Yamaha R3 rider Jake LeClair was beaten for the first time this season on the Canada Day weekend. Race One of the Canadian Superbike Championship Amateur Lightweight Sportbike round at Autodrome Saint-Eustache saw perhaps one of the best races in any CSBK series so far this year. By the narrowest margin, Alex Berthiaume edged out LeClair, using his home-track advantage and considerable ASE experience to claim his first win aboard his own R3.
LeClair bounced back quickly though and took victory on Sunday. A last-ditch attempt to gain the lead saw Berthiaume run wide, gifting second place to Kawasaki Ninja 300 rider Ryan White.
The racing at the front of the field in this class is some of the best, if not the best, racing in the entire CSBK ladder right now. It’s one real fans make sure they get to the stands to watch, and it bodes well for the growth of motorcycle racing here in Canada.
In the main game, the Pro Sportbike and Pro Superbike classes are putting on better shows than the record sheets suggest. Just like LeClair in Lightweight Sportbike, Jordan Szoke and Tomas Casas are racking up wins in convincing fashion, but the fights are increasingly difficult for the reigning champions.
In Superbike, one senses that it’s only a matter of time before Ben Young breaks through for a victory – the BMW S1000RR rider persistently knocking at the door. Quebec rider Samuel Trepanier is also gaining speed and ground on the riders ahead. He charged from 10th on the grid to 3rd on the weekend.
There are only two rounds to go in the 2018 Canadian Superbike Championship, and both are double-header weekends. The next in Nova Scotia, on July 19-22, promises to be a stunner. Szoke was imperious at Shubenacadie in 2017 but the rising hunger in his challengers is palpable.
At Canadian Tire Motorsports Park next month, August 10-12, Szoke will likely face stiff opposition from Trepanier, who was dogged in his resistance at that track last year. In short, the box scores don’t do this 2018 CSBK season justice, and everyone who’s been in the stands has been treated to cracker races right throughout fields.
If you can get out to watch at Shubie or at CTMP, you should.
So What Did Jacob Get Wrong This Week?
On Saturday morning, CSBK officials were very clear in the rider’s meeting: If you use the run-off at the end of the back straight, you must come to a complete stop before rejoining. Even if you do come to a complete stop, you will lose that lap, and the lap either side.
The reason for this rule is that using that run-off will get you a better run to Turn One, even from a standing start, than completing the infield section. Why you must lose the lap before, I don’t know, but you do.
So when I decided I would use that run-off on my way into pit lane, rather than use the infield section, I fell afoul of the rules. I used the run-off because I didn’t want to affect any riders behind me on their flying lap, and I pitted immediately, but I knew right away I’d made an error.
Lesson: Don’t try to be considerate on a race track. Ride your own session. Ignore the others.
Does anyone else sense a recurring theme here?
My penalty was a loss of my best qualifying time, a 56.8 second lap, good enough for sixth on the grid. Instead of row three on the inside, I started row four on the outside, in 10th.
In the lightweight sportbike class, the gaps are small, the times are close, and small mistakes hit hard.
My race was once again compromised, but it was a cracker none the less. I was locked in a four-way battle with Matt Simpson, Connor Campbell and 613 Motorsport’s Aaron Burns for sixth place. After 10 laps of back-and-forth I had it briefly, but a missed shift on the last lap saw me lose two spots in the final turn. I finished eighth, just 0.04 seconds behind Connor, with Matt ahead and Aaron behind.
Up ahead, the race of the year saw the top five all locked in close-quarters comeback, with Berthiaume winning from LeClair and White as mentioned above. Johann Plancque and Andre Lavoie were fourth and fifth, with Toni Sharpless rounding out the top 10 behind Burns.
Because of the to-and-fro between Burns, Simpson, Campbell and myself on Saturday, our lap times were not as quick as some of the riders who had finished behind. That meant those riders started ahead on Sunday. I now lined up back on the fifth row in 12th place. Off the line I made up three spots, and soon rounded up JF Cloutier for ninth.
I passed Matt Simpson in the draft on the back straight, but he carried more speed down to the dog leg in the infield; that’s where I was surprised to find him on my outside at turn-in and we collided, both of us running off track. Matt rejoined in 13th, and recovered to 11th. I rejoined as the last of 17 riders and picked off five of them to finish 12th, achieving a 56.5s lap time in the process. For reference, Jake LeClair’s record-setting time was a 54.04, and the rest of the top five are running 54-55s laps. As always, I claw closer to the pointy end of the field, only to fall short on simple experience mistakes.
The points standings for the season are not shaping up how I wanted. With 6 of 10 races complete, I’m 9th with 89 points, four back from Matt Simpson and nine back from Connor Campbell in seventh. Younger LeClair brother Ben is in sixth with 124 points while Toni Sharpless holds down fifth with 144. Plancque on 206 and White on 220 are close in the fight for third. Berthiaume on 255 is a relatively comfortable second, and LeClair has one hand on the title with 315 points.
I have had to reset my goal: what was a quest for Top Five looks more like a hunt for seventh at best, and to achieve it, I’ll need to consistently finish ahead of my ever-faster pit mates Simpson and Campbell.
The weekend saw me fit new bodywork from FlexiGlass. The revised lower fixes the ground clearance issues I had previously, and the upper is an even better fit than the prototype set. Because I only picked it up from 613 on the way to St.-Eustache, I had to turn my Beckner Trailers 5×10 rig into a mobile paint booth.
Thanks as always to CSBK officials and marshals, to Burns Racing, Evans Racing for continued pit-lane support, Beckner Trailers for the rig to get to the track, and autoTRADER.ca for providing the gear that helps keeps me out of hospital.