While the race itself was in some ways a bit like watching a replay in slow-motion due to the speed of the bikes, the competition was intense as the new Honda CBR125 national series made its debut at the RACE Regional event May 4.
The race bikes are street Honda CBR125s with spec Pirellis, Arrow mufflers, Mimic bodywork, and er, not much else … about 12 horsepower. While speeds were low (and believe me, I taught the kids in a school on the Friday before, so I KNOW how low the speeds are!), the racing was bloody good, with all five participants basically locked in a battle for the lead for the whole race.
With bikes that slow, the slightest mistake lets two, three, four riders past, and it takes forever to get caught up again. It was unquestionably the most-watched race of the weekend. Eventual winner was Aubrey Bailey of Parry Sound, Ont., at a resounding 14 years of age already an experienced off-road racer, although this was his first road race.
Bailey jammed his way past tiny Raphael Archambault of Ste-Colonban, Que., with only two laps to go. Archambault, who led most of the race, was a frustrated fifth at the finish, three seconds behind Bailey although his best lap time was within a tenth of a second.
If anyone had taken my bet, I’d have lost … after the school, I figured Archambault was the one to watch. PMP series owner Colin Fraser was on hand, and opined, “The kid can ride, but he hasn’t figured out how to race yet. Won’t take long.” Fraser should know, having basically run the top professional racing in Canada for the last 25 years, and now in charge of the AMA as well. You don’t think street-based 125s are important, ask yourself why Fraser was there for the whole weekend. We’re talking excellent grass-roots starter racing, here.
Other stuff at the second RACE event of the year – Karl Daigle won the Pro 6-sponsored Superbike event twice, having to take a third-row start to the lead twice in a red-flag-interrupted race. Second was an impressive Franklin Dominguez of the Dominican Republic; his English is still of the “Hi, how are you” variety, but it’s coming on strong.
Daigle was missing chief competitor Frank Trombino, but no diminution of the quality of Karl’s riding, as Trombino high-sided himself out of the weekend chasing Daigle in the heat races. “Frankie” knocked himself out and did the classic involuntary fighting off his helpers while coming out of it, to the point he was walking around apologizing to all the medical staff the next morning.
Nicest story of the weekend was Sunday morning, when Am600 racer Rahul Dua hosted the annual breakfast in memory of Max Mercier, who tragically died during a race three years ago. Dua works with Max’s dad Michel Mercier to put the breakfast on; it’s free, but there’s a contribution box for a safety fund in Max’s memory. This year nearly $1,800 was collected, more than ever.
Shannonville owner Jean Gauthier was pleased to announce that he’d match any contributions, and Dua is running a rider’s poll to ask where they’d prefer the money to be spent on safety improvements at the track. Last year they bought a defibrilator, this year … to be seen. It’s a great project, whatever comes of it.