I was in Alberta this July long weekend, to work the second round of the MiniGP series at Strathmore’s Go-Kart facility, east of Calgary, and visit the brand-new Rocky Mountain Motorsports “big bike” track, north of the city – the two venues maybe an hour and 15 minutes apart via highway.
Much attention is currently focused on the Rocky Mountain Motorsports track near Carstairs, ideally placed between Calgary and Edmonton. A country-club style venue that sells shares to supporters and then charges yearly fees in a similar set-up to a golf course, the venue is auto focused, but should be bike friendly.
I say should be since there has only been one season of track days and no races at the facility – until last weekend. I visited during the Calgary Motorcycle Roadracing Association (CMRA) 2023 race school and practice day on Thursday, and then the first ever motorcycles races at the track took place on Friday and Saturday – or at least should have!
The Friday went well, with the first nine races in the history of the circuit running on-time, in the afternoon. The first race was won by Pro Suzuki GSX-R racer Luke Salt, who entered at the last minute and told me about his victory during the riders’ meeting the next morning at the Karting track.
It turned out to be a good plan to miss the Rocky Mountain races Saturday, since a tornado landed near the track in the afternoon, halting the CMRA event in its tracks. The tornado cut a 15-kilometer swath of damage between Didsbury and Carstairs, damaging home and property – it was the biggest tornado since an Edmonton storm in in 1987 that killed 27. Fortunately, no lives were lost this time.
Prior to the tornado ending proceedings early, the pace setter was former MotoAmerica regular and CSBK podium Pro Superbiker Marcel Irnie of B.C. on a BMW S 1000 RR, with a best lap of 1:49.155. Irnie’s lap was set using the 18 turn, 3.6 km long layout, including a chicane to slow the bikes prior to turn one.
Further track days were held this past week, and Bridgestone CSBK National Amateur racer Philip DeGamma-Blanchet (currently third in AIM Superbike points and fourth in the Scorpion EXO Sport Bike standings) chipped away at the best lap pace on his virtually stock Yamaha R6 – his “good” bike remains in the east to compete in the nationals.
Using the Chicane but switching to Bridgestone rubber, local hero DeGamma-Blanchet got down into the 1:48 range, unofficially. With his other, preferred, built racer, compete with proper suspension, he could likely go faster still.
I say unofficially, but the Rocky Mountain facility has an impressive, state-of-the-art control facility, well beyond anything else operational in Canada. Electronic controls and integrated systems make for a very impressive management set-up, with high quality video and the ability to always monitor ever timing transmitter at the circuit. The potential of this set-up has race organizers very excited.
Meanwhile, southeast at the Go-Kart facility, the Alberta Mini Roadracing Association hosted the FIM sanctioned Motul MiniGP national, round two following the three-race opener the week before at Greg Moore Raceway in BC. While Strathmore thankfully received only the windstorm rather than the full tornado, there was still lots of action on their 1.2 km, 15 turn, “uphill” counterclockwise version of the venue.
Local ace Treson Morrison earned three wins in BC but struggled at Strathmore with shifting issues with his Ohvale, eventually switching to one of the Super Sonic Roadrace School machines. Pre-season favorite Lincoln Scott was still recovering from a broken right wrist suffered three weeks ago but was in improved form compared to BC.
Scott was on-form in Qualifying, coming out on top of the two sessions with a lap at 1:03.01. Michael Galvis was just .4 behind for second, and last year’s regional runner-up Ben Hardwick completed the front row at 1:03.6.
The racer to watch turned out to be Galvis, the ten-year-old easterner breaking through for his first Ohvale wins and taking over the points lead at the half-way mark of the first ever Canadian MiniGP national tour.
On Saturday, Galvis battled his way to the lead, and an expected final shoot out between Galvis and Scott never materialized when Mason Archer’s turn one fall brought out the red flag, scoring reverting to lap eight of a posted 12. Hardwick was a close third, while Morrison earned fourth, barely holding off Rhys McNutt’s charge on the CSBK Scholarship Bike.
In Sunday’s cooler, post-tornado Canada Day conditions, Galvis put on a demonstration, gradually pulling away to win by three seconds from Scott. McNutt made good on his Saturday charge, netting the final podium spot by edging Hardwick.
The MiniGP series now heads for Ontario, to the Super Sonic School’s home track of Lombardy, north of Kingston. Recently refurbished, Lombardy will host five races over two consecutive weekends, the August 4-5-6 event’s Sunday Schedule including the deciding three races in the national championship, determining who will represent Canada at the World Ohvale finals in Valencia at the end of November.
- From Colin Fraser