Canada’s best-ever Superbike competitor, Jordan Szoke, attended a number of races this year. Fourteen-time Canadian Superbike ‘number one’ Szoke made it to all but one of the 2022 National CSBK races, as well as a recent Flat Track Canada National, representing long-time sponsor Canadian Kawasaki Motors.
Unfortunately, Szoke was spectating, not competing, in 2022. A pre-season M/X crash left the popular racer badly injured, and surgery in the Spring ensured that there would be no two-wheeled competition for Szoke in 2022.
“I don’t know if I’m optimistic yet, but things are going better than expected, I think,” explained Szoke, shortly after attending the final tripleheader CSBK National, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“Right now, the focus is getting more movement in my left ankle – not to race, but to walk!”
In past years, Szoke has struggled with right ankle issues, a legacy of a fall jump incident on a dirt bike that didn’t even involve a crash. Now, the right ankle is doing most of the work as Szoke gets used to getting around on crutches.
“The focus for sure is the left ankle; I’m working on building my confidence and strength,” confirmed Szoke. “So far, there isn’t much movement or range, and that makes it hard to walk. So I go to physio, and we work on this all the time.
“There is still some concern that I might have to get my left heel fused, more of a side-to-side thing after I crushed the heel,” continues Szoke. “But we’re holding off on any kind of a decision on something that major until we get further along in physio.
“I’m getting used to putting all my weight on the leg, and every day it gets better. My foot is still swollen, and I need to be reminded that it isn’t all that long ago I had the accident. There are so many unknowns due to the severity of all of my injuries; I’m not really sure of what to expect. And no one really knows with the various interconnected problems.
“I guess the goal is to get back on a bicycle; that was my main method of training. And if I can bicycle, maybe I can ride and race. The way to make that happen is not yet clear.
Szoke admits that missing a year’s income in a tight economy doesn’t help with concerns about what could, or should, be possible in his future. Obviously, he gets asked often about his plans for next season, and it is too soon to predict the possibilities.
“I want to race. I still like racing, but there is more than my ankle and return to fitness at play,” starts Szoke. “I need to be financially able to race. Kawasaki have been really good, and we’re eager to keep racing together.
“Normally, we would work on our contracts to confirm in December or January, so we are not at any real deadlines in August. I still have time to figure things out, and deal with the need for further possible surgeries, even if it is just to take some of the hardware out.
“I have reasons to be optimistic – I hope to ride my new Trials bike this year; it just arrived yesterday. I ordered it before the crash, and then changed that order to get an electric-start version when I understood my injury. It wouldn’t be the same as road racing, but I could start on the Trials bike even without the movement I would need to race.”
Szoke has been something of an Ironman in CSBK competition, famously racing with a broken ankle in several rounds back in 1999 in his first season on a Honda. He missed the 2001 Canadian season but that was due to his commitment to ride a semi-works Harley-Davidson VR1000 in the American National series.
Since then, Szoke has only missed one Canadian weekend, and that was forced by a thumb injury suffered in a Trials event just before the CTMP National event in 2014.
It was difficult for Szoke to watch his rivals race for the ‘number one’ plate in 2022, but he does have some interesting observations about the series.
“It was great that things were somewhat back to normal, and the fans make a big difference,” reflects Szoke on the past CSBK tour.
“I figured going in it would be a battle for the plate between Ben (Young on a BMW) and Alex (Dumas on a Suzuki), although you can’t really predict things when two racers are as close as they were most of the season.
“Alex was in control until Atlantic Motorsport Park and his accident in the first race; I really thought until then it was Alex’s title to lose. Still, Ben is way consistent, and that often plays out for the big Championship.”
One rider who stood out for Szoke is the newly crowned Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike Champion, Trevor Dion.
“I really didn’t know much about Dion until we were at the opening round at Grand Bend, and he really impressed me there. He stood out. He is a great racer, and it will be interesting to see what he does next – he’s just getting started. He has so much potential. It’s too bad he didn’t ride the Superbike too much – I think he’s even better on the Superbike than the 600!
“Everyone else finished about how I figured they would. I think we would have been in there for the Championship; we tested pre-season at Grand Bend, it was cold, and the track was dirty, but we could see the changes we made over the winter were in the right direction.”
Now we will wait and see if 43-year-old Szoke gets the opportunity to try those updates in race action during 2023.
- Colin Fraser