Photos: Rob O’Brien/CSBK, unless otherwise specified
Canadian Superbike is in its off-season now, with CSBK’s owner, operator and grand poobah Colin Fraser working behind the scenes to organize next year’s series, and beyond. So what’s the state of affairs with Canada’s national race series, and what can we expect next season? We called Colin to find out (and edited the interview down for length, because Colin had lots to say!). So, here are …
Twelve Questions for Colin Fraser
1. Is CSBK looking at a return to Edmonton along with Area 27 (the roadracing track in Penticton, BC)?
“If and when we go west again, it makes sense to have more than one weekend, so we will reach out to see what else is possible; by then, there might be another track in Southern Alberta, and we’ll see what’s possible at Edmonton, and if the venue is interested in hosting a national. So we’ll see.”
2. How do you think having more western rounds would affect CSBK?
“The biggest reason to go west is that we’re a national series, and if there are venues that wish to host national rounds, we need to accommodate them, but also to try to meet all the different Canadians and hopefully give them an opportunity to participate.”
3. In the past few years, what’s stood in the way of adding more western races?
“Broadly, money is the issue for everything … I think that applies to pretty much every group in Canada. Things are tight, and have been for 10 years.”
4. Are we going to see a new Quebec round next year, or are we going to have to keep on waiting?
“We’ll see. We’re working on a couple of things. There is interest, there is opportunity and Quebec is potentially our strongest market. Quebec is important, but we are struggling for venues there.”
5. With World Superbike announcing its shakeup of adding the sprint races next year, any thoughts for similar moves in CSBK?
“We always talk about that. We had a meeting with the racers right before the doubleheader at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in August, and we sat down with the top guys in the Pros to discuss things we can do.
“One of the challenges with doubleheaders is it’s always great to add more races but that adds cost, and is there purse to match it? Roughly 20 years ago … AMA in the States started doing that. Basically, what they did when they realized doubleheaders were going to catch on, they told the promoters, ‘Well, just cut the purse in half and give half of it on Saturday and half of it on Sunday.’ And Miguel Duhamel told me ‘Whatever you do, don’t let them do that, because you’re just giving up money and it’s not fair. If you want two races, you should pay for two races.’ ”
So, while CSBK does have doubleheader weekends now, Fraser says both races have full purse payouts, which is important for an event like Shubenacadie, due to the extra cost of attending the event in Nova Scotia.
“For me, I don’t want to offer a lot of doubleheaders unless we can afford to pay the purse that represents those doubleheaders. Just to offer more races for less prize money, I don’t think is a great idea, although obviously promoters would always be positive on that type of situation.”
6. The biggest change-up you had last year was Lightweight Sport Bike. It seemed like there was a lot of rider interest, definitely a lot of fan interest. How are you going to keep that from becoming an expensive arms race?
“I think there’s a couple ways to look at this. You can never stop people from spending money, whether you think it was wisely spent or not.
“The next challenge is that it’s not so much what they could spend — and you need to do your best to limit that — but more wheels, more everything, more more more. There’s always ways to have an advantage.
“So the key is how do you make it inexpensive and still competitive so a creative person on a small budget can do it, and also put a lid on the class as far as ultimate performance, which has been our format for a little over 20 years. That’s the dyno and scales: everybody knows those rules and we enforce those rules in public so there’s no doubt about how it’s done. We don’t have the luxury of electronic controls, because that would be expensive and we have a different group of riders each weekend, particularly at Lightweight level where there are more regional guys.”
7. With the success of the Lightweight class, has there been talk of running other classes again, something like the old Canadian Thunder series or even supermoto?
“Not really. There’s a little bit of talk about twins, and we would be somewhat interested in that. Supermoto doesn’t seem to have a lot of traction … it isn’t really big anywhere in North America. You need to be able to put a certain amount of bikes on the track to continue forward with a class.
“Lightweight had good first-year entry, but we’re looking to grow that. My biggest concern in the future about new classes would be a second Lightweight class, which would probably be about rider experience, age and weight. So we would start running the series for Lightweight in a similar manner to go-kart racing, where they take into account the rider weight as well as the machine.
“We have been gathering data on that front, but I don’t anticipate splitting Lightweight until it’s always full, and it’s not at that point yet.
“And honestly, given that 600s are not the focus of attention they used to be, we might consider, down the road, including naked bikes in that class because there’s a range of those with different displacements that would fit into our weight and horsepower limits, so that’s something we talked about, adding naked to Lightweight in an evolution, but that’s not a 2019 thing.”
8. Do you have any thoughts on why kids aren’t into racing like they used to be, or ideas on how to bring them back?
“It’s a challenge for traditional sports: how to keep your audience and appeal to younger people. And then there’s a parallel problem of the aging demographic for motorcyclists.”
9. What would you say is the biggest hurdle that roadracing in general faces in Canada right now?
“I think it’s a range of things, and it does vary a bit from area to area,” Fraser says. He also points out that some regions don’t have access to roadracing tracks, while others have venues aimed at track days, and are not set up to hold spectator events. And some regions just don’t have the money to support roadracing.
10. Out of all the classes, all the weekends you were at in 2018, what was the best race that you saw?
“That is always a really hard call because I’m fortunate that I get to see a lot of good races and I’m fortunate that part of my job is paying attention, so I get to see what’s happening and who’s climbing the ladder and all those good things.
“The Lightweight races later in the season … initially they weren’t as good we were hoping for, but as time progressed and more people got comfortable, with the Lightweight races, you could guarantee close finishes.The Shubenacadie rounds for Lightweight, because we had picked up the fast Lightweight riders from that series, were really entertaining. Not only were they close, but there was also an element of unpredictability —we didn’t know those riders as well.”
Fraser also said the final Pro Superbike race of the season, where seven riders battled in the lead group right until the end, was a great race to watch, particularly with Samuel Trepanier’s battle from 10th place to the podium.
“I’m comfortable that all the classes had good races, and I think as we move forward, it’s typically going to be Lightweight that you can count on to always have a close race, because those guys will stay together and slipstream.”
11. Out of all the racers in CSBK, who showed the most promise?
“It depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for next steps, Tomas Casas has won two middleweight series and he’s going to concentrate on superbikes. That’s a big step: a young guy moving into superbikes with manufacturer support is a rare thing.
“I think Jake Leclair, who pretty much dominated the Lighweight series and will be in amateur sport bike, he’s also a fairly easy choice. Nico (Nicolas Meunier), who was second in the middleweight series and had a good run down in Daytona, he’s got good family support and very good motorcycles. I think as the series progresses, it will be interesting to see how he does. Samuel Desmerais, who was a rookie pro and won Rookie Pro of the Year, he’s making big steps.”
12. Lastly — it’s easy to watch MotoGP, World Superbike and even MotoAmerica on live TV or online, but it’s hard for Canadians to watch CSBK unless they live close-ish to a track or don’t mind watching delayed races. Why should Canadians remain interested in CSBK?
“I’d like to think it isn’t an either/or situation. There are certainly lots of good reasons to watch World Superbike and all the levels of MotoGP and MotoAmerica, but I like to think it’s fun to see what the talent is we’re developing. I enjoy watching all those other series too, but I think our series offers a lot. I think it’s entertaining racing and I think it’s nice to support your own group of people. Not exclusively. I don’t think you should skip Jonny Rea to watch Jordan Szoke — I think they’re both entertaining riders to watch.”