The Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike championship was nearly turned on its head on Friday, as John Laing scored his first career Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship victory in a crash-filled make-up race from the cancelled round three, presented by Pro Cycle and Kawasaki.
The wet race – initially intended to be held at Atlantic Motorsport Park but pushed to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – saw plenty of drama involving the title favourites, all of which unfolded behind a determined Laing in his first ever appearance at CTMP.
The Vass Performance Kawasaki rider grabbed the initial holeshot for the third time this season (after doing so twice at the Shannonville opener) but again saw it evaporate, this time because of a red flag for injured Bickle Racing Pro Twins championship leader Jeff Williams after a turn one crash.
The restart was less kind to Laing, though he did slot in behind Sport Bike title leader David MacKay in a lead group of five that featured championship contenders Matt Simpson and Sebastien Tremblay as well as round one winner Connor Campbell.
However, the Cochrane, Alberta native and wet-weather specialist made quick work of MacKay in front of him, grabbing the lead on lap two and again stretching out a sizeable lead, just moments before all the chaos erupted behind him.
Tremblay would be the first to crash out of the lead group just seconds later, seemingly ending his shot at a second career Sport Bike crown, but the drama continued as Simpson would crash out of second place on lap four.
That effectively handed a huge championship swing to MacKay, who looked set to extend his title advantage from eleven points to a comfortable 33. Instead, MacKay himself would crash out in the same spot as Simpson just three laps later, as the top four in the overall points standings all failed to finish on Friday.
That promoted a hard-charging Campbell to second, who began to reel in Laing hand over first in the final laps, but ultimately fell just short at the line as he lost out by only 0.030 seconds – the fourth-closest finish in Sport Bike history.
The hectic result moves Laing from ninth in the championship all the way to third, and he made sure to credit Willie and Nadine Vass (crucial members of Ben Young’s Van Dolder’s Home Team BMW squad) for helping make it happen.
“I got to give a huge thanks to them. They are 95% of the reason I came out here this season, and it wouldn’t be possible without Vass Performance,” Laing said. “Shannonville was really tough, so this is a bit of redemption.”
The 0.030 seconds separating Campbell from a second win on the season proved to be a seven-point swing, though the B&T MacFarlane/Kubota Kawasaki rider wasn’t going to complain after moving from seventh to fourth in the championship standings.
“That was a crazy race. I sat back at the start because I knew the rain is so unpredictable here, but then I started reeling them in and almost got John at the end,” Campbell said. “I knew my dad would be telling me to slow it down, but I wasn’t having it!”
Amidst the chaos, the final podium place would go to another rookie in Alex Michel, who avoided all drama and ran a quiet race to score a sensational result aboard his SpeedFactory67 Kawasaki – completing an all-Kawasaki podium.
“I was just trying to bring it home wherever I could, so I’m really happy to be up here and score my first podium,” said the 19-year-old Michel. “We’ll see how things go on a dry track this weekend, but hopefully we can be up here again.”
Fourth would go to Mohawk Gas Bar Ducati veteran Louie Raffa, who nearly tripled his season points total in what was a breakthrough race for the former Sport Bike winner, while Marco Sousa rounded out the top five aboard his privateer Suzuki.
As for the championship picture, the gap at the top remains relatively the same as MacKay stretches his lead from eleven to 13 points after earning the two-point lap led bonus, as both he and Simpson will lament a missed opportunity at the front.
Meanwhile, the big loser of the day was Tremblay, who falls from fourth in the title mix to seventh in the overall order, with just 16 points covering eight riders from Laing in third to Sousa in tenth.
The middleweight class will now return for their originally scheduled CTMP doubleheader this weekend, with a new grid formed from Friday morning’s session where Tremblay again starts from pole.
Full results from the round three make-up race, as well as the schedule of events for all of Saturday and Sunday’s national action, can be found on the series’ official website at CSBK.ca.
- From Professional Motorsports Productions