The Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship has already delivered plenty of twists and turns to begin the 2023 campaign, so there’s nowhere more fitting for the season to go next than Atlantic Motorsport Park this weekend, July 20-23, presented by Pro Cycle and Kawasaki.
The uniquely demanding circuit, known affectionately as “the rollercoaster,” will be the site of round three of the GP Bikes Pro Superbike class, but there’s no need to remind championship leader Alex Dumas of the challenge that lies ahead near Halifax, Nova Scotia.
It was just one year ago that the battle for the 2022 Canada Cup was blown wide open at AMP, with Dumas crashing out of the lead amidst an intense battle with Ben Young, who would go on to win his second feature championship in large part thanks to Dumas’ costly error.
Jump ahead to 2023, and there are so far no errors to be found for Dumas.
The Purple Skull Brewing/Liqui Moly Suzuki rider has been sensational, winning three of four races in dominant fashion and taking a commanding 36-point lead over Young to put one finger on the Canada Cup already.
Granted, there has been plenty of misfortune for the reigning champion that has helped expand Dumas’ gap atop the standings, but all three of his victories have demonstrated a new, more determined version of himself than the one we have seen so far in his short career.
It also won’t take much improvement in outright pace for Dumas to close his gap to Young, as there memorably wasn’t any gap at all a year ago – the duo infamously tying in qualifying and needing a coin toss to decide the polesitter – with his race mistakes making it seem as though Young’s advantage was bigger than it is.
With that, it’s hard not anoint Dumas the favourite even with his forgettable east-coast debut last season, as he will know Young has to throw everything at him across the final five races in hopes of rallying back in the championship.
However, the Van Dolder’s Home Team BMW rider will have his own claim to being the weekend favourite. After all, Young swept both races in 2022 and has won three of the last four on the east coast, including his spectacular comeback from tenth to first in 2019.
The circuit has traditionally favoured Young, perhaps owed in part to his experience on narrow, twisty tracks in the British Superbike Championship, and that comeback win four years ago is still considered the best of his career.
However, that victory will also remind Young that AMP is no stranger to chaotic results, likely a bigger concern for Dumas than himself as the title leader aims to avoid any drama, and it may be a closer group of challengers this weekend than the duo has grown accustomed to.
Riding the biggest wave of momentum will be Trevor Daley, who is fresh off a historic charge of his own in Grand Bend where he snatched fourth after crashing out of a battle for the lead on lap two.
Daley has rarely had luck on his side, but round two proved once again he has the race-winning pace to overcome it, and there may not be anywhere better for the OneSpeed Suzuki rider to finally end his quest for a debut victory than at the same place where he came painstakingly close in 2019.
The true X-factor may be tied to Daley regardless, as the biggest question mark of the weekend will be the home favourite aboard his old machine, 17-year-old rookie John Fraser.
Riding the rebranded RLS Contracting Suzuki, Fraser has quietly put together a strong debut campaign already with top-eight finishes in three of four races, but he could more than double that output with a pair of podium challenges this weekend.
That may seem like a tall ask for the first-year rider just out of high school, but Fraser has already approached pole position times in his regional stints at AMP, and even for his young age will bring more track knowledge than majority of the Superbike field.
One rider he certainly won’t have more experience than, however, is 14-time AMP winner (and coincidentally 14-time champion) Jordan Szoke, who will be first in line to pick up the pieces if any of the three Suzuki’s falter.
The banged-up veteran will likely be in for his toughest test yet since his inspiring return, with a pair of 22-lap races on the schedule around a physically grueling circuit, but Szoke and his LDS Consultants Kawasaki will have more expertise to draw from than many of his competitors combined, having tasted victory so many times in Nova Scotia.
That knowledge will be especially valuable to his teammate, LDS Consultants Kawasaki rookie Trevor Dion, as he tries to navigate a Superbike around the Shubenacadie track for the first time. Dion won at AMP a year ago during his Sport Bike championship campaign, but it’s a far different ask around a 210-horsepower feature bike as he looks to build upon his race two podium from Grand Bend.
A difficult challenger to predict will be usual frontrunner Sam Guerin, who has looked like a legitimate race-winning threat on numerous occasions in 2023 but was ordinary in his 2022 Atlantic debut, finishing a distant fourth and fifth aboard his EFC Group BMW.
AMP is no stranger to wet weather, though, and Guerin has begun to gain a reputation as a rain expert, meaning he could be quick to climb the leaderboard if the skies open up at any point over the weekend.
Another wet-track expert worth mentioning is Parts Canada Yamaha rider Tomas Casas, who famously scored his first career Superbike podium in the rain at AMP in 2019.
Casas has dealt with his own physical challenges this season after an injury-shortened 2022 campaign, and this track is hardly one to ease himself back into after four years away, but fond memories may give his team the boost they need in round three.
The midway point of the season will also prove to be crucial in the Constructors Championship fight, where Young’s adversity has left BMW a comfortable 28 points adrift of leaders Suzuki.
The trio of Dumas, Daley, and Fraser don’t appear likely to ease that gap anytime soon, either, but Young and Guerin will be equally in the mix up front for BMW.
Friday’s qualifying sessions could also go a long way in deciding the BS Battery Pole Position award, where Young currently leads Dumas by six points after taking pole in both rounds thus far, with a three-way tie for third another six points back.
The full schedule for the feature GP Bikes class, as well as the six support classes, can be found on the series’ official website at CSBK.ca.
- From Professional Motorsports Productions