Mopar Pro Superbike championship leader Ben Young scored perhaps his most important qualifying result of the season on Friday, storming his way to pole position for round four of the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship at Atlantic Motorsport Park, presented by Pro Cycle, LS2 Helmets, and Liqui Moly.
Young entered the first doubleheader weekend of the year with an 18-point lead over rival Jordan Szoke with four races to go, and was able to extend that lead by one point by scoring pole position on Friday aboard his Barrie Trim/Scot-Build BMW S1000RR.
More important than the one extra point, however, is that the Collingwood, ON native will start Saturday’s race from the front of the grid, as AMP is notorious for being a tight circuit with a premium on passing at the front.
Young knows that grabbing an early lead will be crucial to his efforts this weekend, something the points leader has become no stranger to this season.
“I’ve led pretty early in every race, so hopefully tomorrow will be no different. It’s so hard to pass here, so it would be nice to dictate the pace a little bit,” Young said. “Obviously the championship is going to come down to the wire, but we’re in a good spot and hopefully that continues this weekend.”
Though Friday’s qualifying was the biggest gap between the two rivals all season – still just 0.338 seconds – Szoke has proven throughout his career that he is capable of closing the gap in the blink of an eye, even winning a race after crashing at AMP early in his career.
The 13-time National champion out of Lynden, ON has been starting from scratch this weekend in his first trip out East since returning to the Mopar Express Lane Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja team, but has shown steady improvement throughout each session which could culminate in his second consecutive victory on Saturday.
“The gap really isn’t that big with this track, because you can lose time so easily, but Ben has been flying pretty much everywhere so the opportunities are going to be rare,” Szoke said. “I’ve had to be really cautious with the throttle in some spots, but it’s getting a little more comfortable each time and I think we’re really close.”
Joining the two on the front row for the second consecutive weekend will be Parts Canada Suzuki GSX-R1000R rider Trevor Daley, who has now run inside the top-four in every points-scoring session since his disastrous round one.
The Mississauga, ON native enjoyed his most consistent season ever in 2018 and has continued that path into round four of the 2019 campaign, leading some to believe the former Amateur champion could score his long-overdue first career Pro Superbike victory this weekend.
“Everything has been working really great the last few rounds, and we’re just getting more and more comfortable every time out. The Suzuki is phenomenal, it’s just all about getting the right bike setup around here,” Daley said. “If we get a good start we might be able to hang with Jordan and Ben, so hopefully things go to plan tomorrow and it should be a good race.”
Daley managed to secure the final front row spot by just 0.054 seconds over Samuel Trepanier, who will kick off the second row aboard his Blysk Racing/Gulf BMW. The St. Isidore, QC native has had a slow recovery from his crash in round one, but it was just a year ago at AMP that Trepanier nearly defeated Szoke to win his first career Pro race, and a good start could be enough for the fan-favourite to finally do so this weekend.
Centering the middle row and rounding out the top five from Saturday’s qualifying is Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike championship leader Will Hornblower, who posted a spectacular 1:09.229 aboard his Sarnia Cycle Salvage Yamaha YZF-R6, the only sport bike machine to qualify inside the top five all season.
Hornblower has typically chosen to focus on the Sport Bike category and elect not to participate in Superbike racing, but a career-best finish in the feature class could be on the table for the Sarnia, ON native should he choose to participate this weekend.
Nicolas Meunier was once again the top rookie of the qualifying session, as the Verdun, QC native will start from 14th on the grid aboard his Turcotte Performance Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja. The 16-year old phenom currently leads the Brooklin Cycle Racing Pro Rookie of the Year battle by 17 points over Ottawa, ON’s Vivian Matthews, who qualified 18th aboard his Windmill Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R1.
Tomas Casas continued his recent surge in the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike class, scoring pole position aboard his Parts Canada Yamaha YZF-R6 with a time of 1:09.282 – just 0.072 seconds clear of Hornblower.
The two-time defending champion out of Peterborough, ON will look to score his third consecutive victory on Saturday, as his resurgence from a round one crash has trimmed the deficit to 29 points with four races remaining.
“We got a lot of momentum going right now, everything’s been working really well since round one and we haven’t had a lot of issues,” said Casas. “The biggest thing has just been changing back and forth to the R1, but I feel super comfortable on the 600 so we’re pretty confident heading into the weekend.”
As for Hornblower, the points leader will be under pressure to defeat Casas at least once over the final four races if he hopes to win his first Pro championship, as he has been forced to learn quickly in his first trip to AMP since 2015.
“Everything feels pretty good, except for the fact that you’re basically in one big tank-slapper for pretty much the entire lap,” he joked. “The gap is really close, so if I can hang with Tommy off the start I think I can learn a few things off him, and hopefully just keep it close for the championship.”
Joining the duo on the front row for Saturday’s race will be fellow rival Sebastien Tremblay out of Mirabel, QC, who is also looking to keep his momentum going as he recovers from an injury suffered in round two.
The Turcotte Performance Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja rider placed himself squarely in third with a time of 1:09.642, as he will need to gain some ground on the front-running pair as he looks for a repeat of his race two victory from a year ago.
Kicking off the second row behind Tremblay will be Lasalle, QC youngster Samuel Desmarais, who continues to impress in his second Pro season aboard his Playground Poker Club Kawasaki and has typically outperformed his qualifying results.
Notably missing from the qualifying results was local favourite Jacob Shaw-O’Leary, as the 19-year old out of Falmouth, NS will be forced to start from the back of the grid in his return to the National series.
O’Leary was forced to spend the qualifying session making a number of changes to his RMP Racing Suzuki GSX-R600 and therefore wasn’t able to record a lap, though he did run inside the top five in the morning practice session.
The TSN Motorcycle Experience Lightweight Sport Bike class will enter Saturday with a massive question mark facing the grid, as a pair of big crashes on Thursday have hampered the WRBF Yamaha YZF-R3 team.
Princeville, NS native Avery Hart was able to overcome his misfortune and record the fastest time of the day at his home circuit, but by just under a half-second over championship leader Ben LeClair.
LeClair may have an easier path to retaining that points lead aboard his bLU cRU Yamaha, as the Blackstock, ON teenager faced little pressure from Hart’s hometown teammate, Keegan Gaudet, as the 16-year old struggled to rebound from his massive crash on Thursday.
A pair of Nova Scotia riders were also at the forefront of the Mopar Express Lane Amateur Superbike practice, as Ketch Harbour’s Chad Whitehead (Honda CBR600R) and Hatchet Lake’s Scott Alexander (Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja) led the timesheets.
Whitehead was also the man to beat in the Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike class, only this time with pressure from reigning Lightweight champion Jake LeClair, as the Blackstock, ON teenager placed his bLU cRU Yamaha YZF-R6 in second.
Full results from Friday’s qualifying and practice sessions, as well as the schedule for Saturday’s first half of the doubleheader weekend, can be found at the series’ official website at www.csbk.ca.