Lalande, Hardwick wrap up strong Mini Cup weekend in Barber

Canadian Mini Superbike National Championship stars Vincent Lalande and Ben Hardwick completed their impressive debut weekend in Alabama on Sunday, adding a pair of strong races in the North America Mini Cup at Barber Motorsports Park.

After completing their duties in the 190 class on Saturday, the duo returned for two more battles in the feature 160 category, where they each impressed in a pair of races already on Saturday. 

The 14-year-old Lalande and 13-year-old Hardwick had stiff competition to deal with in the MotoAmerica finale, but continued to gain valuable knowledge of the Barber layout and adjust to the southern US heat, which was especially challenging for perhaps the two tallest riders in the paddock.

Race one in the 160 class brought plenty of traffic, with Lalande overcoming a difficult start to once again carve his way through the field and finish eighth in the 14-rider category, running closely with reigning champion Kensei Matsudaira in the process.

Hardwick, meanwhile, continued to show massive improvement as he fought his way to 12th, approaching his best times of the weekend late in the race.

The first race was won by Nathan Gouker, who won comfortably from Anthony Lupo Jr. and Joshua Raymond in a surprising podium combination. 

Race two was another strong one for Lalande and maybe the best one of the event for Hardwick, as both riders cracked the top ten and each managed their most impressive pace of the weekend.

Lalande would finish sixth after a close battle with Nathan Battencourt for fifth, with the CMSBK champion actually lapping similarly to the top-four but getting caught up in traffic as he capped off an excellent weekend with his fifth top-seven finish in six races. 

The result was just as strong for Hardwick, who bagged his first top-ten finish of the 160 class weekend in tenth and managed to distance himself from the pack behind, running his best race-pace of the event to bring home more points for the Canadian duo. 

Race two would be won by eleven-year-old sensation Mac MacClugage, who came out on top of an entertaining three-way battle with runner-up Ryder Davis and race one winner Nathan Gouker.

MacClugage would be crowned the feature 160 North American Mini Cup champion for 2022, with he and Davis earning a selection to the FIM World Mini GP in Valencia, Spain in early November. 

The weekend will serve as potentially the final Mini Superbike race of Lalande’s career as he eyes a move to the CSBK Lightweight category, while Hardwick returns to the CMSBK series as one of the title favourites for 2023.