Okay, the music has finally stopped, the dashing from chair to chair is done, and left standing is … Michael Taylor. The multi-time Canadian Superbike champ, who seemed to have found a comfortable spot with BMW in the Thunder class last year, won’t be racing in 2008, having failed to come to terms with BMW.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit, although certainly the way things are going the Canadian Thunder class is shaping up to be, in my opinion, the most interesting of the ’08 season.
So let’s talk the Pro Superbike and 600 ranks first, in alphabetical order …
Buell — Deeley H-D plans to enter perennial kid and uncounted-number-of-times Canadian champion Steve Crevier on one of the new Buell 1125s in Canada’s premiere class. It’ll be the top showplace for Buell racing anywhere, and given that U.S. superbike rules are rapidly migrating to the ones we have here, no doubt they’ll be looking hard to make it work as a platform for future U.S. efforts.
Honda — nobody. Apparently they’re just not interested.
Kawasaki — defending champ (for the last two years) in both classes, Jordan Szoke of Brantford returns to head the Green Team’s line-up. Returning as his team-mate is Brett McCormick of Saskatoon, who’s even busier than his illustrious compatriot as he’s still working on this high school thing … He’ll turn 17 this summer, and in spite of being a factory superbike rider is still on the honours roll at his home high school.
You gotta be impressed …
Suzuki — the combination of Blackfoot Cycle in Calgary and Picotte Performance based in Granby, Quebec is back for ’08, although Pascal Picotte won’t be riding this season. A combination of lingering injuries, a young family, and a rapidly-expanding business are the reasons. Francis Martin returns, Matt McBride has joined the team, and recent signing Chris Peris (another westerner: Peris is from Calgary) make a strong combo.
Yamaha — a small and tight effort this year, the tuning fork company is tossing its marbles with Kevin Lacombe, the fast but slightly mercurial Quebecer who so far hasn’t quite matched his talent to results. This year direct importer bikes and support, plus preparation by the Fast Company Racing tuning genius Scott Miller, leave Lacombe no excuses. With his noticeably-improved racecraft and maturity over the past couple of seasons, combined with Miller’s ability to make a bike work, this could be Lacombe’s year at last.
Also under the Yamaha banner, although at just a tad more distance from the centre, is ever-popular Frank Trombino, the King of Shannonville. "Frankie" will be chasing the national scene, but alone among the other top runners, will likely take in all the regional RACE events at Shannonville as well.
BMW — back to the top of the page … no doubt BMW would love to have Taylor back in order to have the No. 1 plate on one of their new HP2 Sports for 2008, but Mike Ferreira is back and will be joined by Paul Glenn, the 2007 RACE Amateur 600 winner. The BMW team will be supported by Steve "Doc" Walker on a private entry, and it’d be hard to argue there are three nicer guys in racing collected under the spinning prop logo.
Buell — past champ Darren James and Floridian Dave Estok will return on Buells for the ’08 season, both on versions of the liquid-cooled 1125R.
Ducati — a defector from the top Pro ranks, Andrew Nelson, is a surprise entry on an NCR Ducati 848 under the banner of the North American factory arm. He’ll be joined by the 2007 European Supertwins Champion, Valter Bartolini, in what looks like a bloody serious effort.
KTM — the new kid on the block, KTM’s blockbuster announcement that they’d jump into the series for 2008 definitely indicates that Canada is far from a racing backwater despite our short season and limited tracks. The bikes will be based on the SuperDuke R, which in addition to the already-whacky SuperDuke specs adds Marchesini wheels, an Ohlins steering damper, upgraded WP suspension, and a port-to-muffler Akropovic exhaust system — for a $600 premium over the standard SuperDuke. Can you spell "no-brainer"?
A KTM dealer day at Shannonville April 30 was to feature the race bikes and the new racers, but high winds, single-digit temps, and snow (yes, that’s right … plus lots of hail) cut the festivities short. At least we got a picture of the riders … Eric Beausejour and Michael Leon … with an ‘R’ model.
Beausejour and Leon are both top Pros, Beausejour in 600 and Superbike racing, while Leon came within a whisker of beating Mike Taylor to the No. 1 in Thunder last year.
Looking like a good season, chillun.