Story by John Hopkins– You could forgive Jordan Szoke for feeling like he lost what rightfully belongs to him last summer. After all, the Brantford, Ont. racer had exclusive ownership of the number one plate in the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship between 2006 and 2010, so when Brett McCormick took it from under his nose at the season finale at Mosport International Raceway (now Canadian Tire Motorsport Park), Szoke could not have been happy.
Rest assured, the most decorated rider in the history of Canadian national road racing fully intends to restore the balance in his favour, and he will launch that quest this weekend at Shannonville Motorsport Park.
There will be many challenges along the way, however, at those won’t be limited to his rivals on the track. Following the folding of the Competition Systems Kawasaki Race Team at the end of last season, Szoke has revived his Waznie Racing squad, with whom he enjoyed a perfect season in 2010 on the way to the Superbike crown. For machinery Szoke has opted for a BMW S1000RR, the brand that McCormick rode with devastating effect last year. Primary sponsorship comes from Parts Canada and BMW Motorrad Canada, and Szoke also expects to have the suspension tuning expertise of Jon Cornwell at most races.
Switching bikes is never an easy task, and an engine recall due to a bad batch of rod bolts severely limited Szoke’s preseason track time and forced him to miss the official series test day on June 7.
“If we miss the official test we’ll look at other track day options,” Szoke said in late May. “Jordan needs some seat time.”
Nevertheless, his early impressions of the BMW were good. “The bike is really fast, unbelievable really, and comfortable and stable,” said Szoke after his first run aboard the BMW at Calabogie Motorsports Park. “It’s very pleasant to ride.”
As far as on-track obstacles go, there will be a few familiar faces and a returning one for Szoke to contend with. Andrew Nelson enters his third year as a BMW rider with a 2012 machine sponsored by Ajax, Ont. dealer Endras BMW, along with mcn.tv and mcnsports.tv. Nelson was runner-up to Szoke in 2010 and finished third in last year’s national title chase. Unlike Szoke, he had managed to get in some valuable preseason track time at Shannonville, Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant and Calabogie.
“On the new bike the front end turns differently and they’ve changed the swingarm pivot point, which I’m not sure about yet,” admitted the 27-year-old from Kars, Ont., near Ottawa. “So far we’ve found it a little hard on the rear tire, so we have to do something with the suspension. But the front end is amazing. I’m pretty excited about the new parts and the kit ECU. I’ve never been one for traction control but I’m trying to get used to it.”
After almost two years out of racing Kevin Lacombe is returning to the national championship with the ex-McCormick BMW, entered by Couturier Racing. The team debuted last year with Francis Martin riding and enjoyed some excellent performances. Lacombe also gets the benefit of McCormick’s crew chief from 2011, Patrice Goyette.
Another contender should be Uxbridge, Ont.’s Alex Welsh, who will ride the same Suzuki GSX-R1000 he ran last summer under the AW7R banner, with sponsorship again coming from Kenwood Electronics Canada. Welsh won the first round of the RACE SuperSeries at Shannonville in early May.
Young guns to watch in the Superbike class include Samuel Proulx of Magog, Que., who will be Lacombe’s teammate in the Couturier Racing pit, and Warman, Sask.’s Bodhi Edie, who will also ride a BMW.
In other national classes, Jodi Christie is the defending K&N Performance Filters Pro Sport Bike champion and the Keene, Ont. rode his Honda to victory in the class in the RACE season opener. Potential challengers include Frank Trombino of Woodbridge, Ont. and top 2011 Amateurs Kristopher Garvie of Caledon, Ont. and Thornton, Ont.’s Amzy Nawaz.
In the Bazzaz Amateur Superbike and Inside Motorcycles Amateur Sport Bike categories, riders to watch include Tim Robinson of Gatineau, Que., Parry Sound, Ont.’s Aubrey Bailey and Falmouth, N.S. racer Austin Shaw-O’Leary.
After winning last year’s Honda CBR125R Challenge, Stacey Nesbitt of St-Lazare, Que. starts out as favourite in the new Honda CBR250R National Race Series.
Practice for this weekend’s event gets underway Friday with qualifying, including the battle for Pirelli SuperPole in the Mopar Pro Superbike division, taking place on Saturday. The first of two Honda CBR250R National Race Series rounds goes Saturday afternoon, with feature races in all six national classes set for Sunday.
For ticket information call 1-800-959-8955 613-969-1906 or go to www.shannonville.com.