It’s the exact scenario many expected when the 2023 Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship season began, but that won’t make it any less exciting when Alex Dumas and Ben Young face off in the title-deciding final round of the GP Bikes Pro Superbike class this weekend at Shannonville Motorsport Park, September 15-17.
Nothing has separated the two rivals through the first seven races of the season, with 2021 champion Dumas taking three wins and a perfect seven podiums while reigning champion Young has countered with four wins and six podiums on the year.
Despite all the twists and turns along the way, just three points will be the margin entering the final round of the campaign, effectively wiping the slate clean and producing a tripleheader shootout to decide the 2023 Canada Cup.
While Dumas is the one with that slight advantage, it’s Young who carries all the momentum into the “long track” configuration of SMP, which makes its return to the schedule for the first time since 2006.
Looking to erase a 36-point deficit in round four, Young swept the tripleheader in comfortable fashion and saw Dumas settle for third on each occasion, drawing the title chase practically even despite his early season misfortune aboard the Van Dolder’s Home Team BMW.
Young has looked like the outright faster rider for parts of the season, besting Dumas in all but one practice or qualifying session, but the Purple Skull Brewing/Liqui Moly Suzuki rider has looked far more consistent on race day, including in round one at SMP.
While that was on the different “pro track” layout, Dumas simply looked unmatched over a full race distance, perhaps owed to his experience teaching at Shannonville for the FAST Riding School.
Young will be quick to point out his bizarre rear fairing issue that left him sixth in race two, but Dumas would counter that argument by saying he was already alone at the front when that malfunction occurred.
Regardless of how that weekend played out, it will have little effect on what battles are to come on the new configuration. Dumas and Young should both be able to run at the front once more, which could set up the fiercest clash either rider has seen since their rivalry began.
What remains the X-factor is the question that will be in the back of Dumas’ mind after round four at CTMP: who can play spoiler?
The runaway favourite of the bunch is Sam Guerin, who was indirectly the best wingman Young could have hoped for last time out. The EFC Group BMW rider finished ahead of Dumas in all three races, and firmly established himself as the closest challenger to the two title rivals.
Dumas will also remember it was Guerin who gave him the biggest difficulty last time at SMP, leading race one in the rain before crashing out. While he may not want to get in the way of either rider’s championship fight, Guerin will still be chasing his own maiden victory and also has a responsibility to BMW in the Constructors Championship, meaning he can’t afford to be too kind at the final round either.
Guerin won’t be the only one hoping to capitalize on the chaos and secure their first Superbike win, though, as Tomas Casas has continued to creep towards the front amidst a breakthrough year for the Parts Canada Yamaha team.
Finishes of fourth, fifth, and fourth at CTMP were made even more impressive by his lack of straight-line speed compared to the higher-horsepower machines of Dumas and Guerin, something that shouldn’t be as much of a concern around the tighter, 15-turn “long track” layout of Shannonville as Casas eyes a long-awaited feature class win.
Another rider who will show little care for the title battle is 14-time champion Jordan Szoke, who is chasing an emotional victory of his own. Easily the winningest rider in CSBK history, Szoke hasn’t gone a full season he’s entered without a win since 2005, and will be running out of options to extend that streak in the final round of the year.
The drought has been understandable given Szoke’s unfortunate injuries and lengthy recovery, but given that race three would be his 150th career Superbike race start and rumours continue to swirl about his 2024 plans, the 44-year-old will be eager to celebrate the milestone from the top of the box.
Regardless of what happens on-track for Szoke, fans will notice a change of scenery in his pit box this weekend, as the news of his and Trevor Dion’s split has been met by the announcement that Connor Campbell will take his place on the second ZX-10R Ninja.
Campbell – a race winner at Shannonville in the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike class – will carry his B&T MacFarlane/Kubota sponsorship with him despite entering as Szoke’s teammate, as he looks to get a headstart on his Superbike development prior to 2024.
Dion will now run a separate effort, and one that will look very different as the LDS Consultants-backed rider is set to debut an Economy Lube & Tire Ducati. The reigning Sport Bike champion does own both Kawasaki and BMW privateer machinery, but is now expected to trial the V4 Panigale as Ducati remains without a points finish this season.
Regardless of what machine Dion rides, the 21-year-old will be eyeing a return to the podium to cap off what’s been a difficult 2023 campaign, as he appears to be the key piece in many manufacturer rumours for a second consecutive year.
The final round of the season will also see the return of Trevor Daley to the fold, though hardly at 100% as he recovers from a crash in round three at Atlantic Motorsport Park.
The OneSpeed Suzuki rider may have a tough time staying with the lead group across three 14-lap races given his injuries, but even at less than full-strength is capable of scoring key points for Suzuki and running inside the podium mix.
The full schedule for the final round of the 2023 Pro Superbike season can be found on the series’ official website at CSBK.ca.
- From Professional Motorsports Productions