The fourth round of the Canadian Superbike Championship was always going to be a crucial one, but fans of the Mopar Pro Superbike class will be in for some added drama when the series heads out east to Atlantic Motorsport Park this weekend, July 19-21.
The Pro Cycle-sponsored event, presented by LS2 Helmets and Liqui Moly, will mark the 21st consecutive season in which the CSBK tour has hit the East Coast circuit, the second-longest streak in the series.
The feature class will enter Nova Scotia in rare territory in 2019, as Ben Young leads the championship by 18 points over rival Jordan Szoke, scoring victories in the first two rounds and finishing second to Szoke in round three.
The Collingwood, ON native will now get two chances to extend his lead aboard his Barrie Trim/Scot-Build BMWS1000RR, as AMP represents the first of two doubleheader weekends for the Pro ranks.
Young managed to pick up second and third place finishes in round four a year ago, but both races were won by Szoke, who is coming off his first win of the season aboard his Mopar Express Lane Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja.
The Lynden, ON veteran will be hoping his round three victory is the turning point he needs, as the four-time defending champion has looked a step behind Young at times this season, and as such will enter AMP trailing in the series for the first time since losing the title to Brett McCormick 2011.
While Szoke has won the last seven races at the same track he made his Superbike debut at in 1997, the 13-time National champ has looked slightly less invincible on the East Coast than at other circuits over his career, even losing four times in a span of six years from 2009 to 2014.
His struggles, combined with the unpredictability of AMP, could have Szoke and Young in line for a much larger battle than normal this weekend, headlined by St. Isidore, QC native Samuel Trepanier.
Seemingly on the verge of scoring his first career win for two years now, Trepanier perhaps came closest a year ago at this very track, when he led Szoke in race two before settling for second place aboard his Blysk Racing BMW.
Trepanier has had a disappointing year so far in 2019, mostly due to an arm injury suffered in round one, but a strong qualifying performance could be all it takes to remind Young and Szoke of his ability to ride at the front.
Another rider who seemed long overdue for a breakout entering 2019 was Mississauga, ON native Trevor Daley, though he has since delivered on those expectations with podium finishes in rounds two and three to place him third in the overall standings.
Still, the Parts Canada/OneSpeed Suzuki GSX-R1000R rider has yet to score a Pro Superbike victory in his career, but his lone Pro victory – a crash-filled Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike contest in 2014 – came at Atlantic Motorsport Park, making him one of few in the paddock with winning experience on the East Coast.
As for the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike category, it may be the class that carries the largest championship implications this weekend, despite overall leader Will Hornblower entering with a 28-point cushion.
The Sarnia, ON native has not traveled to AMP since 2015 when he finished fourth, but has been the most consistent rider in the field this season, finishing in the top two in every race aboard his Sarnia Motorcycle Sales & Salvage Yamaha YZF-R6.
He will need to keep that trend going if he intends to leave round four with a points lead still in hand, but will have a tough time doing so as the most unpredictable track on the calendar is set to host a familiar face.
Falmouth, NS youngster Jacob Shaw-O’Leary is slated to return to the CSBK tour at his home circuit, riding a RMP Racing Suzuki GSX-R600R. The former rising star scored a pair of podium finishes in the doubleheader a year ago, including his first career Pro victory in race one, but chose to sit out the start of the 2019 campaign.
His return will be either a blessing or a curse to two-time defending champion Tomas Casas, who has won the last two races since crashing out in round one and is looking to keep his momentum going to catch Hornblower.
The Peterborough, ON youngster could use O’Leary to his advantage to help trim the points deficit aboard his Parts Canada Yamaha, or it could be yet another obstacle for the fan-favourite to overcome in his quest for a third consecutive title.
O’Leary won’t be the only hometown youngster to garner attention this weekend, however, as the TSN Motorcycle Experience Lightweight Sport Bike class will feature a pair of Maritime talents at the front of the grid.
After entering round three with a commanding 40-point stranglehold, a disaster three-race stretch saw Princeville, NS native Avery Hart fall as high as 48 points behind the championship lead, though he was able to trim that deficit slightly with a dominant win at Calabogie Motorsports Park.
Hart will likely be the one to beat as he returns to his home circuit, but he will almost certainly face a tough task from his WRBF Yamaha YZF-R3 teammate Keegan Gaudet, who is coming off a pair of podium finishes.
The Ellerslie, PEI teenager has not won since his National debut at CTMP last season, but could finally take the top step of the podium at AMP where he and Hart have developed a nail-biting history in the regional series.
The two will look to stretch as much of a gap as possible on points leader Ben LeClair, who struggled in round four last season (sixth in both races) but is strong at CTMP aboard his bLU cRU Yamaha out of Blackstock, ON.
The Amateur ranks will also enter a crucial weekend, albeit for different reasons, as both championship leaders enter with the smallest point gaps of all five classes in what is a traditional one-race weekend for the two categories.
Guillaume Fortin managed to take over the top spot in the Mopar Express Lane Amateur Superbike standings after a win in round three aboard his Turcotte Performance Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja, but the Blainville, QC native has not traveled to AMP in his short National career thus far.
Luckily for Fortin, it will also be the first appearance at the track for his closest rival, Dave Natale, who won the opening two rounds aboard his Aprilia RSV4RR before the Markham, ON native crashed in round three.
As such, the duo could be in for a tough weekend alongside the more experienced local contingent, though the track could also benefit the smaller Turcotte Performance Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja machine of Christian Allard.
Allard will have enough to deal with in the Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike class, however, as the Chambly, QC native enters with just a 12-point lead over teenager Jake LeClair, the smallest gap of any championship on the National tour.
Allard also did not travel to AMP last season, and while LeClair does have experience at AMP, the reigning Lightweight champion and older brother of Ben LeClair has yet to ride his bigger bLU cRU Yamaha YZF-R6 machine at the circuit.
The event will mark the return of a pair of familiar sponsors to the National tour. Pro Cycle has renewed their title sponsorship of the weekend and will once again be hosting their annual Thursday night party at their Dartmouth, NS location, where a number of top riders will be in attendance for autograph signings.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has also returned to sponsor both the CSBK starting lights and countdown clock for the final two rounds of the season, after IBEW began their partnership with the series in round one.
Information regarding the weekend can be found at the series’ official website at www.csbk.ca, while Pro Cycle can be found at www.procycleonline.com.