Jordan Szoke’s dominance is almost unparalleled in any national superbike series. When the Canadian Superbike racing season ends this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, he’ll win yet another championship and he’ll probably complete yet another unbeaten season.
A couple of other Canadians are close to him in the record books: Steve Crevier has almost as many titles in Canada (and an AMA championship, too!), and Miguel Duhamel’s records in AMA Supersport will likely never be equalled.
A few other racers have put together impressive winning streaks in American, Japanese, or European roadracing series. But right now, Szoke has 10 Superbike and five Sport Bike titles, combined with four Observed Trials championships and two undefeated seasons; currently, he has more than twice as many Superbike wins as Crevier, his closest competitor in CSBK. At this point, nobody can catch him.
How does he do it, and what will it take to beat him?
Hey Jordan, what’s your secret?
Does Jordan Szoke have a secret weapon that keeps him at the front? No, says Warren Milner, who’s been hanging around Canadian tracks for decades as a racer, executive for Honda Canada, and now as CSBK support staff.
What keeps Szoke at the front is his brain – people underestimate him.
“People think of him as a bit of a jock, a bit of a goof,” says Milner. “He’s actually a lot smarter than people give him credit for … They don’t understand a lot of Jordan’s success comes from Jordan’s own intelligence, experience, and his ability to translate that into speed on the track.
“It’s not just that he’s a natural talent, and he’s incredibly fast, and he can ride anything, and he can go fast on anything, and it just works out. That’s all true too, but he is actually a very intelligent guy.”
As a result of that mental strength, Szoke is able to work his way through tough race scenarios. When it looks as if he’s struggling, Milner says that isn’t the case. Szoke is not worried, not stressed – he’s just waiting patiently for his chance to pass.
Szoke’s other big strength is that he has his motorcycle tuned in where he wants it, Milner says. While other CSBK riders possess plenty of talent and know how to ride a bike to its limit, they’re limited by their motorcycles not being at peak performance – traction control and wheelie control help, but they’re still fighting the bike. On the other hand, on Szoke’s bike, Milner says the settings are finer and more precise: “His bike never gets completely out of shape, no matter what he’s doing with it.”
Former CSBK champ Brett McCormick (now working on an engineering degree at University of Saskatchewan) agrees, and he would know. McCormick broke into the CSBK pro ranks in 2007 as Szoke’s teammate on the Canadian Kawasaki factory squad. Back then, he was the last CSBK rider to win the championship by beating him all season long, in 2011 (Szoke lost the 2013 championship when he missed two races due to injury).
Lots of racers are fast, but not that sharp,” McCormick says. “Jordan’s a mentally stable racer.”
For example, when McCormick started riding as Szoke’s teammate, he says he was ready to go home at the end of the day’s riding. Then he’d look over and see Szoke sitting down with his crew to go over the session’s telemetry feedback, figuring out what he needed to do to go faster in every corner. Then he’d go out on the track and do it. That ability to execute his plan when he’s on the bike is what puts Szoke in front, McCormick says.
Szoke’s well-tuned bike, his years of experiences on Canada’s challenging tracks, his ability to hang back and pick his time to make a pass, and his raw speed all combine to make him the top dog in Canadian Superbike.
Ben Young, currently sitting in third place in his rookie season of Pro Superbike, sums it up: “He has everything clicked right now.”
Szoke has dominated CSBK for almost two decades now. So what’s next for him? Is he going to take his career overseas or back to the AMA?
Young spent 2014 racing Superstock in the British Superbike series. If Szoke was in that series, Young figures there’s no reason he wouldn’t be up front.
But McCormick feels a move like that is unlikely, saying he doesn’t have anything to gain, and everything to lose. It’s hard to tell how Szoke would do if he was in a series like World Supersport, where McCormick raced in 2012 – with the right bike at the right track, he thinks Szoke would be competitive. But McCormick points out he had a good edge on Szoke the last time they raced together, and in the years since, Szoke still hasn’t broken McCormick’s lap records.
McCormick still holds the Pro Superbike lap record at every track CSBK visited this year, except St-Eustache; Szoke holds that record, and the Pro Sport Bike lap record at CTMP (a.k.a. Mosport), set back in 2009.
Milner says although Szoke is still winning races by decent margins (only Kenny Riedmann has been close this year), he’s not riding as hard as he can, because most of the pack isn’t pushing him.
“He has everybody so intimidated that they don’t expect to beat him. They kind of ride to whatever level he’s riding to – he’s set the bar as to what the target is. Because they’re not pushing him tremendously, he has been able to scale that back a little bit, and he’ll stay ahead of them.”
To change that, Milner says, someone has to get mad. Now, except for Riedmann and maybe Young, he says nobody’s angry they’re losing to Szoke every race.
“Somebody needs to get pissed off and say, ‘All right – Enough!’ you know? ‘His time has come and gone, it’s time he was beat, and I’m going to be the man to do it, and I’m going to do whatever it takes.’ ”
Ben Young figures the tipping point will be when somebody manages to finally wrest a win away from Szoke. “I think the biggest thing is to get into his head mentally,” Young says. “I think once you beat him once, he’ll have that hesitation in his mind, and carry that on to the next race.”
A win by someone other than Szoke might be a boost to CSBK fans, who’ve basically seen the same rider win races for the past two years. Milner figures fans don’t have anything against Szoke; they don’t want him gone, but they do want to see who’s going to be the next hotshot, and they’re not seeing that right now.
But of course, none of that is Szoke’s fault. His job is to win races, and he’s been doing it well for a long time now. Show up at the CSBK double-header and you might seem him do it once or twice more – and further cement his place in the history books as he does so.