By John Hopkins
SHUBENACADIE, N.S. – Hopes were high for Falmouth, N.S. teenager Austin Shaw-O’Leary heading into this weekend’s third round of the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship at Atlantic Motorsport Park.
The 15-year-old rider of the Dua Motorsports / GoLo Racing Honda CBR600RR had shown promise in his rookie year in the Bazzaz Amateur Superbike and Inside Motorcycles Amateur Sport Bike classes, and on his home track he was expected to be a contender for victory in both of Sunday’s races.
So far Shaw-O’Leary has more than matched the lofty expectations. In qualifying on Saturday he broke the lap record for both classes and easily qualified on pole position for each race.
“I’m really surprised by how well it’s been going,” said Shaw-O’Leary at the end of Saturday’s action. “I thought maybe the other guys would have been able to pick up the pace and run with us as the weekend’s gone on, but that hasn’t been the case so far.”
In Amateur Superbike Shaw-O’Leary recorded a time of one minute, 9.878 seconds to beat the year-old lap record of 1:10.211 set by Amzy Nawaz. His time was 1.823 secs. better than the next quickest rider, Gatineau, Que.’s Tim Robinson on the Robinson Racing / Gym-Max BMW S1000RR. Series points leader Trevor Daley of Mississauga, Ont. will start Sunday’s race third on the grid with a time of 1:11.790 on his One Speed / Riders Choice Suzuki GSX-R1000.
In the Amateur Sport Bike class the local ace set a time of 1:09.292, which was 1.730 secs. better than runner-up Will Hornblower of Sarnia, Ont. on the Hornblower Racing / Blue Streak / ProPulsion Yamaha YZF-R6. Philippe Masse of St-Hyacinthe, Que., who leads the series standings, is third on the grid on his Racingphil.com / Pete’s Superbike Kawasaki ZX-6R.
Shaw-O’Leary’s time eclipsed the record of 1:09.406 set by Cody Matechuk back in 2009.
“I actually think there’s still some spots on the track I can work on,” Shaw-O’Leary admitted. “But I’m really comfortable and I’ve learned that even though the bike may not be perfect I’ve still got enough.”
Should Shaw-O’Leary manage to carry through his dominance into Sunday’s races he would pull himself into serious contention for at least the Sport Bike national title. He is currently fourth in the standings with 63 points, 44 behind Masse. In Superbike O’Leary is only 15th with 24 points. A race win is worth 50 points.
Shaw-O’Leary is trying not to put too much pressure on himself heading into Sunday, admitting that nerves have got the better of him in the past on the national stage at AMP. Last year he lost a possible win in the Honda CBR125R Challenge race here because of a jump start.
“Hopefully I can put on a good show tomorrow,” Shaw-O’Leary said. “I’m trying to keep level-headed. The past two years I’ve got worked up and that’s hurt me. I’m just trying to stay calm and collected.”