This weekend, the 2017 Canadian Superbike season begins at Shannonville Motorsport Park, the traditional location for the first race of the year.
This year, a few things are changing at CSBK, but much remains the same. The series will once again be broadcast on TSN and YouTube. The Ninja 300 spec series runs as a double-header every weekend, along with amateur and pro superbike and sport bike races.
Jordan Szoke is the returning champion in the Pro Superbike class, after an undefeated season; Kenny Riedmann is the returning champion in Pro Sport Bike; but new challengers in those classes might be about to tip the scales and make 2017 the year that shakes up CSBK, big time.
The biggest question every spring is, will Jordan Szoke win another championship?
The answer this year is, probably — barring mechanical disaster or serious injury. Szoke’s been superbike racing for two decades and has been undefeated for two years, so someone would have to improve a lot in order to take enough points away for the championship.
But this year, the competition is probably the stiffest it has been in some time, as several very competent riders are returning to the series on new superbikes.
Kenny Riedmann has been pushing Szoke for the lead in Pro Superbike for a while now. He’s aboard the new Kawasaki ZX-10RR this season, which may be helpful, and he also put in several days of testing down south this spring.
However Szoke is the smartest racer in the CSBK paddock, with lots of experience at tricky tracks like Shubenacadie’s Atlantic Motorsport Park (now hosting a double-header again this year). It will take more than an upgraded race bike to leave him behind; he’s probably not too worried about the new Kawasaki, when his own machinery is tuned so tightly.
Besides Riedmann, another potential challenger is BMW-mounted Ben Young. Young finished third last season, behind Riedmann and Szoke, as CSBK’s top rookie. The Scottish-Canadian racer has experience racing all over the world, but last summer was his first time seeing many of CSBK’s tracks. Now that he has a season of racing on the usual CSBK tracks, we might see him take more points next year.
Andrew Nelson is back this year as well, on the new Suzuki GSX-R1000. Nelson has been out of Pro Superbike for years, winning a race in 2012 but not appearing in CSBK since.
Bodhi Edie is also back this year, aboard a Yamaha R1. Edie last won a national race in 2013, and hasn’t appeared much in CSBK since; he did rack up a few points in appearances last year, but didn’t make it to all the races. This year, it seems he’s taking things pretty seriously, as he’s already put in track time in the US this season, getting ready.
On their own, it would be hard for any of these riders to dethrone Szoke. As a group, though, if they chip away at him, one of them might get by in the standings. Unless Szoke just wins every race again, which is possible.
The Wild Card
With so many talented riders returning, the Pro Superbike grid is probably the most interesting it’s been in years. But here’s something that could make it even more intriguing: flat track ace Doug Lawrence is going to run in Pro Superbike this year.
Lawrence has torn up the Flat Track Canada series for the past few years, but he’s also made some appearances in CSBK’s amateur series, and has always impressed when he’s on asphalt. Last year, he swept the Amateur Superbike races at the
Mosport CTMP doubleheader. He’s going to be riding the new Gixxer litrebike as well, so his machine should be competitive.
How will Lawrence fare in the Pro class? He hasn’t raced a lot of the CSBK tracks, but on the other hand, he’s used to racing dirt tracks that change from lap to lap. He’s used to passing in tight quarters, and he’s built a solid skillset of racecraft over his flat track career.
It would be silly to expect Lawrence to challenge for the championship in his first year, but he may shake the rankings up considerably.
Brett’s Not Back
Last year, Brett McCormick was eyeing a return to CSBK Pro Superbike, but we understand that things haven’t worked out so far, and he hasn’t signed with anyone for this summer’s racing. At least not yet. It sounds as if he’s still very interested in racing again, so maybe we’ll see him yet.
The New Track
Grand Bend Motorplex was added to the CSBK schedule for the first time this season. What does that mean? Some people might expect this to shake things up for Szoke — except he’s one of the few racers to do a track session there (Lawrence also visited the track this spring). And when Szoke went to the Edmonton track a couple years back, he broke the existing regional lap record during his first practice session. A new track probably doesn’t scare him.
On the other hand, the inclusion of the new track might shake things up for a lot of other racers. It’s a tight, technical track, and there will no doubt be a learning curve for some of the riders.
The Story In Super Sport
In Pro Super Sport, Kenny Riedmann is still the man to beat. However, Tomas Casas is returning from a stint at Yamaha’s VR46 Master Camp, learning from top race coaches in Europe, and he’s got two new Yamaha R6s this year. With new machinery, this could be Casas’s year. He missed second place by only four points last year …
Stacey Nesbitt, whose career has run more or less along the same trajectory as Casas’s, will also be back this year, although she’s got some issues with her CBR600 and might not be able to make the season opener. She won’t be returning to Europe to race the CBR500 series this year, as that’s been dropped from the World Superbike schedule.