting a fast lap of 45.524 to place himself 0.144 seconds clear of rival Ben Young.
Despite scoring a crucial pole position – and doing so with a faster time than his pole pace from a year ago – Szoke had been strugging with rear tire grip for much of the weekend, before finally finding a balance in the final SuperPole session.
“We had been having some problems with it, but everyone’s kind of dealing with the same thing to an extent,” said Szoke. “It was hard just to get fast laps in the first place because of all the traffic, but we’re pretty happy with how things are looking for tomorrow. Everything’s working really well now.”
As for Young, it will be an uphill battle for the Collingwood, ON native on Sunday, as the championship leader has looked a step behind Szoke for much of the weekend aboard his Barrie Trim/Scot-Build BMW S1000RR.
“There’s a lot of traffic out there, it made it really hard to find clean track and get consistent laps in,” Young said. “But the pace is pretty good, so if we can get a good start tomorrow we should be able to stay right up there fighting for another win.”
Joining Szoke and Young on the front row will be round two podium finisher Trevor Daley, who continues to come to grips with his OneSpeed/Fast Company Suzuki GSX-R1000R machine. The Mississauga, ON native struggled in round one after an early crash, but has looked like a dark horse to win his first ever Pro Superbike race since.
Leading off the front row will be St. Isidore, QC native Samuel Trepanier, who finished third in St-Eustache a year ago and will look to do the same, or better, in Sunday’s race aboard his Blysk Racing BMW.
Rounding out the top five behind Trepanier will be Inverary, ON veteran Jeff Williams, who has also begun to round into form aboard his Williams Paving BMW and will aim to finish in the top-five for the first time all year come race day.
The top rookie in Saturday’s qualifying was Maple, ON’s Ivan Babic, who will need a strong finish on Sunday aboard his Champion Cycle BMW after missing round two due to injury.
Headlining the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike class on Sunday will be two-time defending champion Tomas Casas, as the Peterborough, ON youngster continues to get his season back on track after a tough start aboard his Parts Canada Yamaha YZF-R6.
Casas just narrowly edged current championship leader and Yamaha counterpart Will Hornblower, beating the Sarnia, ON native to pole position by just 0.056 seconds after posting a time of 46.969.
“Tommy made some changes and his pace really picked up, but we’re both really close so I’m not super worried,” said Hornblower. “If I can hang with him off the start I think I got a real shot, but realistically if we can podium it will be nice for the championship.”
Joining the two on the front row will be David MacKay and his Mack Attack Racing Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja, as the Hamilton, ON rider looks to build upon his current second place standing in the points with a strong start on Sunday.
Notably rounding out the top five will be Turcotte Performance Kawasaki teammates Vincent Levillian and Sebastien Tremblay, albeit under different circumstances. The Montreal, QC rookie of Levillian will celebrate his best qualifying finish as a Pro, while Mirabel, QC’s Tremblay continues to battle through a broken collarbone suffered in a round two crash.
The first race of the weekend was won by local veteran Alex Berthiaume, as the Laval, QC rider took a crucial victory aboard his Yamaha YZF-R3 in the first of two races for the TSN Motorcycle Experience Lightweight Sport Bike class.
“I got a good enough start, and I knew I was at a mismatch because I’m a bit older and a bit bigger than these guys,” Berthiaume laughed. “But I was able to settle in and get the win, which is huge for the championship, and hopefully we can do it again tomorrow.”
Joining Berthiaume on the podium were Yamaha teenagers Keegan Gaudet and Ben LeClair, as the Ellerslie, PEI native of Gaudet was able to make a thrilling last-lap pass on his Blackstock, ON counterpart to secure second-place.
“I’ve been looking forward to just staying at the front this weekend,” said Gaudet, who crashed out in race two of round two. “I had an opening at the end there, and I knew I had to make a move. Benny was all over me, but thankfully I held onto it.”
Notably finishing just off the podium was championship leader and Gaudet’s WRBF Yamaha teammate, Avery Hart, as the Princeville, NS native was forced to miss the morning’s qualifying and thus stormed his way from last on the grid to finish in fourth.
Pacing the field in the Mopar Express Lane Amateur Superbike class for the first time all weekend was Quebec City, QC’s Samuel Guerin, who made a late charge in qualifying to edge a big group of riders aboard his Aprilia RSV4RR, as the top six are all separated by just 0.396 seconds.
It was a less surprising result in the Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike class, as hometown favourite Christian Allard out of Chambly, QC continued his dominant weekend by scoring pole position aboard his Turcotte Performance Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja by over a half-second.
Full results from Saturday’s qualifying, including information for Sunday’s final day of racing at Autodrome St-Eustache, can be found on the series’ official website at www.csbk.ca.