Photos: Rob O’Brien/CSBK
The 2018 Canadian Superbike season is over, and once again, Jordan Szoke won the Pro Superbike title and Tomas Casas won the Pro Sport Bike series.
Those results didn’t come as a surprise, but going into this weekend, neither was a sure thing. Casas only clinched the title in the first race of the weekend’s double-header (he won both), as Mitch Card was still pretty close. Szoke, meanwhile, looked like he’d pull off yet another flawless season, as he’d been unbeaten … and then things went seriously sideways for the reigning champ as he ran into mechanical woes in qualifying.
He battled on, with help from competitor Ben Young, who lent him an engine, but Szoke ended up with third place in Pro Superbike’s Race 1, as Young won from pole. It was a good battle between Szoke, Young, and Kenny Riedmann, who jumped into the mix for the last two races of the season (his first CSBK races of the year). The final was Young-Reidmann-Szoke, with Trevor Daley and then Michael Leon rounding out the top five.
Young’s hard-earned win, the first of his CSBK career, meant Szoke couldn’t clinch his championship until Race 2. And the second race was again a history-maker — Kenny Riedmann took his first-ever Pro Superbike win. Riedmann has multiple titles in Pro Sport Bike, but was never able to finish first in the superbike class, despite many epic battles with Szoke over the years. His win was the result of another hard-fought scrap, a true CSBK classic. Final result: Riedmann first, then Young, then Trepanier. Szoke finished off the podium for the first time in years, in fourth. Fifth went to Michael Leon once again.
Visiting racer John Long, former American roadracing hotshot and winner of Canada’s first-ever superbike race, said the final event was the best superbike race he has ever seen. High praise indeed, from a man who’s been there since the start of the class, and a sign that parity may be starting to return to the Pro Superbike class,
But for now, Szoke is still the reigning king, with an unprecedented 13th CSBK Pro Superbike championship. His thoughts on the win: “Definitely one of the tougher championships I’ve won, that’s for sure … But we battled through, and it was a tough race and a tough season. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster year, so this one means a lot.”
Pro Sport Bike
Casas showed he’s still the racer to beat, despite pressure from Mitch Card, Sebastien Tremblay and others this season. He won by more than six seconds in the first race, and more than 12 seconds in the second, while some of his hottest competition crashed out (Jacob Shaw-O’Leary had DNFs in Race 1 and Race 2, Card had a DNF in Race 1).
The numbers don’t tell the whole story: Race 1 was a near thing, and if Tremblay, Shaw-O’Leary and Card hadn’t crashed in separate incidents on Turn 5, it could have gone differently for Casas, who said the first showdown was one of the closest races he’d ever had (Tremblay managed to get back on-track, unlike the other two). But Casas held a lead for most of Race 2, and the 19-year-old is now looking less like a newcomer and more like a veteran. You have to wonder how much pressure he could put on the front-runners in Pro Superbike if someone would give him a litre bike?
Amateur Superbike/Sport Bike
Michael Van Ek won Sunday’s Amateur Superbike race, but Luc Labranche managed a third, which was enough to clinch the superbike title. He followed up with a win in Amateur Sport Bike, snatching the crown from the grasp of Nicolas Meunier. Going into the weekend, Meunier had led the Amateur Sport Bike standings by nine points over Labranche, but he only managed third in the race. The difference in points put Labranche on top by four points. He’s the first CSBK double champ in several years, and both Labranche and Meunier are headed to the pro ranks next year. The results will be interesting.
Lightweight Sport Bike
While the Lightweight Sport Bike series has seen some of the most exciting racing in CSBK this summer, Jake LeClair has consistently beaten the pack. However, he managed to bin his R3 toward the end of Race 1, and out of nowhere, Keegan Gaudet took the win in his first national race. Not bad for a guy from rural PEI. LeClair did manage to finish the race, but almost at the back of the pack.
He made up for it in Race 2 with a hard-fought win; much of the race was a tight scramble for positions 1-6, with CMG Managing Editor Jacob Black in front for a while. When it all ended, though, LeClair was the winner, ahead of Connor Campbell, who’d also finished second in Race 1. And in Race 2, third went to Ben LeClair, Jake’s younger brother. With Jake likely headed to a factory Yamaha ride next year, maybe his younger brother will take up where he left off?