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How to: Be a Canadian Superbike professional racer

So you think you’re fast. So fast that you want to be a pro racer in Canadian Superbike.

It’s a worthy goal, but there’s some stuff you should know first. Such as:

Follow the rules

First off, you’ve got to follow the official CSBK rule book, which has the following to say about rider classification:

C) Competitors who are currently ranked as Amateurs within their Regional Series, will be classified as National Amateurs, unless that competitor has placed in the top three in a final overall season Series Points Standings, in a class for 600cc or larger, production based, multi cylinder (greater than twin) machinery. Then they will be subject to classification of rider level status by CSBK.
D) Competitors competing in Amateur Superbike or Sport Bike will be moved to Pro Status the following season if they finish in the top three in overall points standing of a class.
E) Competitors who are currently ranked as Pro or Expert status within their Regional Series, will be subject to classification of rider level status by CSBK based on a review of previous racing experience.

In other words, based on your finish in the overall points. you can move into the CSBK pro ranks from within CSBK’s own amateur classes, or from the amateur or pro ranks of a regional series (SOAR, sARL, RACE, and other equivalents). However, because competition varies in the regional series year over year, riders from those series will be subject to evaluation from CSBK staff before they’re given a pro licence.

Ben Young (leading here) says it’s important to have realistic expectations when you go pro. Chances are, you won’t tear up the rankings. Photo: Rob O’Brien

Keep your expectations realistic

One thing where I feel amateurs struggle is they come from being the fastest guy in their class to being the second-slowest guy in some cases,” says Ben Young, 2019 Canadian Pro Superbike series winner. “I think the biggest mistake some amateurs make is, they come in  as a pro first year and they’re like ‘okay, I’m going to go do this.’ And their goal is top five, and if they’ve not achieved that goal, mentally they’re knocked down again.”

CSBK czar Colin Fraser has seen that happen many times over his years of running the series. Just because you’ve been tearing up your regionals, there’s no guarantee of CSBK pro stardom. “Regionally, you have to be really strong as a pro to be a mid-field pro at the nationals.” He says the resulting let-down, when the new pros realize things aren’t going to be as easy as they’d thought, can be really hard on the rookies.

“It’s one of the biggest problems in racing, period: the transitions at every level.”

Be humble, and learn

Along with those realistic expectations, Young says it’s important to soak in knowledge from more experienced racers: “I think the biggest thing is to learn from the people surrounding you, and go in with an open mind on it, not have this big goal of ‘I’m going to conquer the world.’ ” Instead, he says rookie pros should seek out advice from fellow competitors. “We’re all approachable, and we’ll all take time out of the day to talk to people and help where we can.”

Fraser says the same thing: “Talk to as many people as you can.”

Will Hornblower chases down Sebastien Tremblay. Tremblay got the win here at Mosport, but Hornblower got the championship. His secret? Lots of seat time. Photo: Rob O’Brien/CSBK

No substitute for seat time

Will Hornblower, 2019 Pro Sport Bike champion, says if you want to succeed as a motorcycle racer, you need carefully planned seat time, where you’re always learning. “Just riding around won’t necessarily accomplish anything. Having a method is important, what you do before you get on track …

“It gets to a point where it becomes instinct and muscle memory. You don’t make the rookie mistakes before you go out anymore. Recording as much as you can before and after the session, whether that’s how the bike felt, or some changes in how you approached a corner. Recording as much as you can gives you data to go back to.”

You’ve got to push yourself constantly as you’re learning, says Hornblower, and he acknowledges that comes at a cost: “Early on, this will cause you to fall down a lot. It’s part of racing. You need to find the limit.”

Get fit!

When you’re racing, says Fraser, everything’s important, because a tenth of a second can make or break a lap time. The problem is that physical fitness is easy to lose, when you’re running around taking care of everything else. “Being (physically) ready is crucial, and most guys aren’t. Most guys are busy having a job, making money, working on the bike, and none of that gets you fit and in better shape.”

Trevor Daley won the Amateur Superbike championship in 2012, but success in the Pro ranks eluded him until this season, when he worked on his fitness. Photo: Tim McGill

Learn the tracks

Canada’s racetracks tend to be bumpy, tight, and unlike roadracing tracks from other countries. Not only do you need seat time aboard your bike, it pays to have seat time at every single track, to know what to expect at each venue. If you’re in a regional series, hoping to race on the same tracks as the national series, it pays to get to those national tracks whenever possible, even during track days, says Ron Munroe. He’s president of the sARL regional series, has had Pro starts himself in CSBK, and has seen other sARL racers run full-season Pro campaigns. If you plan on racing at those tracks, you want to get as much time as you can in, to dial your bike and yourself in.”

Young says when he started racing pro in Canada, he hadn’t had the chance to run his bike anywhere but Shannonville and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. His strategy, and his advice to roadracers learning the trade, is to head into each new track with an open mind and taking a steady approach to learning each venue.

Pick the right bike

Unless you have a sponsorship or other big reason to ride a specific bike, Fraser says you should figure out what bikes are easiest and most affordable to run, with a plentiful parts supply. He recommends the Yamaha R6 in particular. “You can debate whether it’s the best bike, but what you can’t debate is there’s more people racing (it).” That means there’s lots of go-fast bits around, and lots of expert advice on bike setup. It’s worth noting that an R6 has won the Pro Sport Bike series the past three years.

Tomas Casas doesn’t have the #1 plate anymore, but it went to another R6-mounted rider in Pro Sport Bike. Casas managed some decent results with his R6 in Pro Superbike in recent years as well. Photo: Rob O’Brien.

Pro Sport Bike vs. Pro Superbike?

For a long time, riders paid their dues in Pro Sport Bike aboard a 600 before moving to the litrebike class. That’s less of a thing now, says Fraser, as superbikes are easier to ride, and the price difference is less noticeable. Plus, if you plan to ride a superbike, you’re going to have to learn to ride it sooner or later anyway, and also learn how to manage the bike’s electronics systems. Starting that process sooner means success will come sooner, theoretically.

One advantage of a sport bike when you’re starting out is that you can also run your 600 in the Pro Superbike class, as long as you can qualify. This gives you more track time, even if you may not be competitive with the litrebikes. And despite the horsepower disadvantage, the 600s have certainly put up some respectable results both in qualifying and on race day on some of Canada’s tighter tracks.

Don’t expect to get rich

Fraser figures there are four or five racers in Pro Superbike who are at least breaking even on racing, paying their bills through sponsorships, contingency payouts and other sources. If that number is correct, it still means there are a lot of CSBK racers who are paying to race, despite their pro status — they’re not making a living off their riding. If that’s your goal, look elsewhere.

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