The 14th annual Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame ceremony rode into Toronto on Saturday, as the event was showcased by a number of stars from the Canadian Superbike Championship, both past and present.
While the Hall of Fame ceremony recognizes competitors from almost every branch of two-wheeled motorsport in Canada, the road-racing contingent was as strong as ever, headlined by 2019 inductee Michael Taylor and his two former Kawasaki teammates, Jordan Szoke and Don Munroe.
The three CSBK legends took part in feature interviews with series head Colin Fraser and TSN star Dave Hatch, describing their experiences racing against one another in the “golden age” of Canadian racing, the 1990’s.
“Don, he was more of the quiet, supportive teammate. He was one of the best riders I’ve ever seen, but he was also just as happy to see you win,” Szoke recalled. “On the other hand, me and Michael – we butted heads sometimes, and I think I was that kid that got under his skin, but it’s just because he was such a competitor.”
Taylor’s reputation off the track comes with almost as much history as his accomplishments on it, though the fan-favourite is undoubtedly among the best Superbike riders in Canadian history, scoring two championships in 1994 and 1996 and retiring at eighth on the all-time win list with ten victories.
The star of the show and unofficial “feature” inductee, Taylor reflected on an injury-riddled career in his acceptance speech, but admirably showed little regret with his storied career both in Canada and on the global stage.
“About thirty-some years ago, I was just a kid partying in Daytona Beach who was – reluctantly – dragged to my first race, and little did I know that I would fall in love right away,” Taylor said. “I had a lot of podium speeches over the years so there’s not a lot you don’t know about me, but I do want everyone to know how much I loved this community. The stories, and meeting new people, that’s what keeps me coming back.”
While Szoke spent the very early years of his career battling an elder Taylor, Munroe was a strong competitor and rival to Taylor for years, and the two-time champion was predictably nothing but kind towards his former teammate.
“We had so many good battles, but I loved racing against Michael because he was always a respectful rider, so I knew one of us was going to win but both of us were going to finish…unless something he built broke,” Munroe joked. “We were such opposites at times, but I think that actually helped each other in our careers, but it was never a dull moment with Mike around.”
Apart from the eye-opening interviews with each competitor, the event featured photo shoots with all seven inductees, memorabilia from each rider’s career, an elaborate dinner and banquet, and ultimately the 2019 induction ceremony.
Joining Taylor in the class of 2019 were another pair of former road racers in Guyanese legend Clive Ng-A-Kien and former VRRA champion Len Fitch, along with Hall of Fame director and sport contributor Vada Seeds, seven-time hill climb champion Wade Williams, the Oshawa Competition Motorcycle Club, and sport contributor and owner of Woody’s Cycle, Dave “Woody” Percival.
Ng-A-Kien, a five-time 250GP series champion, dominated the smaller machinery at a time when GP racing was at a premier level in Canada and the United States. After winning three consecutive Guyanese championships, Ng-A-Kien moved to Canada where his success continued, becoming one of the best riders of the late 70’s and early 80’s before retiring in 1986.
The ceremony also featured another pair of awards, including the Bar and Hedy Hodgson Award given to Honda Canada for their 50-year involvement in Canadian racing, and the Historical Induction of Percy A. McBride for his remarkable history in motorcycle sales in the early 1900’s.
Also in attendance were a number of former CSBK National Superbike champions, including the series’ first champion in George Morin (1980) and two-time champion Reuben McMurter (’84, ’88), and – perhaps most notably – the reigning champion, BMW factory rider Ben Young.
With Taylor’s entrance into the Hall of Fame, Young and Szoke join a list of just five former champions without the distinction, including two-time champion Francis Martin, former World Superbike rider Brett McCormick, and 2014 champion Jodi Christie.
While Young still has plenty of work to do to join the likes of Taylor and Munroe, and in all likelihood Szoke as well upon his retirement, the defending titleholder enjoyed a glimpse into life after racing.
“This event, it’s pretty crazy. There’s so many people with so many different stories, it’s an awesome feeling to be a part of but it’s also kind of humbling,” Young said.
The 2020 edition of the Hall of Fame event, set to be held in Montreal, will mark the 40th anniversary of Superbike racing in Canada, as CSBK prepares for what will undoubtedly be a thrilling showdown between Young and Szoke this upcoming season.
Information on the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame and all their inductees can be found at www.canadianmotorcyclehalloffame.ca, while CSBK can be found on their official website at www.csbk.ca.