Szoke, aboard his Mopar Express Lane/Motovan BMW S1000RR, got the holeshot from Kenny Riedmann's Sturgess Cycle/Liqui Moly Kawasaki ZX-10RR and Matt McBride's Riders Choice BMW S1000RR, the trio establishing a quick gap at the front. Belfountin, ON-based Riedmann got around Szoke around lap four, but Szoke got it back before the halfway flag and soon began to distance himself from the field. Lap traffic held up the defending champion more than once, but Szoke was soon well on his way to a 15th consecutive Pro Superbike victory, crossing the line 4.056 seconds ahead of Riedmann.
Ultimately Szoke controlled the weekend after setting the fastest times in practice, qualifying on the pole, leading the most laps, setting the fastest lap on race day (1:04.596) and winning the race.
"Some parts of me feel bad that I'm winning, but these races aren't easy," Szoke said from the top of the podium. "I've just been really fortunate to come out on top.
"Everybody's taking it 100 percent seriously, and we're running at a very high level of competition, and that's what I'm here for," Szoke added. "I feel great. I'm comfortable. I feel like I have nothing to prove like when you're younger, so I'm just trying to enjoy it, and it's taken a bit of pressure off me so I can focus on riding well."
Riedmann crossed the finish line 3.084 seconds ahead of the Scot-Build Developments BMW of Collingwood, ON's Ben Young who made his way around Matt McBride (Mississauga, ON) to take the final podium position. Number-two qualifier McBride faded back to fourth on race day, finishing 15.103 seconds behind Szoke.
"I was givin'er, but I also didn't want to throw it away," said Riedmann. "It's the first round of a long series. My Kawasaki ran great and I learned a lot during that race. I'm going to talk to talk with my team and have the bike a little more sorted for Grand Bend, and get ready to get ready to win a race - because man, I hate finishing second."
"I wish I had this bike last year, because it would have been a different ball game," said third-place Young. "We were still in contention in the end... we'll just try to be the top BMW next time."
After crashing deep into the race, Bodhi Edie (Warman, SK) remounted his Z1 Yamaha YZF-R1 to make a bold move on Michael Leon's BMW on the second-last turn to take fifth place. Leon, of Beaconsfield, QC barely edged out series veteran Jeff Williams (Kingston, ON) for sixth, while Superbike sophomore Samuel Trepanier of St-Isidore-de-Laprairie, QC went home eighth on his BMW. After a strong showing in practice and qualifying, Suzuki-mounted Andrew Nelson of Kars, ON struggled to a ninth-place finish in his first feature race since 2012. Rounding out the top ten was Yamaha's Tomas Casas of Peterborough, ON, the top finisher on a 600-class motorcycle.
In an exciting 18-lap Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike Feature race, resurgent No. 1 qualifier Kris Garvie (Caledon, ON) on a just-acquired Kawasaki led the first several laps until Casas attacked and quickly extended his lead to 9.039 seconds at the finish line to claim his first Pro National victory.
"Last night we figured out a problem that was giving me (tire) chatter, and in this morning's warm-up session I was setting my qualifying times very easily, so I knew I had a lot more in the tank," said the 17-year-old former Pro Rookie of the Year. "I knew Garvie wasn't going to pull away, so I just tucked in behind him, settled, and played the waiting game. Once I found the right moment, I made my pass and just pushed hard to the end. It was my first Pro win, and it couldn't have been any better."
Garvie's presence and quick qualifying pace at SMP were surprising, but the racer that stepped up and gave notice come Sunday was Mitch Card (Ripley, ON). After qualifying in an unassuming 12th position, the former Amateur National champion quickly worked his way through the field and took the final podium spot.
"This was the first time I've been on the bike this year, and I haven't been here since I was an Amateur in 2013," explained Card about his off-pace qualifying performance. "I just needed to get behind some of the fast guys and get a bit of the tow-along to realize where the quick lines were. To come third from 12th, it was an amazing race and a really good start."
Honda-mounted Pro rookie Chris Brent, the 2016 Shoei Amateur Sport Bike Champ, finished fourth in his first National race, while Quebec veteran Louie Raffa rounded out the Pro Sport Bike top five.
Samuel Desmarais was the star of the show in the Amateur ranks, doing the double by winning in both Magneti Magneti Marelli Amateur Superbike and Shoei Helmets Amateur Sport Bike on Sunday. The Lasalle, QC native won both races on his Kawasaki ZX-6R despite a jump start in AM Sport Bike.
Fifteen-year-old rookie Xavier Paradis won the second Kawasaki Ninja 300 Race Series round of the weekend in his very first weekend on the national tour. The Shannon, QC teen finished 7.962 seconds ahead of runner-up Jake Lecclair (Blackstock, ON). Johann Plancque (St-Jerome, QC) came through just 0.424 seconds behind Lecclair.
Saturday's winner, Jared Walker, crashed out early but established the weekend's quickest lap in Sunday's race at 1:18.960, working his way back to sixth on Sunday.
"It was a really great race," said Paradis, who will take the Ninja 300 series lead to Grand Bend Motorplex in two weeks. "I got a really great start, and after that I led maybe two laps. Jared Walker passed me, (but) he crashed in the hairpin from a highside. I got the lead, and I (built) a gap to the guys behind."
For full results, visit www.csbk.ca.