The last day of official preseason testing wrapped up with a familiar name atop the Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship leaderboard, as Jordan Szoke exited the Winter Test at Jennings GP as the man to beat in the feature Pro Superbike ranks.
Szoke’s return to Superbike action for the first time in over a year went as smoothly as anyone could have expected on Tuesday, leading day one at the north Florida circuit as the grid adjusted to the new Bridgestone spec tires.
His time of 1:17.732 seemed like a decent benchmark for the event, given how much the track surface has worsened since the previous test at Jennings in 2011. Instead, Szoke repeatedly topped the field in sessions four, five, and six, lowering the top time to a blistering 1:16.386 lap aboard his LDS Consultants Kawasaki.
It seemed like everything went right for Szoke in his return to Jennings and the Bridgestone CSBK series, showing zero signs of rust as he approaches his 26th season in the feature Pro Superbike class.
Defending champion Ben Young will exit a long Florida trip as the second-fastest rider overall, pacing majority of day one before eventually settling in behind Szoke with a time of 1:16.741, only 0.355 seconds slower.
The Van Dolder’s Home Team BMW rider fought through a previous test at Jennings, the famed Daytona 200, and now the official Winter Test all in the last two weeks, but won’t take much time to rest as he aims to put his #1 plate back at the front for round one in nine weeks.
Completing the top trio was unsurprisingly Alex Dumas, with the former champion battling through a number of problems during the course of the test before ultimately topping the final session with a competitive 1:17.281 lap aboard his Purple Skull/Liqui Moly Suzuki.
Dumas used all the track time to his advantage with 62 laps completed in two days – the most of anyone in the top-seven riders – as he eventually weeded out some issues to bring himself within 0.895 seconds of Szoke.
The surprise of the test was rookie Pierre Simard in fourth, who continued to hang with the “usual suspects” at the front of day two aboard his D1C Suzuki. The former top Amateur was the only other rider to break into the 1:17’s, sitting 0.645 seconds off fellow Suzuki rider Dumas.
Rounding out the top five in the combined times was another “returning rookie” in Trevor Dion, who made more progress with his new LDS Consultants Kawasaki and continued to learn from teammate Szoke before posting a strong time of 1:18.141.
Sam Guerin was notably sixth, with the former championship runner-up breaking in a new EFC Group BMW machine of his own. The fan favourite managed a 1:18.531 lap, and seemed on course to be the “iron man” of the event with 54 laps completed in the first day and a half before sitting out the final two sessions.
That title ultimately went to rookie Alex Michel instead, who completed a staggering 67 laps across two days, placing himself 18th in the combined timesheets.
While the Pro’s were all combined at the Winter Test, the early Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike rider to beat was Vincent Levillain, who rebounded from a hectic Daytona 200 to finish eleventh overall and tops amongst the 600cc riders.
The SpeedFactory67 rider wound up just 0.040 seconds faster than title favourite David MacKay, who struggled early on in his adjustment to the Bridgestone tires but eventually put his ODH Snow City Kawasaki closer to where many expected.
Third-fastest of the group was Matt Simpson, who made up a ton of time in day two to put his Evans Racing Yamaha only 0.294 seconds off the top Sport Bike spot and 14th overall heading into the season.
As if Andrew Cooney’s first day as a Scorpion Amateur Sport Bike rider wasn’t impressive enough, the Fast Company Honda competitor made absolutely sure his pace wouldn’t go unnoticed on day two.
Already leading the way with a 1:20.625 lap time on Tuesday, Cooney blitzed the Amateur group to a new benchmark of 1:19.883 in session five – an incredible lap that would have made him the top Pro Sport Bike rider and 11th amongst the Pro’s overall.
Somehow a distant second despite a strong lap of his own, Mack Weil managed to place himself in the rear-gunner spot of the Amateur ranks behind a time of 1:20.952, confirming the MotorcycleCourse Yamaha’s status as one of the lone title threats to Cooney this season.
Completing the lead triad of Amateurs was fellow teenager Maverick Cyr, who posted an improved 1:22.175 lap to place his Triumph firmly in the podium mix entering round one at Shannonville Motorsport Park.
The lead Lightweight rider continued to be 15-year-old sensation Vincent Lalande, who stormed to a ridiculous 1:26.620 in only his second ever day as a national rider. The reigning Mini Superbike Ohvale Cup champion has thus far cemented himself as one of the future stars of the sport, clearing the next Lightweight rider by over 1.5 seconds.
That proved to be former title winner Harvey Renaud, who paced a tighter battle for second just marginally ahead of Justin Marshall, with the main challenger to Lalande still unclear entering the campaign.
The Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship will now sit and wait for a lengthy nine weeks before returning for round one in late May, with an eleven-race, five-round slate upcoming in 2023.
Full results from the two-day test at Jennings GP can be found on the series’ official website at csbk.ca.