2021 Superbike Championship battle ranks amongst closest in CSBK history

Regardless of how next weekend’s Canadian Superbike Championship finale plays out at Calabogie Motorsports Park, September 17 and 18, one thing has been clear this season; the Pro Superbike feature crown won’t be won easily. 

Rookie sensation Alex Dumas will lead former champion Ben Young by just 10 points into the final round with a maximum of 108 points still on the table at Calabogie Motorsports Park, setting up for one of the most dramatic finishes in CSBK history.

Though Dumas, Young, and the rest of the field will have a doubleheader to contend with – unlike most of the single-race finales in the past – there’s a good chance the 2021 campaign could still go down as the closest title battle ever. 

With that thrilling conclusion in mind, here’s a summary of the previous title battles that have been decided by only a handful of points.  

1988 – McMurter hangs on after wild ride to win title by just one point

While the 1988 campaign should be presented with an asterisk due to the massively different points structure, it’s hard to ignore just a one-point difference in the title standings. A win was worth just 15 points at the time as opposed to 50 now, meaning Rueben McMurter’s single-point victory was equal to a modern day 16-point gap, but that didn’t make the season finale at Shannonville Motorsport Park any less memorable. 

The Honda rider entered with a two-point advantage over Steve Dick thanks to three wins earlier in the season, and seemingly needed only to finish on the podium to have a strong chance at the title. Instead, McMurter crashed in the final turn amidst heavy rain, remounting in eighth place, though his new title rival had become third-place Gary Goodfellow as Dick struggled in the wet conditions. Goodfellow would manage third behind rookie race winner Miguel Duhamel, but the crucial eighth place for McMurter was enough to win the controversial title by just a single point over Goodfellow. 

1998 – Battle between Kawasaki trio leads to first Szoke championship

After splitting the previous four championships, the Kawasaki duo of Don Munroe and Michael Taylor entered the 1998 campaign as clear co-favourites, but a surprising teenager from within their own garage proved to be the thorn in their side. 

Munroe, Taylor, and rookie teammate Jordan Szoke each found the top step of the podium in the first four races, but the pivotal race was Szoke’s debut win in a rainy round three at Race City, where Munroe crashed to derail his championship bid and set up a surprising battle between Taylor and the 19-year-old Szoke. 

Taylor and Szoke would split the next two rounds in Quebec, putting Taylor 13 points clear of his teammates entering the finale at Shannonville. The older ZX-9R mounted teammate battled for the win and a likely championship with Munroe early on, before an exhaust mount broke, giving Szoke his first Superbike title by just eight points, and handing Munroe his final win before retirement. 

2003 – Picotte holds on to win closest title fight ever in CSBK return

Entering the 2003 season, all eyes were on Pascal Picotte as he returned north of the border on a landmark deal with Yamaha, and few would be mistaken in calling him the likely champion after Szoke traded places with him to race in the United States. 

However, the year quickly became one of the most wide-open in CSBK history with five different winners in the first five races, meaning Francis Martin took an eleven-point lead over Steve Crevier into the final three rounds with Picotte an additional point behind in third. A crucial win in AMP followed by a second-place finish in rain at Mont-Tremblant flipped the title fight in Picotte’s favour, and he would take a 17-point lead over Crevier into the Shannonville finale. 

Needing only a podium to clinch the title, Picotte instead echoed McMurter in 1988, crashing on lap two and remounting in 22nd place. Crevier (Diablo-Suzuki) appeared to have the title in hand, before Martin (Blackfoot-Suzuki) stole the victory and relegated his Suzuki teammate to second, with a charging Picotte salvaging sixth further back. Though even Picotte himself didn’t think it was enough, he ultimately would hold on to defeat Crevier by just five points, with only nine points separating the top three in the championship. 

2009 – Szoke holds off teenaged McCormick as new rivalry is born

With a fifth Superbike title under his belt and former teammate Brett McCormick leaving Kawasaki for the revised Picotte-led Blackfoot Suzuki program, Szoke entered the 2009 campaign as a comfortable favourite for his fourth-straight championship. Despite a stiff challenge from McCormick in round one, an early victory didn’t change those expectations much with Kawasaki’s Szoke taking the initial lead in the championship. 

That all changed by round four, though, as McCormick rattled off consecutive wins to pose a legitimate threat to Szoke’s title bid. A pivotal horsepower penalty applied to McCormick in round four meant Szoke opened up a sizeable advantage, but even that wasn’t enough to derail McCormick’s hopes as he won again in round six to keep himself within 14 points entering the Shannonville finale.

The 18-year-old needed both a good result of his own and for Szoke to encounter some trouble, but he checked off the first box in stunning fashion as he blitzed the lap record in qualifying and stormed away for his fourth win of the season. However, Szoke would not be phased by the performance, running a quiet race in second to wrap up his record-tying sixth title – albeit by just five points over his up-and-coming rival.