Sharrard wins first non-Championship Lightweight race at SMP

John Sharrard of Buckhorn, ON won the first of two non-Championship Lightweight Sport Bike races at Shannonville Motorsport Park on Saturday, after original winner Alex Berthiaume was penalized and relegated to fourth.

Berthiaume appeared to have claimed the victory, finishing nearly 23 seconds ahead of Sharrard in a dominating performance. However, the Laval, QC rider would officially finish fourth after a tech violation resulted in a three-position penalty, promoting youngster Ben LeClair to second and Connor Campbell to third. 

LeClair, just 15 years of age and recently qualified for National competition, managed to overcome a poor start and defeat Campbell in a thrilling battle which went right to the finish. Berthiaume's Yamaha YZF-R3 suffered an engine problem on his cool-off lap and was not able to run on the official series Dynojet rear-wheel Dynomometer.

Pole-sitter Jake LeClair, older brother of Ben, chose not to participate in the race, after narrowly out-pacing Berthiaume in qualifying earlier on Saturday. Jake also topped the morning's practice session, and figures to be a strong contender for the championship once the CSBK season officially begins at SMP on May 25. 

Sharrard, a long-time racer and owner of Accelerated Technologies, was quick to praise his Honda CBR500R, calling it "one of the best bikes on the grid." Sharrard was working on the bike in preparation for the Honda's Media Bike duties when the National tour commences at Shannonville in two weeks.

A former Grand Prix class star, Sharrard also expressed his excitement over the new Lightweight Sport Bike class, which he said is "a great series" and one which will be "very competitive." 

Sharrard is not eligible to compete in the class once the official season begins, though he was thankful for the opportunity to help test the Honda machine and help develop the series ahead of its inaugural event in two weeks. 

As for runner-up Ben LeClair, he said he was both pleased and surprised with the result, especially after losing ground due to a near jump-start aboard his Yamaha YZF-R. 

"I fluked the start a bit, but I gave the places back and just rode my own race," LeClair said. "I ended up catching Connor [Campbell] and then things got a little crazy, but I held onto it."

The younger LeClair is looking forward to competing against his brother this season, though he hopes it won't be the last time he finishes ahead of the 16 year-old Jake. They – along with Berthiaume – figure to be among the top riders in the Lightweight Sport Bike class this year, though that prediction will be put to the test when a number of new riders take to the track at SMP later this month. 

Berthiaume said after the race on Saturday that he is hoping to get his engine problems resolved by Sunday and does not expect to miss any time on the National circuit. 

Bowmanville, ON native Matthew Simpson completed the top five after another exciting battle with unretired female road racing legend Toni Sharpless, who finished sixth. Yamaha Canada's Graeme Jones claimed seventh aboard his YZF-R3, while J.F. Cloutier, Adolfo Silva, and Owen Morris-Thomas rounded out the top ten. Of the top finishers, only Sharrard, Campbell, Simpson, and Owen-Thomas represented a machine other than the YZF-R3, with the latter three riding a Kawasaki Ninja 300. 

The second of the two non-Championships races will take place at SMP on Sunday, with the first point-scoring events to take place during the opening round of the Mopar CSBK series at the same facility from May 25-27.