After two years of development, not helped by a global pandemic, the Canadian version of the MiniGP National Series opened with three races at the opening round at Greg Moore Raceway in Mission, British Columbia. Backed by Motul and spec tire supplier Pirelli, the Championship has a key feature – the winner’s head to Valencia in Spain this November to compete against the top guns for other Nation’s spec Ohvale series, crowning an overall World Champ.
2023 is the third year for the Series backed by world sanctioning group FIM and promoted by Dorna, the MotoGP and World Superbike Series organizers. The Americans have been in from the start with their North American Championship feeder category, and there was some urgency to get in on the ground floor before the series became fully subscribed by participating countries. As you might imagine, the Europeans are very well represented, especially the Spanish and Italians.
Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Famer and former world-level competitor Toni Sharpless understood all of this when she decided to go “all in” on this project two years ago via her Super Sonic School system. Since then, it has been a largely uphill struggle to establish the series, sponsors, venues and especially relationships required.
A trip to Valencia last November for the second annual World Cup event had Sharpless in a positive frame of mind, but it still took months to get the official confirmation and fulfill various, sometimes costly requirements. From there, it was an all-out thrash to get the pieces in place to launch the project in B.C. last weekend.
Greg Moore is a Go-Kart venue, and that is the case with many venues that host various forms of mini moto competition, with the purpose built Ohvales as the pinnacle of this format. Most racers start with dirt bike-based, converted racers, and the wide variety of these machines helps keep the cost down, at least initially!
The star of the BC action was Treston Morrison, a 13-year-old from Calgary, AB. When last seen, Morrison was flying parallel to the race surface at May’s Regional opener at Lombardy, north of Kingston, ON. That big crash was the most significant launch seen so far by an Ohvale, and the bike seemed to survive the tumble better than most exotic Italian machines!
Morrison is a low-key guy, and it shows in his riding, often near the edge but never panicky. He took pole after Friday’s two qualifying sessions in BC, almost half a second quicker that the next best, last year’s runner-up in the original regional version of the championship, Kingston, ON’s Ben Hardwick.
Morrison earned pole with a lap at 1:03.3, reasonably close to the commonly held overall lap record of a low 1:02, as quoted by the locals. After three races, Morrison got down to a 1:02.6 in the final counter, and the later in the program used the draft from an older racer on a faster machine to take his same Ohvale into the 1:01 range – the new outright bike record.
After each session, Morrison praised his competition, even though he really didn’t see much of them, leading by far the majority of the laps. This is a familiar, “smiling assassin” strategy as practice by successful racers from Canadian Superbike pioneer Lang Hindle to MotoGP God Marc Marquez.
This might be a good time to remind everyone that next weekend Morrison will defend his series points lead over two races at his home track in Strathmore, east of Calgary. From there, there are five further national championship races over two weekends at the end of July/start of August back at Lombardy.
The first westerner to attract attention this season was Lincoln Scott, who was impressive at the Lombardy Regional, his debut at the eastern track. The ten-year-old won both races, and was a firm favorite going to B.C. But Scott broke his right wrist back home, and got clearance to ride at the last minute, missing the initial practice sessions in B.C. while motoring with family through the Rockies.
So, Scott was in salvage mode, and his opposition needed to make the most of Scott’s reduced capabilities. This situation certainly worked to Morrision’s advantage, while another pre-season favorite, Hardwick, fell in two of the races and missed a chance to bank maximum points.
Meanwhile Scott did surprisingly well given his fitness and the fact that the right wrist is the single most important extremity of motorcycle racers, with throttle and brake duties. This included an amazing third in the opener, helped by some carnage ahead and a strong last lap push. How much healthier will Scott be in Alberta next weekend, or will his BC exertions set back his recovery?
Meanwhile, Michael Galvis most frequently challenged Morrison, not bad for a kid who started out on a two-stroke Kawasaki dirt bike a year ago at Lombardy. Galvis has awesome entry speed and confidence to burn but is one of those rare racers who can actually ride off the edge of the front tire – typically he saves it, but it makes consistent races a real challenge.
The local Pacific Coast Mini Road Racing group had a strong entry for their wide range of Regional categories and ran a program probably stronger than the previous high-water mark, the Calgary group of 15 years ago. This was the era when Honda put money into mini competition to support the launch of the CBR125R.
Working but not racing at Greg Moore was popular mini veteran Andrew Van Winkle, a former fast guy at Greg Moore who is now competing in the Bridgestone CSBK tour in the Bickle Racing Pro Twins category. Based locally, 16-year-old Van Winkle was helping his father run the timing system – something new for both.
Van Winkle still had a walking cast on his foot in Chilliwack, a consequence of a crash in practice at Grand Bend two weeks ago. Even so, he bounced back to race on Sunday at Grand Bend, earning second behind winner Jeff Williams in his rookie pro national campaign.
If you are looking for the next “left coast” ace who could climb the road race ladder via the Ohvale Series, please consider eight-year-old Martina Cardenas, who absolutely dazzled at Greg Moore. In her third year of racing bikes (she also races karts) Cardenas competes in several classes, including on the starter Ohvale, the GP-O Auto.
Martina won several races, including one race where she was more than ten seconds clear of the field on her small-wheeled Suzuki after just one lap. Defiantly one to keep an eye on, and maybe a female Ohvale National contender in 2025?
- From Colin Fraser