By John Hopkins
SHANNONVILLE, Ont. – After many years of trying, Andrew Nelson can finally call himself a national Superbike race winner.
The 27-year-old from Kars, Ont. joined the privileged club with a dominating performance in the opening round of the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship at Shannonville Motorsport Park on Sunday.
With rain shortly before the start of the race creating difficult track conditions, Nelson surged into the lead on the opening lap of the 18-lap race and then pulled clear to score a 4.270-sec. win on his Nelson Racing / Endras Motorrad / mcn.tv BMW S1000RR.
Matt McBride from Mississauga, Ont. placed second on the Riders Choice BMW S1000RR, equaling his career high finish, and seven-time Canadian Superbike champion Jordan Szoke was third on the Waznie Racing / Parts Canada / BMW Motorrad Canada BMW S1000RR after qualifying on pole.
“This is really special,” said the 27-year-old Nelson, who finished third in last year’s Canadian Superbike standings. “All my family is here and they’ve been behind me for the last 12 years, putting this together every year and helping me out. It’s going to be a great season.”
The track was wet but the rain had stopped by the time the Mopar Pro Superbike season opener got underway. Nelson started second on the grid but got into the lead on the first lap and within three laps was already 3.4 secs. clear of McBride.
“The track was drying out quickly and I wanted to put in some fast laps early,” Nelson explained. “I knew how fast I could go in the conditions. We had gone to a different shock and changed the fork springs and the bike was perfect for the start.
“For the first time in I don’t know how long I got a good launch and I was able to stay with the front row off the line. I passed Kevin [Lacombe] on the outside heading up to corner two and tried to put in a hard first lap. I was surprised how big a gap I was able to get.”
Nelson’s lead over McBride grew to as many as six seconds by half distance but started shrinking as the laps wound down.
“About five or six laps from the end my rear tire was really starting to go,” the winner said. “By lap 14 I think there was a dry line all the way around the track.”
The win made Nelson the early leader in the Mopar Pro Superbike standings with 55 points to the 43 of McBride and Szoke’s 41.
McBride found he couldn’t match Nelson’s pace in the early laps and that proved decisive in the race.
“I finally got a good start on this bike but in the beginning I had nothing for Andrew,” admitted McBride, who also finished second in last year’s season finale at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, also in changeable weather conditions. “In the second half of the race I started closing the gap but the tires were getting squirrely. I thought it was better to bring the bike across the line than in the back of a crash truck.”
The sensation of the early laps was the unheralded Francois Dumas on the Team Dumas Superbike / boulangeriedumas.com BMW S1000RR. From ninth on the grid the St-Raymond, Que. racer found himself third at the end of the opening lap and he doggedly held off a queue comprised of such luminaries as Szoke, Lacombe and Jodi Christie for the first four laps. But on lap five Szoke and Lacombe got by and started to pull away. Lacombe hung close to Szoke on the Team Couturier Racing BMW S1000RR, but by lap 13 Alex Welsh had joined the party on his AW7R / Kenwood Electronics Canada Suzuki GSX-R1000 after a spectacular charge up from 12th on the first lap.
Welsh passed Lacombe for fourth on lap 16 and set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:10.847 on lap 17 as he harried Szoke. He made a bid for the final podium spot coming out of the final corner but came up just 0.034 secs. short.
The drying track seemed to have taken an especially hard toll Szoke’s tires, as he was forced to work hard for his third place.
“I wasn’t as aggressive off the start as I needed to be,” the Brantford, Ont. ace admitted. “Nelson checked out and I had to get past a few guys. I tried my best, and it’s just the first race of a long season.”
Welsh received the KICKER Kick-Ass Pass of the Race Award for his brilliant charge, which helped make up for a rough weekend that had seen him crash in practice on Friday, then endure electrical issues with his Suzuki throughout Saturday.
“This has been the weekend from hell and on the first lap we got bumped around a bit and I thought, ‘Here we go again,’” Welsh said. “It’s not the result we wanted but I’ll take it.”
Lacombe settled for fifth in his return to the national scene after a two year absence. The St-Cesaire, Que. racer had tried to switch from the ‘rain’ engine map on the BMW as the track dried but couldn’t do it.
“I was getting no drive out of the corners,” he explained. “For my first weekend in two years, running in the rain was hard.”
Christie ran a steady race to sixth on the Jodi Christie Racing / Accelerated Technologies Honda CBR600RR.
Bodhi Edie came out on top of a wild battle for seventh that included as many as four bikes at times. In his first Superbike race aboard the Edie Racing / Blue Streak Racing / Fast Company BMW S1000RR the Warman, Sask. racer felt his confidence grow as the race wore on and picked up the pace. His last lap was his fastest, but it needed to be as he just held off the 725 Sports / Acme Slate Suzuki GSX-R600 of Kleinburg, Ont.’s Frank Trombino.
Dumas faded to ninth after his great start and Sebastien Tremblay of Longueuil, Que. rounded out the top 10 on his MotoNation BMW S1000RR.
1. Andrew Nelson, Kars, Ont., BMW S1000RR, 18
2. Matt McBride, Mississauga, Ont., BMW S1000RR, 18
3. Jordan Szoke, Brantford, Ont., BMW S1000RR, 18
4. Alex Welsh, Uxbridge, Ont., Suzuki GSX-R1000, 18
5. Kevin Lacombe, Granby, Que., BMW S1000RR, 18
6. Jodi Christie, Keene, Ont., Honda CBR600RR, 18
7. Bodhi Edie, Warman, Sask., BMW S1000RR, 18
8. Frank Trombino, Kleinburg, Ont., Suzuki GSX-R600, 18
9. Francois Dumas, St-Raymond, Que., BMW S1000RR, 18
10. Sebastien Tremblay, Longueuil, Que., BMW S1000RR, 18
11. Marcel Irnie, Kelowna, B.C., BMW S1000RR, 18
12. Samuel Proulx, Magog, Que., BMW S1000RR, 18
13. Franklyn Dominguez, Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que., Honda CBR1000RR, 18
14. Marie-Josee Boucher, Montreal, Que., BMW S1000RR, 17
15. Aubrey Bailey, Parry Sound, Ont., Honda CBR600RR, 17
16. Tony Stufko, Ottawa, Ont., Kawasaki ZX-10R, 17
17. Sylvain Dery, St-Colomban, Que., Kawasaki ZX-10R, 17
Did Not Finish
Kristopher Garvie, Caledon, Ont., Kawasaki ZX-10R, 14
Did Not Start
Michael Leon, Beaconsfield, Que., Honda CBR600RR
Louie Raffa, Ste-Marthe, Que., Honda CBR600RR
Time of Race: 21:47.263
Average Speed: 121.445kmh (72.867 mph)
Margin of Victory: 4.270 secs.
Fastest Lap: 1:10.847 by Alex Welsh on lap 17
1.Andrew Nelson, 55
2. Matthew McBride, 43
3. Jordan Szoke, 41
4. Alex Welsh, 32
5. Kevin Lacombe, 31
6. Jodi Christie, 27
7. Bodhi Edie, 25
8. Frank Trombino, 23
9. Francois Dumas, 21
10. Sebastien Tremblay, 19
11. Marcel Irnie, 17
12. Samuel Proulx, 15
13. Franklyn Dominguez, 13
14. Marie-Josee Boucher, 12
15. Aubrey Bailey, 10
16. Tony Stufko, 8
17. Sylvain Dery, 6