The 2017 National Superbike tour wound up with the traditional, all classes Double Header at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park August 18-20, and Jordan Szoke continued to set very high standards for performance at “old Mosport.” The pace was strong and it was very close at the front of the Mopar Pro Superbike Feature class, but Szoke continued his recent (three season!) run of dominance for the Mopar Express lane/Motovan supported BMW Motorrad S1000RR squad.
Since the advent of television and video coverage as well as prize money for Qualifying in CSBK thanks to major sponsors Dalton Timmis Insurance, Szoke has added the Q session to his “to do” list. At C.T.M.P. in 2017, special Dunlop rear slicks were used for the second time, and Szoke duly took advantage of the “two lap wonders,” setting a new outright motorcycle track lap record at 1:20.520. In the relatively cool and therefore favourable Friday afternoon conditions, Szoke managed to lap over a second faster with the “Q” Dunlop when compared to his more conservative opening session best lap.
Szoke acknowledged that he could have turned an even better lap, but a near crash in turn three on the first lap and traffic in turn eight on lap two of his “Q” tire’s two possible tours meant there is still time left to hunt in 2018. Is the first motorcycle lap in the 1:19s now a realistic goal?
Szoke’s biggest challenge came from a second year Pro that didn’t even make it to Dalton Timmis SuperPole in 2016, Neuroperforma/T2 backed Blysk Racing’s Samuel Trepanier. The 29-year-old Trepanier was very quick at C.T.M.P. from the start of practice, and pushed Szoke hard in the final SuperPole session – although Szoke didn’t appreciate Trepanier following the Champ on-track. In the end, Trepanier’s BMW was .3 of a second behind the Champ to earn second on the grid.
Ben Young’s Scot-Build Developments BMW was third quickest, while Bodie Edie on the Parts Canada/Z-1 Tuning supported Yamaha YZF-R1 made sure that BMW didn’t lock out the front row. C.T.M.P. was the first venue since the Shannonville opener where the track layout allowed for a 4-3-4 grid, rather than the narrow track 3-2-3 option.
Over the years Szoke has been clear in stating that trying to win races and titles while participating in a back-straight drafting battle at C.T.M.P. is not his idea of a fun weekend, although once again he made this set of goals look shockingly easy.
In Saturday’s first race, Szoke and Trepanier built a slight lead at the front, with an angry horde a couple of seconds behind fighting for third. A charging Young and Kenny Riedmann on the Sturgess Cycle/Liqui Moly Kawasaki ZX-10RR looked set to fight for the last podium spot behind victor Szoke and Trepanier, but a turn nine mix-up opened the door for Edie to nab third.
Trepanier’s second overall marked his first-ever podium trip as a Pro, and his fastest race lap of the Saturday Feature meant that he would start from pole on Sunday – a most unusual occurrence in the Szoke era.
On Sunday, a red flag due to Doug Lawrence’s big tumble in turn eight set up a short, eight lap sprint to finish of the 2017 National tour. In one of the most thrilling races of the season, Szoke held off a determined effort by Riedmann to earn his sixth win from seven 2017 starts – Riedmann was just one tenth of a second back at the finish.
Trepanier completed a great weekend with another podium in third, getting the best of Young and the ever-impressive Royal Distributing BMW of veteran front runner Michael Leon over a frantic last lap. Trepanier’s big break through at the final round meant that he jumped to fourth overall in final CSBK Series points behind Szoke, Riedmann and Young, and just barely ahead of Edie.
In summation, Szoke earned his 13th and 14th National Superbike race wins at C.T.M.P., as well as his third straight and 12th career overall National Championship number one plate. Next best is Steve Crevier with six number one titles, an achievement that was once considered unbeatable. Over the past three seasons, Szoke has lost the Superbike Feature only once – this year in the red flag interrupted first ever National at Grand Bend Motorplex.
One Championship chase that was by no means decided going into the final weekend at C.T.M.P. was the battle for Brooklin Cycle Racing Pro Rookie of the Year honours. 2016 Magneti Marelli Amateur Superbike Champion Jean-Marc Bilger had the points lead with his ex-Riedmann Vortex Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja, thanks to a strong performance at the previous round at Atlantic Motorsport Park.
In contention with Bilger for the crown was Doug Lawrence, the Flat Track Canada star in his first full season of road racing aboard the Parts Canada-backed Suzuki Canada 2017 GSX-R1000. Saturday’s Pro Superbike result tightened the battle for Pro Rookie of the Year, with Lawrence edging Bilger for 15th.
On Sunday, Lawrence looked to have a shot at taking the Rookie title, leading a busy group until a fall in turn eight sent him to the hospital, fortunately with no major issues discovered. At the restart, Bilger worked through to 15th, clinching BCR Rookie Pro honours.
On the podium, Montreal’s Bilger confirmed that it was an uphill struggle on his first Pro National tour, and that working toward the top Rookie honour was an important focal point to his season. Lawrence hung on for second, and both should look to the efforts of Young and Trepanier in 2017 – they were the top BCR Rookie Pro riders in 2016.
Yamaha pilot Mitch Card returned to action on the CSBK tour last season at the final rounds at C.T.M.P., his first serious effort in Canada since winning both Amateur crowns in 2012. Card twice came out on top of a tight drafting fight in Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike against Champ Riedmann (Kawasaki) and the Yamahas of Tomas Casas and Will Hornblower.
With Riedmann now busy full time in Superbike, 2017 was expected to be a fight between Card and Casas for the Pro Middleweight title and best rising star honours. Casas had everything go his way, successfully gambling on the new R6; Card came to C.T.M.P. 2017 with very little chance at the title but a major desire to return to his previous winning form.
Evergreen Frank Trombino missed C.T.M.P., the Prostar Honda pilot having won twice in four starts in Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike in 2017 but sidelined due to medical concerns following his big Superbike crash at A.M.P. in July.
On Saturday, Shoei/Goderich Toyota backed Card battled with Parts Canada/Peterborough Cycle supported Casas and the returning Hornblower, the young trio staging a great race before Card pulled ahead to net the win. Meanwhile, Casas earned second and clinched the number one plate in his third season as Pro, building on his Amateur title and 2015 co-Rookie of the Year honours.
On Sunday, the hard-luck plagued Hornblower crashed on the warm-up lap, but a new young gun joined the party up front: Jacob Shaw-O’Leary on the Pro Cycle Honda. After missing some rookie Pro time due to a hand injury suffered at Grand Bend, Shaw-O’Leary was on the podium at home at Atlantic Motorsport Park, but challenging Casas and Card at C.T.M.P. was definitely a confirmation of serious pace.
A couple of close calls meant that Shaw-O’Leary had to settle for third, while Card once again got the better of Casas. It is a shame we will have to wait until 2018 to see Casas, Card, Hornblower, Shaw-O’Leary and company back in action – Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike was very entertaining this season.
Heading into the only Amateur class double header races of 2017 at C.T.M.P., it seemed likely that season-long front runner Samuel Desmarais could win both Magneti Marelli Amateur Superbike as well as the typical class for his Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja, Shoei Premium Helmets Amateur Sport Bike. Desmarais’ biggest challenge was likely to come in Superbike from Ernest Bernhard’s Yamaha R1, then from Jean-Francois Aubin in both Amateur National divisions.
Unfortunately, the bizarre upsets that often define racing were much in evidence for CSBK Amateur racers at C.T.M.P., starting with Saturday’s Amateur Superbike race: Bernhard was caught up in a last corner assault and was injured, unable to compete for the rest of the weekend. Jason Thoms won both days on his BMW, and Desmarais netted sixth Saturday on his Kawasaki, the best placed middleweight bike.
Earlier, in Saturday’s Amateur Sport Bike, former Lightweight ace Cameron Walker earned an impressive victory with his Kawasaki, with Desmarais close behind for second and looking set for another National crown. But, in Amateur Sport Bike on Sunday, Walker won again while Desmarais got caught in a multi-bike incident, and would be out of action for the race and the day with an arm injury.
Aubin took second on Sunday in Sport Bike, and that allowed the Suzuki pilot to overhaul Desmarais to earn the Middleweight Championship. Desmarais would settle for second in Sport Bike, but ironically won the Superbike National crown ahead of Aubin and Bernhard, even though two of the top three didn’t compete in the final race.
Jared Walker had a shot at winning the Kawasaki Ninja 300 spec series in it’s second year, but he would need to run the table at “old Mosport” while arch-rival and National rookie Xavier Paradis would need to encounter some obstacles. It almost worked.
Walker started off in the required manner, taking pole and the points bonus while Paradis was moved from third to fifth on the starting grid after a mix-up with tire changing rules. Jake Leclair, Johann Plancque and Amy Szoke were between the title protagonists on the grid for Saturday’s ninth of ten National Ninja races, giving Walker additional hope.
Walker won on Saturday but Paradis worked up to second place, ahead of Leclair, Plancque and Szoke. In Sunday’s final-ever all-Ninja race, Walker and a charging Szoke set the pace and ran up front, while Paradis settled into third. They finished in that order, and while Walker made a heroic effort to tighten the Championship battle, Paradis won the crown by just 12 points (465 to 453) in the tightest Championship battle of the CSBK Tour.
It should be interesting to see how Paradis, barely old enough to compete at the Nationals in 2017, does in the future against other rising stars, including the steadily-climbing Walker brothers.