The hunt for the 2023 Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike championship rolls on to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park next weekend, and with it comes three more unpredictable races in the fourth round of the Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship, August 18-20.
The middleweight class has seen two names separate themselves atop the standings, as David MacKay leads Matt Simpson by just eleven points, but the on-track action has been hardly straightforward entering the penultimate round.
Debut national victories for Connor Campbell and Brad Macrae in round one set up a pair of wins for MacKay in round two, before 2021 champion Sebastien Tremblay returned to the front with pole position at round three in Nova Scotia.
However, the unprecedented cancellation of that weekend has pushed one of those scheduled races to CTMP, where an unofficial tripleheader will now take place with one race using the grids from AMP and the other two providing a clean slate.
Despite the wide-open nature of the super-fast “Old Mosport” layout, Tremblay will enter with a slight edge atop the betting table, mostly thanks to his incredible run of form at the circuit dating back to 2019.
The Turcotte Performance Suzuki rider swept CTMP in both 2019 and 2021, adding a singular 2020 victory in between to take five consecutive wins at the venue, while the rest of the category has combined for just two wins at the same track.
Those wins went to Simpson and Vieira one year ago, the former scoring his first pro national victory, but Vieira won’t be eligible to compete in race one after he was set to miss round three at AMP.
That opens the door for Simpson to try and repeat his stunning 2022 win, and one the Blackstock Motorsports Yamaha rider sorely needs with just five races left to leapfrog MacKay at the top of the standings.
Simpson got the better of MacKay as he held him off to win race one a year ago, a result that proved to be a devastating blow to the ODH Snow City Cycle Kawasaki rider’s title chances, as MacKay finished second again in race two (Simpson third) to fall only eight points shy of champion Trevor Dion.
Now motivated to avoid more CTMP heartbreak, MacKay will try to improve upon his pair of runner-up finishes to claim his first victory at the track, not just to extend his lead on Simpson but also to fend off the surging Tremblay.
The two true wildcards of the weekend will be round one winners Campbell and Macrae, as both sat out with injuries a year ago and thus have a limited resumé to draw from around CTMP.
Macrae will have fond memories of the circuit, though, having won both of his last two appearances there as the Amateur Sport Bike champion in 2021, including a victory over Simpson in race two aboard his Colron Excavating Yamaha.
As for Campbell, the B&T MacFarlane/Kubota Kawasaki rider managed an eleventh-place result in his only pro appearance at CTMP in 2021, finishing seventh prior to that in Amateur Sport Bike (2019) but starring in his final Lightweight appearances of 2018 with a pair of second-place results.
That group will also need to make the most of their opening race, as the official end of “round three” and start of “round four” (races two and three) will allow the return of Vieira to the grid – as well as one other very familiar name.
Vieira will of course enter the fold as an immediate threat to win, having done so in race two a year ago with a rare breakaway performance at CTMP. Now piloting a GP Bikes Ducati, the transition hasn’t been seamless but should benefit him most on the long Andretti straightaway, a true test of the V2 Panigale’s power.
He won’t be the most anticipated returnee, however, as series icon Francis Martin will make a stunning one-off comeback to the Sport Bike class.
The two-time feature Canada Cup champion hasn’t made a CSBK appearance since his initial retirement in 2011, but now finds himself back on the grid aboard a Purple Skull Brewing/Liqui Moly Suzuki, in the same garage as Superbike title leader Alex Dumas.
Martin never won in his brief Sport Bike career at CTMP but did taste Superbike victory there in 2003 with Suzuki, coming painfully close again in his final race 12 years ago as he racked up 12 of his 46 pro podiums at the venue.
The fan favourite will also be sharing the track with a familiar foe once again, as Jeff Williams looks to clinch the inaugural Bickle Racing Pro Twins championship.
The return to CTMP will swing back in Williams’ favour after his perfect season was foiled by 16-year-old Andrew Van Winkle on the east coast, the FD Suzuki rider having taken pole position which will carry over to race one.
Williams will need to extend his championship lead from 29 to 58 in order to clinch the title ahead of the final round, a tough ask for the Williams Paving Aprilia veteran, and one made tougher by the impending announcement of Tomas Casas joining the Twins field for CTMP.
A two-time Sport Bike champion and one of the winningest riders in class history, Casas will do double-duty as he balances his Pro Superbike efforts with a first-ever appearance in the Twins class, piloting an Acme Motorsports Yamaha MT07 machine.
A double-winner at CTMP in 2018, Casas scored eight consecutive podiums at his home track from 2016 through 2019 and will now try to extend that run into the Twins class as Yamaha debuts their first challenger in the new category.
The full schedule for the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike and Bickle Racing Pro Twins categories can be found on the series’ official website at CSBK.ca.
- From Professional Motorsports Productions