Michael Leon capped off the 2017 CSBK season with a 5th place finish, just 1.069 seconds behind the race winner, at the final race of the MOPAR Canadian Superbike series held at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, last Sunday, August 20th. In the previous day’s Superbike race, the Royal Distributing rider finished 6th aboard his BMW S1000RR Superbike. The 2 finishes allowed him to move up to 6th place overall in the series points standings, despite crashing out of the Quebec round back in June.
Regular team crew chief Kyle Blakely of Windmill Motorsports and Machine and team mechanic, Joe Gervais, were joined by motorcycle suspension expert Dale Rathwell in preparing and tuning the Royal Distributing S1000RR Superbike for the final race of the National series. During the Thursday track day, they focused on getting a good setup to be able to turn fast laps on the medium compound rear tire.
Friday, the team switched gears and began to focus on a setup for a fast lap in timed qualifying. That afternoon, Leon qualified 6th fastest during the special Superpole session with a time of 1.21:837 seconds. During this special session, unique to the last race of the year, the top 11 riders from the first part of qualifying were invited to try an ultra sticky Q tire provided by Pro Cycle and Dunlop. These tires provide a dramatic increase in rear grip but last only for approximately 2 laps before their performance decreases. “This year, I started to get the hang of the Q tire. What an experience. There is so much side grip, each time you open the throttle you regret not getting on it sooner and harder.” Commented Michael. He bettered his time from the first part of qualifying on a standard soft tire by just over a full second.
Sixth place put Michael on the second row for Saturday’s race. The track temperature was somewhat cool with overcast skies. The team decided to run the medium compound rear tire. It would be a slight disadvantage over the first few laps, providing less grip than a soft compound, but it would provide better grip than the soft at the end of the race. Michael was off to a good start, 5th at the end of the first lap. He dropped to 8th after a few laps, struggling a little to match the riders who had chosen the soft compound. By the halfway mark, Michael had moved up to 6th place. In the closing laps, he was making ground up slowly in the battle for 3rd in front of him. There weren’t enough laps and he finished in sixth place, 4 seconds back from the 3rd placed rider.
Into the evening, Dale, Kyle, and Joe worked on the BMW. They disassembled and rebuilt the front forks with fresh oils set to a different level to improve front end feedback. They changed the dampening valve stacks in the rear shock to provide better control at the rear wheel, when hard on the throttle at corner exits.
On Sunday afternoon, Michael lined up on the third row for the final Superbike race of the year. He had turned the 8th fastest lap on Saturday, which is how the starting order was determined. The weather was much warmer than Saturday, with track temperatures about 40 Celsius. The team decided to go with the soft compound rear for the race. They might be giving up the advantage that the medium would offer in the final laps, but figured that most of the front runners would also be on the soft. At least they would on equal ground throughout the race. Before the start, Dale instructed Michael to “Be precise with the throttle, save the tire!”
At the end of lap one, Michael was in 8th place. He put his head down and moved up to 5th place by lap nine. As he was trying to make ground on the lead group, while running 5 seconds behind them, the red flag was thrown to allow officials to attend to a fallen rider.
After a long delay, the race was restarted and shortened to 8 remaining laps. Leon got another good launch, putting the Royal S1000RR into 4th place into corner one. He was drafted on the back straight and shuffled back to 5th place. That group of 5 riders; Szoke, Riedmann, Trepanier, Young and Leon, broke away from the other racers while putting in laps in the 1 minute 21 seconds range. That battle continued until the checkered flag was thrown. Michael finished in 5th place, just 1.062 seconds behind winner Jordan Szoke. The weekend results moved Michael from 8th to 6th place overall in the points standing in the seven-race series. Unfortunately, not scoring points with a DNF at the Quebec round had cost him dearly.
“I’m so excited. To be right there at the end is a huge step forward for our team. I could not have done it without my crew Kyle, Joe and Dale. They worked hard into the evenings each night and gave me an awesome bike to race. Kyle has been helping me for 3 years now. He’s worked so hard and it feels good to see all the work pay off with progress and being more competitive. Joe joined us this year, and he has been putting in a great effort too. I cannot thank my friend, Dale Rathwell enough. He has sacrificed so much of his time to go testing and help us move forward. He gave up his whole weekend to join us at the track with his incredible knowledge of how racebikes work and a new level of strategy on how to approach this race. I have never had someone with that degree of experience focused solely on helping me to go fast. It was awesome. We had continued support from Jon Cornwell too, checking in on us and the Ohlins suspension throughout the weekend. Our sponsors have been amazing. Ten years with Royal Distributing! Continual technical support from Pro 6 Cycle. Our third year in a row with support from BMW Motorrad Canada. You can't go wrong with a team like that! My wife, Jennifer, and daughters, Jaimie and Jayden are always there to support me too. I enjoy my time at the track so much and am kinda bummed that CSBK 2017 has come to a close.” Commented Michael.
The season isn't completely over yet. There is one race remaining in RACE SuperSeries to be held at Shannonville, September 22-24. Michael is leads the points in the Pro Superbike class and hopes to retain the number one plate at the double header event. The team hopes to see lots of other racers and fans there.
The Royal Distributing Racing Team would like to thank Royal Distributing, Pro 6 Cycle, Dunlop USA, BMW Motorrad Canada, Windmill Motorsports, Bell Helmets, Speed & Strength, Hindle Exhaust, Performance Friction, Perry Performance, Apex Brakelines, Gianmajor Inc., Armour Bodies, Woodcraft, MWR Airfilters, Earth X Batteries, Bickle Racing, Dave Smith, Vortex Racing Sprockets and Mikeymoto Racing.
From a press release