One of the great things about producing a more-or-less weekly blog is the opportunity to switch gears on the fly. I had planned to write about MotoGP this week: the possible Qatar return of Honda’s Marc ‘much-missed’ Marquez, as well as the possibility of Andrea Dovizioso competing sometime soon for Aprilia’s premier squad. However, at the end of last week, the Motorcycle Confederation of Canada (MCC) Competition Council ruled that CSBK series king Jordan Szoke would be eligible to run his typical ‘number one’ plate on his Canada General Warranty works Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja during 2021.
Previously, the series had informed Szoke that due to the disrupted and abbreviated 2020 COVID-19-affected campaign, many typical series success elements would not be recognized. CSBK decided not to award the ‘number one’ plate for 2021, and not engrave the series winner’s name on the Canada Cup.
The MCC ruling means that Szoke will run the ‘number one’ plate, a big honour in the world of motorcycle racing, certainly in North America. While Valentino Rossi has set the trend of the champion keeping his/her regular number and avoiding the use of the ‘premier plate,’ Szoke has always run the ‘numero uno’ digit with pride in the Canadian National Championships.
There are very few number ones in CSBK. Typically, the plate is used by the National Champions in Pro Superbike and Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike (middleweight) class action, while the series winners from the three Amateur categories move up a tier, and never get to defend their earned number ones.
Szoke’s appeal of the CSBK decision (full disclosure – I was involved in the original ruling) included a reference to a (so far) the little-known fact: Quebec City’s Samuel Guerin, second overall in the four-race CSBK Pro Superbike campaign in 2020, will run with ‘number two’ on the number plate area of his BMW, this season.
Guerin’s move to a lower overall number was at the request of CSBK, who aim to get the easiest to read digit(s) possible on machines that get video coverage for TSN. It has been a while since a front-runner has opted for ‘number two.’ Guerin’s number drop had some old-timers talking about previous racers with the same plates.
Montreal’s Tommy Douglas was a Canadian roadracing star for Yamaha in the 1980s, attracting major attention with a late-season win as an unranked Amateur at Shannonville on the unloved FJ600 in 1984. The next season, he showcased the FZ750 liquid-cooled, five-valve against the hordes of similarly new GSX-Rs.
By 1986 Douglas had turned Pro and moved to black ‘number two’ from red ‘one-eight-five.’ His efforts on tuner Gord Hubble’s insurance write-off budget FZ Superbike (complete with burned-out map in the tank!) got him works bikes for 1989. That was a good year for Yamaha, with the just-launched FZR600 dominating 600 Production and the legendary FZR750RR 0W01 attracting much attention in the Feature class.
PHOTO: Number Two Tom Douglas celebrates a debut win for the new Yamaha FZR600 in Pro 600 Production at Shannonville in May, 1989 – he would never earn a victory in a Pro Superbike National Feature race. Photo by Colin Fraser.
Douglas showed well at Daytona and could have snatched victory in one of the strangest 200s in history – eventual winner John Ashmead was behind Douglas in the early going. Back from the opening World Superbike races in the U.K., Douglas was the man to beat on the 600, and always at or near the front on the Superbike.
However, a crash while leading at the crucial Molson Superbike Weekend at Shannonville, July 1989, handed momentum to fellow Yamaha Motor Canada ace Steve Crevier. After a strong effort in the western swing, Crevier took all three major Pro crowns. Douglas wound up as one of the best racers never to win a National Feature Superbike race.
Benoit Pilon hails from just north of Montreal in St-Jerome and might be even more popular that Douglas in his day. A protégé of Michel Mercier’s FAST School, Pilon was likely coached by Douglas at some point. Pilon’s fan club sometimes organized bus trips to attend National rounds at Sanair, QC, as well as Shannonville.
After racing production Suzukis, Pilon became a successful Yamaha pilot, part of their strong 1990s Superbike line-up along with Neil Jenkins and Mark Kowalski. All would grab Superbike success in an era when Kawasaki did most of the winning.
Pilon ran up front for years and won the Pro Open Production title in the debut year for the now-legendary R1, conducting several amazing battles with the likes of young upstart Szoke. His major career Superbike Feature class success came at his home venue of Autodrome St-Eustache, QC, where he out-dueled reigning champ (and good friend) Michael Taylor’s on the # 1 works Kawasaki.
In an era when most of the front-runners ran Dunlop rubber, Pilon had a long-standing Michelin deal through long-term supporter Moto Hyper Sports. The shop also built the 1000cc Yamaha engines shoe-horned into Pilon’s Yamaha 750 chassis of the era – probably the most powerful machines of that time.
So, Guerin’s new ‘number two’ has some serious CSBK history in the province of Quebec. Along with Suzuki’s Alex Dumas, Guerin will no doubt be aiming for Brooklin Cycle Racing Pro Rookie of the Year honours in 2021 – it has been a while since contenders for this Award were also likely Feature race winners. This should prove entertaining.
PHOTO: In 2021, standout 2020 CSBK National rookie Pro Samuel Guerin of Quebec City is set to swap from number ‘eight two’ to the number ‘two’ on his E.F.C. BMW S1000RR Superbike. Photo by Colin Fraser.