This weekend, the Canadian Superbike series opens its summer of racing with Shannonville’s traditional showdown. There are details and a full schedule below.
So what’s the stir this year? The biggest storyline of all is …
Jordan Szoke to Kawasaki
That’s right, the winningest man in CSBK history is on a new bike this year, after flogging a BMW S1000RR around for several years. Now he’s on a Kawasaki ZX-10R, and he’s been busy prepping it for 2019.
Szoke says most people have no idea how much work it is to set up a new machine, especially when it’s a bike like the Kawasaki, which has a racing-kit wiring harness and ECU to swap out for the stocker. His previous Beemer used the stock electrical components, with some reprogramming and tweaking, and most importantly, he and the team were familiar with it.
“When everything’s new, you’ve got to program it all, and make it all work,” says Szoke. Not only has he been tied up with the technical side of the changeover, but the little things, like putting new sponsorship stickers on the team’s equipment, are also keeping him busy.
However, he’s looking forward to riding the new bike. Szoke says it’s a compact machine that feels small when he sits on it, and he expect it’ll have outstanding handling.
“With the adjustable rake that the Kawasaki has, that nobody else has out there, it’s a lot more adjustable … I expect it to turn a lot better, being a smaller lighter package,” he says. “Hitting the apex, I think, will be physically less work, and when you go to pick it up and get to the fat part of the tire, I see that to be less work.”
Of course, Szoke rode with Kawasaki before, and he knows the new machine will be different, but he expects to get reacquainted with the bike quickly.
“Kenny Riedmann finished second in the championship a couple of years ago, and was right there on the thing, so if Kenny can do it, I’m sure I can do it.”
A tougher field
The new machine isn’t the only challenge facing Szoke this season. He’s also got the toughest competition he’s seen for a long time.
CSBK czar Colin Fraser says Szoke hasn’t been in a situation like this since 2011, when he was battling against Brett McCormick in McCormick’s last year in CSBK.
“I’m suspicious Jordan might not win as much as usual — but of course, ‘as much as usual’ is normally almost every race,” says Fraser.
Former Pro Superbike runner-up Kenny Riedmann is always a threat to take a race win from Szoke, but Riedmann is not going to race a full campaign this year. Then there’s Ben Young, who won a race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last summer and could chip away at Szoke’s points earnings as well. Matt McBride will also likely attend Ontario races, and could very well earn a win.
But there’s another threat in Pro Superbike this year, says Fraser, coming out of Quebec. He figures Samuel Trepanier is also going to be a title challenger this year. Trepanier hasn’t won a race in Pro Superbike, but has been a front-runner for a while, and improved a lot at the slower, tighter tracks like St-Eustache and Shubenacadie.
Trepanier has a head start on everyone else this year, as he’s been racing MotoAmerica events in the run-up to CSBK’s season opener.
“He’s going to get to Shannonville completely ready,” says Fraser. “No one else in Superbike is going to be as ready as he is. That doesn’t mean he’s going to win, but psychologically, he’s in the right spot.”
Former CSBK Amateur Superbike winner Trevor Daley, the top Pro Superbike privateer for 2018, will be back, aboard Suzuki Canada’s GSX-R1000R, prepped by Scott Miller. Fraser reckons Daley’s season will be very interesting to watch, given Miller’s excellent rep for building superbikes.
Tomas Casas finally has his hands on a proper litrebike as well. Casas has raced his Yamaha R6 to the Pro Sport Bike title for the past two years, and finished third in that series in 2016. He’s battled it out in Pro Superbike aboard his R6, but that’s not the right tool for that job; now, he has an R1. It will be interesting to see how the young racer makes out this season.
“I do expect a steep learning curve and will keep optimistic if things don’t go well right off the bat,” says Casas. He’s keeping his R6 in action this year, trying for a third straight win in the supersport class (although Sebastien Tremblay and Mitch Card are going to have something to say about that!). Despite the challenges of racing in Canada on a small budget, Casas is still hoping that over the long term, he’s able to not only climb the ranks here, but race outside the country.
Changing the scenery
Finally, this is the last year for CSBK at St-Eustache, and for now, organizers still don’t have another plan in place for a Quebec date.
Fraser says he feels optimistic there will be a couple of different solutions to the problem, but nothing is ideal.
“We probably should have at least two races there, and at times we’ve had two races in Quebec, and right now we’re struggling to have one,” he says. He says it’s hard because there’s not even any club racing in Quebec at this point.
“You literally go from track days to traveling to nationals or regionals. And most of those guys jump a couple of levels and do quite well. We’re doing unbelievably well in Quebec, considering we’re not doing well in Quebec.
“In the big picture, it’s out west that people want to hear about, but it would be great to get in front of the Quebec problem.”
About those western dates: There’s nothing on the CSBK calendar for 2019, but Fraser is hoping to have the racers head out to the new Area 27 track in British Columbia as part of the series’ 40th anniversary celebrations next season.
“The deal isn’t done until the deal is done, but we are planning on that,” he says. Before that happens, CSBK would have a tire test there — as of right now, there hasn’t been any car or bike racing at Area 27, and there’s still a lot the organizers and teams don’t know about the track. Still, Fraser is optimistic it will work out, and figures the track’s high speed will make it popular, especially with the pro riders.
And once again, Fraser says he’d like to add a race in Alberta if the series goes to BC. What probably isn’t going to happen is a return to the street circuit racing of days gone by; some people were hoping for a return to racing on closed-down public roads, like the wild and woolly days of ripping through Alma, in Quebec. It’s one way of dealing with a lack of available tracks, but Fraser doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
“Things have really moved on, and the bikes are so much faster now, I don’t have the stomach for those kinds of high-risk things,” says Fraser — and he thinks most of the competitors would agree with him.
In 2019, there are once again six CSBK events.
This weekend, practice starts Friday at Shannonville, with practice and then Superpole and qualifying on Saturday. There are a couple of regional lightweight sportbike races on Saturday as well, and everything else races on Sunday — all the pro classes and amateur classes, starting at 1 PM. See the full weekend schedule here.
After Sunday’s races, the next faceoff is June 7-9 at Grand Bend, Ontario; after that, the series heads to St-Eustache in Quebec for the June 21-23 weekend.
A month later, CSBK resumes action at Shubenacadie, for the traditional Nova Scotia doubleheader on July 19-21. Then there’s the season-ending double-header at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, August 9-11.
There’s also a bonus weekend for the Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike class at Calabogie, on June 28-30, the same weekend as the VRRA event at that track.