Last week, BMW Motorrad’ s newly crowned 2019 Mopar CSBK Canadian National Champion, Ben Young, spent three days riding with OPP Track Days at the Area27 racetrack in British Columbia. The 26-year-old, based in Collingwood, ON, shared the track with Kawasaki’s Jordan Szoke to test Dunlop slick tires at the venue near Osoyoos on the U.S. border.
Young was aboard the same BMW S1000RR that he used to clinch the Canada Cup at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, August 9-11. With backing from Scot-Build Developments, Van Dolders Home Team, Barrie Trim & Moldings, ACF-50, Joe Rocket, Hindle and Arai, this was probably Young’ last outing for Young on the current BeeMm before he switches to the just-launched new version of the 8-time Superbike crown winner.
We spoke with Young just after the B.C. test concluded. We discussed the challenging 16 turn, 4.83- kilometer-long venue, described accurately by Young as “hard on brakes, and hard on knee sliders!”
Q: What is your overview of the Area27 Dunlop test?
B.Y.: It was good. I felt pretty comfortable when we got going today (day three), it was good when we could do some clear runs, and then some long runs. The bike was comfortable as ever, very good, but we still need to make a few more adjustments to the bike for when we come racing here.
We brought out limited stuff to make changes with, but we worked through the changes, got comfortable. I think that, as a group, we achieved what we came here to achieve. So that’s good.
Q: Is it more difficult to take part in a test like this, where you are trying to learn the track, set-up the bike, and work through the plan that Dunlop’s Thomas Grolemund developed for the sessions?
B.Y.: Not really; I’m actually not one to just go for a lap time, during our sessions. It’s the consistency, the comfort level I’m working on, and just working with the bike. It just so happens we usually end up going fast!
Today, this week really, was just about getting in that comfort zone. Obviously, after a big one, last weekend and stuff (the Qualifying crash and Championship win on Saturday, August 10 at “old Mosport”), it was important to get going here, get done what we needed to get done with Dunlop, the whole purpose of what we were out here to do.
So, yeah, I feel like we achieved a lot. The big task wasn’t to chase lap times, but that just comes along with the rest of it.
Q: It didn’t work out that circumstances allowed for any attempt at an ultimate lap time at Area27. What do you think the pace could be?
B.Y.: Yeah, I think there is definitely at least another second and a half out there, for both Jordan and me. I fell like this will be such a good track to race on, good opportunities to overtake.
Q: It was interesting to see that you and Jordan were so consistent, so close together in almost every session, regardless of set-up and tires.
B.Y.: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy! Certainly, through the last section, there are multiple line options, but we seem to get from point A to point B in the same time. So, there’s no right or wrong.
That’s another great aspect of this track, there are so many variables and even with a two-minute lap time, to be within a couple of tenths of a second is definitely exciting, is encouraging for what racing here could be like.
Q: There are a couple of longish straights, over 260 kph, but it seems overall this is a track where you spend long periods of time on the edge of the tire, waiting to pick up the throttle.
B.Y.: There are definitely a lot of neutral throttle corners. Yeah, you’re waiting, or coasting in on the brakes, definitely it will make for interesting racing. It will be crucial for your race set-up, when we do come racing here, to make sure you make the tire last, when you are on the edge of the tire, so it’s not getting cooked up.
I think it will be interesting over a race distance. We didn’t really ride together, but when we do race together, we will have each other to push on. Right now, we have no reference, I could be two seconds faster than Jordan on the first half of the lap, and he could be two seconds better in the second half of the lap.
You just don’t know, right? So, working all these things out when we come racing will be exciting.
Q: Given the year that you and Jordan had, even though you were never side-by-side at Area27 for the Dunlop test, you were in a way racing each other?
B.Y.: You do have reference points on the track. We may be half a lap apart, but we cross paths, we can see if we gained a bit, or ooh, we lost a bit. It’s interesting to see, after the close racing all year, but really, I didn’t expect anything different.
Q: Is it difficult to have the discipline to work through all the various tires?
B.Y.: For sure, especially on the opening day, when we were trying so much out. At the end of the day, we are all here to get a job done, and no matter what it takes, we are going to do our best to get all the information we can. If you like it or not, sometimes you have to tough it out, and put in those laps.
Of course, you have situations where the tire goes off, and you don’t want to be out there anymore, but as long as it is safe enough to keep riding, we’re going to keep riding. You don’t always get the ideal situation when you want it, but at the end of the day we are working for everyone in the CSBK series, to better things for when they come. It’s not just a session for us to better ourselves.
Q: How hard is it to reserve judgment on a tire you don’t know, to try and let the tire show its qualities before you decide what you think?
B.Y.: It can be tough. For instance, when we have more traction in the rear, you’re getting on the throttle harder, you’re getting on the throttle earlier, and you’re blowing through the shock more; but when you have less grip, you’re not getting that same affect, so you need a softer spring on the rear to let the shock do that, to get in that sweet spot.
So, it’s a balance, setting the bike up for that specific tire, and not setting it up for something else, some other combination. It depends on what option we are using for the tires, and how to work with that combination.
I feel like it’s going to be a challenge to race here, it’s a rider’s track, that’s for sure, one of the more fun tracks I have tried in a long time. It’s been since 2016 that I have been to a new track, I know for Jordan it has been a lot longer than that, and it’s great to come somewhere new and have this opportunity, it’s something I have never done before.
Q: You have a reputation as a racer who has developed a Grand Prix, two-stroke type riding style, do you think that is a fair comment?
B.Y.: I’m definitely a rider that works off of feel, and with more comfort, the more trust I have in the front end. I typically like a softer brake, a softer front end, just to get that feel.
This track has proven tough with all the heavy braking areas. All year Jordan and I have run different compound on the front; there is no specific advantage, just like at the rear, but at the front it is a complete comfort thing.
So, we have been different all year, and for him to try the same one we have used all year, and like it, is quite interesting because, again, we have completely different riding styles. The tires could change again for next year, and when we come back here, it might be about finding that comfort level again.
Q: Is it sad to be having your last ride on this generation of BMW, given all the success you have had on this bike?
B.Y.: Obviously, I would like to ride this generation again, but it’s been a great farewell. In that last session, doing stand up wheelies on the straight-aways at the end, it was good fun for one last hurrah. It was great to end the season with a high on the BMW, and I’m really looking forward to swinging my leg over the new one, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.
I’m looking forward to a new challenge, a new chapter in our story with BMW. All going well, we’re headed to Germany for an Awards Ceremony with BMW, and we’re waiting for some more details about that.