In his first full season as a Pro road racer, former Flat Track Canada National Champion Doug Lawrence of Mississauga, ON, is still getting the hang of pavement life. Instead of a busy afternoon and evening at a dirt oval, he now digs in for four days at one venue, working up to speed aboard his Pi Racing 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Of course, fitness is still a big part of his program, and riding a variety of machines in a range of conditions is central to the Lawrence training regime. During a weekend off in June, Lawrence attended the opening round of the Flat Track Canada nationals at Welland, and won at one of his favourite short track venues.
In the break between round three of the Mopar CSBK Nationals at Autodrome St-Eustache June 25 and the upcoming Honda/Pro Cycle-backed double header weekend at Atlantic Motorsport park in Nova Scotia, July 13-16, Lawrence is busy “training, riding my mountain bike, riding the road bicycle. I went up to Blue Mountain to ride with (fellow Pro) Ben Young, and Kenny (Riedmann, another CSBK Star) joined us for a day.
“We’re also busy with the Suzuki, working on the bike, focused on the mapping and other items with Payam,” explained Lawrence of his tuner Shafinia.
This Thursday, Lawrence will take his new GSX-R to a Riders Choice Track Day at Shannonville Motorsport Park, building his road race experience – an important consideration for someone who started pavement competition less than two years ago. Then this weekend, Lawrence will return to Welland for a regional flat track race before heading to Atlantic Motorsport Park for the next Mopar CSBK event and his continuing quest for Brooklin Cycle Pro Rookie of the Year honours.
“Right now, I’m watching video, trying to get the track figured out,” explained Lawrence, who has not previously competed around the famed Shubenacadie ‘Roller Coaster.’ “I’ve been studying Jodi Christie, his races against Kenny in Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike back in 2015,” continues Lawrence. “The track looks fun, Don Taylor (fellow Canadian FT champ and road racer) says that I’ll love it. But I think it will be a tough weekend – a lot of the top guys have a good handle on AMP.
“I haven’t grown up around tracks with all that elevation change, and AMP has a lot of different right-hand corners. Then you have that run up the hill onto the pit straight, and I’m not sure how you get your reference points sorted out when you’re looking in the sky!”
One of the details of road racing that is holding Lawrence’s attention is the Dunlop spec slick tires that all the competitors use.
“I guess I’m pretty easy on tires so far, so we’ll see if that holds true at Shubie. I think I’m doing well with my feel with the throttle, but I’m not using too much Traction Control (TC). I don’t fully understand all of our available systems, I’m still working through the options available and the electronic opportunities.”
So how has the process of learning to race with the Pros on the pavement gone so far?
“The first thing that comes to mind is all the things I learned about over the winter,” starts Lawrence. “All of those rider aids, you need to learn to use that stuff. TC, auto blip, wheelie control; you need to focus on getting the wheels down on the pavement and working. I’m not really making many adjustments yet, but that’s coming.
“Getting to grips with a new tire, getting the most from it, that is a challenge too. When you put on a new tire and go looking for the available time, the top guys get that .8 of a second or whatever right away – I have to work up to it. I have to get settled, I’m not ready right away – it takes me a few laps, and that’s funny, since in flat track our sessions are so short! I need more knowledge, and that leads to more confidence. This is an issue in the early laps of the races too.
“In Flat Track, you’re always making little mistakes, you fix things as you go,” Lawrence informs. “But in road racing, if you’re off-line, that could affect half a lap, and you’re losing time. At St-Eustache, I was mistake-free in the main event, and my times were just off Jeff Williams and Samuel Trepanier (both on BMWs). I was a tenth or two away from those guys, and that is where I need to be.
“In the first nationals of the season, I thought I would pick up the pace earlier in the races, and I took it for granted that would happen. I’m getting there, but it is tougher than I expected to build the pace. I don’t have the outright aggression or raw speed I would like yet, but things are progressing and I’m making some good passes, starting to do what I need to do. I’m getting more comfortable, working on comfort with the speed, working on body position – it doesn’t matter what Jordan (Szoke) or Bodhi (Edie) are doing, not yet for me.”
Once the CSBK tour is complete at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, August 17-20, Lawrence plans to return to the dirt ovals. He’ll compete at the London half-mile national, probably on his recently-updated 485 cc Honda framer single, looking forward to London’s “narrow, slippery groove.” After that, he is considering offers to compete aboard a twin for several US teams at the Springfield Mile, a national round where he has performed well in the past. Following the American Flat Track races, Lawrence aims to complete at the final Flat Track Canada national at Ohsweken on September 2.
Lawrence’s 2017 road racing program is sponsored by Suzuki Canada, Pi Racing, Parts Canada, Pro 6 Cycle, Alpinestars, HJC, Motion Pro, Dunlop. Brooklin Cycle Racing, Town Moto, Vortex, Hot Bodies, John Briggs Motorsports and Two Wheel Motorsport.