The COVID-abbreviated 2021 CSBK National Championship series provided solid entertainment among all five of the classes offering series titles last season. Focus was rightly centered on Liqui Moly/FAST Riding School Suzuki’s teen-aged sensation Alex Dumas, who earned the overall crown in his first attempt, competing at venues he wasn’t familiar with.
On the flipside, Dumas is a well-established Pro, with experience in Mexican Nationals and at the front of several MotoAmerica classes, twice scoring titles. In 2020, his U.S. season was interrupted by injury, but he was aboard a GSX-R1000 similar to what he would use to win four of the seven 2021 Feature Nationals north of the border. Tuner Patrice Goyette has been a constant throughout the development of this steadily rising star.
Dumas is from the Quebec City region, recently a stronghold of talent, including 2020’s break out ace, EFC Group BMW’s Samuel Guerin. Four of the top ten racers in the final Pro Superbike points standings were Quebec-based, including Turcotte Performance Kawasaki’s Sebastien Tremblay and fellow veteran Michael Leon from the Royal Distributing BMW stable.
In the early days of CSBK, former Flat Track star Michel Mercier was a breakout star with Hindle-Kawasaki, before joining the George Morin/Mike Crompton factory effort with the launch of Suzuki’s historic GSX-R750 line in 1985. Mercier, often referred to as the “flying French Canadian” in the media at the time, took the number one plate for Suzuki in 1986 and 1987.
Before his retirement, Mercier dominated the 1990 series with a works Yamaha Ow-01 backed by his FAST Racing School, with rising star Pascal Picotte as his team-mate. However, Picotte was lured away to the US for Ferracci-Ducati before he could nab the overall CSBK title, and his arch-rival Miguel Duhamel also departed for America before ever scoring the Canadian number one plate.
The last French-Canadian rider to win the number one plate was Francis Martin, in 2005 aboard a Diablo Suzuki. Martin also took the Championship laurels in 1999, his first season as a fully backed rider in the feature class. That ’99 title came with the “A” Kawasaki squad formerly lead by the just-retired multi-time Champ Don Munroe, with the exotic, gear cam drive factory Kawasaki ZX-7RR Ninja racers.
Bikes such as Martin’s very rare ZX-7RR were banned at the end of 2003, with rising costs the major concern. However few people noticed, since Yamaha Canada opted to go all in on the talent end of things, bringing Pascal Picotte back from the U.S. to campaign in both the Superbike and Sport Bike middleweight categories.
Based on Quebec’s south shore near Granby’s famous zoo, Shop owner Picotte dominated both categories for two seasons straight, setting a very high standard for CSBK Series excellence. The Picotte Performance program was headed by recently deceased super tuner Paul Fournier and included former Yamaha-backed Superbike race winner Benoit Pilon.
Long-time top Pro Kevin Lacombe was Picotte’s protégé, and neighbor, during this period, and went on to considerable success in Superbike, too.
However, since this time, the once dominant Quebec contingent have not had so much top tier success. Tremblay has flown the flag in style, but a tight budget has made his Superbike career sporadic. While Tremblay has some Feature class Podiums, “the Shaker” has mostly focused on the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike support category aboard his potent fleet of Ninjas.
Laval-based Tremblay has also helped several other top guns through his shop and relationship with ace Dyno man Turcotte, including Christian Allard (from Chambly) and former Amateur Champ Philippe Masse from St-Hyacinthe, in Picotte country.
While Tremblay has been on the CSBK tour for over a decade, his home base has gradually moved from Quebec Circuits including Autodrome St-Eustache (now closed, and very close to his shop), and the problematic ICAR venue in Mirabel. His most frequent testing and teaching venue is now Calabogie Motorsports Park southwest of Ottawa, a venue similarly adopted by many of the Quebec competitors.
This is an interesting development, since there is little in the way of Regional or club racing in Quebec, and the ASM Group’s efforts at the small oval-based road course at Sanair, near Granby, are low key. So with very little local competition now that St-Eustache is closed, Quebec attention has shifted to the bigger, faster and newer Calabogie.
If you are looking to see the direction of the CSBK Series, consider the AIM Insurance Superbike National Championship final points standings for 2021: Anthony Bergeron won on a BMW, followed by Pascal Bastien (Yam), Pierre Simard (BMW), veteran Amateur Alex Cleary (BMW), Marc Labossiere (Yam), Guillaume Lavallee (Yam), William Degrasse (Suz) and Erick Gosselin (Aprilia). Of the top eight overall, only Brampton-based Degrasse in not from Quebec.
In the Amateur Sport Bike final standings, the Quebec contingent were not as well represented, showing that the adopted locals prefer their big bikes at big, fast tracks like Calabogie and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Even so, Bobby Desjardins of Ferme-Neuve, QC, skipped “old Mosport” completely and still managed to earn eighth overall on his Suzuki in the middleweight Sport Bike National class, including a podium at Calabogie II.
This year, the CSBK tour starts at Grand Bend in western Ontario June 9-12, a substantial drive for some of the Quebec contingent. However, aces such as Guerin have already raced at the track with the local SOAR group, and you can bet that Dumas will have tested prior to the National opener. Expect further stylish celebrations in French in just a few months!
- By Colin Fraser