The preparations have been made, testing has been completed, it is now time to go. It is time to put up or shut up, run what you brung, and see where you stack up. It is Round 1 of the SOAR Superbike series. It’s time to fight!
I decided to use my free friday practice day right away at Round 1. This would give me some time to try a few last minute changes to the suspension settings, and try out the new to me quickshifter. Leaving Thursday evening we arrived at the track around 12:30am and got set up. There were still plenty of people sitting around their respective pits partaking in the age old activity of bench racing. We’d be on the track tomorrow but dammit if some riders couldn’t get in some last minute shit talking to psych out their opponents. I somehow ended up moving to different camp fires as people called it a night and before I knew it 3 AM came calling and I needed to hit the hay.
This night’s sleep was MUCH better than the last thanks to a new air mattress. I arose in the morning to the realization that four hours of sleep probably wasn’t the best course of action, but it was too late now. I was in no hurry to get ready as I had all day to get on the track. I found my old street riding buddy Ken looking for pit space and we made some room to accommodate him. This will be his rookie season and he needed to complete the SOAR racing school to get his race license in order to compete in the coming weekends races. Unlike most other rookies Ken is knocking on the door to his sixties and doesn’t bounce like the young kids. More on that later.
After the morning rider’s meeting I started in on getting the quickshifter hooked up. I had previously run the wire to the power commander but hadn’t had the connector to hook it up. I made the mistake of asking my pit neighbour Mike for the best route on connecting it up. Being an engineer he wanted to do it all proper like and we set off around the pits looking for a w crimper for molex pins. Nobody had one, but several people looked confused and offered up a plethora of needle nose pliers. Arguing in favour of pliers and solder I soldered the pins on the ends of the wires and made it look as proper as one can on a lost era machine. It was time to test it out so we plugged it into the power commander and low and behold, the bike wouldn’t start. Unplug it again and the bike started no problem. We messed with the software enabling and disabling the shift kill and playing with times to no avail. It seemed like the shifter was trying to cut fuel at all times. With the time invested growing, I decided against risking any issues over the weekend and just unplugged it for good. I have ridden bikes without quickshifter’s for this long, what’s another weekend?
I added a couple clicks of rebound to the rear shock, to solve some issues I found at the practice weekend, and I was ready to get out on track. Putting in the laps the new rebound change improved corner exit so I could get a better drive without the rear bouncing. The bike felt good and I felt up to speed. I took the opportunity to take out Melanie’s ZX-6R to test out it’s suspension settings with the new rear shock I installed over the winter. To my surprise the bike felt good right out of the box. A little soft for me but I am also a fair bit heavier so it should be spot on for her. One thing about riding that bike is that, thanks to it’s awesome new graphics, all the marshal’s seemed to be staring at me, or more likely the bike. Looking like it was in a paint booth explosion, it sure does draw a lot of attention.
Unfortunately, while turning laps on the ZX-6R there was a yellow flag at the end of the drag strip straight for a good friend Hugh who had crashed his beautiful Ducati Sport 1000. He had a fuel injector failure earlier in the day and it was his first session back out. Luckily it was just some small cosmetics, lots of mud, and some pride. He would be good to go for Saturday.
One of the things I came to notice on the ZX-6R was a bad vibration coming out of the carousel. It had done this previously and was put down to head bearing which were replaced last season and seemed to solve the issue. I then remembered while working on the bike in the spring that the front rim had a decent bend in it that I had not noticed previously. Without a new set of rotor bolts I didn’t want to risk swapping rims over during the weekend, as I have had them strip easily before, but we will have to swap rims before next round.
With the day winding down they decided to give every class a final five minute session before ending the day. Having only put in a few sessions over the day I was up for it. Showing up at pit out with my good friend Neil right in tow I set out on a flyer. I put the hammer down right from the off and put in my best laps of the day trying to shake off Neil but I couldn’t. He got me onto the back straight on the final lap and I couldn’t get back by before they ended the session. It some the most fun I’ve had in a practice session in some time and had me pumped for the coming races.
Friday evening saw the rest of the racers piling in for the remainder of the weekend. The pits were getting busy and we were trying to find space for our friends to pit close. It is easily the most people I have seen in the pits since coming to SOAR, and all on the same weekend as a CSBK national. It is a great sign of how SOAR, and the sport in general, is doing, which seems to be good.
I finally got around to bringing an old projector I had lying around at home to play some movies in the evening. We set up a small theatre in the pits using the side of my trailer and put on The Unrideables, a film about the 500cc era of Grand Prix racing. It seemed to go over well with the neighbours and is something I hope to continue doing throughout the season. By the time the movie was over everyone was pretty spent and went to bed. 11 PM seemed a far cry from the 3 AM the night before so I looked forward to a decent night sleep this time around.
Waking up Saturday morning set the tone for the day. It was HOT. The whole day was close to 30 degrees Celsius plus a fair bit of humidity. All of a sudden running four classes AND endurance seemed like a rather optimistic decision. I only ran one practice session in the morning to scrub in a new set of tires that had been mounted the night before and even that was pretty tough. Cold water down the back and staying hydrated was going to be the key to the rest of the day.
First on tap was the Amateur 600 Extreme heat race. It had been split into 2 separate races due to the amount of entries which garnered no complaints from me. Less riders means less riders I have to potentially pass, and most likely less chance of an incident. It also meant that I would not have to race back to back as is usually the case with the Lost Era Lightweight race.
Starting on the outside of the fourth row I was able to get a good launch and jump a whole row heading into turn one in seventh position. It took me a couple laps to catch up to Blake McCord in sixth, but I got by on the brakes into turn one coming onto the final lap. My next target was Glenn MacKay, from the Mack Attack racing team, who I snuck by into the carousel on the final lap to grab a fifth place finish. A good result after starting twelfth and would line me up ninth for the final on Sunday.
Lost Era Lightweight was up next and I feel it set the stage for how the rest of races are going to go this season. Starting from the outside of the third row I once again got a good start and found myself just behind third place on the entry to turn one. I rode down the outside of the third place rider and saw a gap into turn two so I gave it a quick shot of throttle to go for second. I arrived at the apex just as David Morrison was turning in from a wider line and we made contact. Nobody went down and he got bumped a bit wide. We came to the agreement that it was a racing incident, no harm, no foul. The rest of the race was a great fight between myself and my seemingly perennial rival Mike Doody. There were numerous position changes with Mike ultimately coming out on top. This time….
After a short break I was up for Amateur Superbike. I took on this class as an extra to try out and see if I would be competitive. Unfortunately only a few minutes before the start, during the Formula Femme race, it started to rain. The radar said it would not last long and it was not heavy so I opted to just stay on my slicks and take it easy. Only a handful of guys showed up and only half of those that did were on rains. Once again a decent start found me second(of the amateurs) into turn one following Jordan Bauer and Will Hornblower. After two laps Jordan decided he’d had enough and pulled off leaving me in the lead. Mariusz passed me down the drag straight running on rains but I outbraked him going into OMG. It didn’t take long for him to get back by and stay ahead as I decided that pushing it on slicks would only end badly. It was pretty much a repeat with Kellen Hodgins passing me a lap later. Another lap and Neil came past, also on slicks, gaining on the two guys in front who were on rains. Coming onto the final lap he pulled over and slowed considerably. Had he had a mechanical? Nope. He mistook the flags and thought the race had ended. This gifted me back a third place finish. Not bad for slicks in the rain.
The rain went almost as fast as it came and the track was dry again for my final heat of the day, Lost Era Heavyweight. This would feature another ex-street riding friend of mine who was starting his rookie season, TJ. He had swapped to rains earlier and was still on them for the dry race. I informed him that would be a bad idea and to take it easy. After getting a good launch and heading onto the drag straight in first TJ came flying by on the back wheel to take the lead. I knew this wouldn’t last so I just followed waiting for a mistake. It didn’t take long and I was back out front and pulling a gap. The race was red flagged due to a crash from Rich Wilson after four laps and deemed complete. Lucky for TJ as his front tire was already getting torn to shreds by running in the dry.
The last heat race was over. I was tired as hell. At least I could take it easy and rest up for tomorrow. Wrong! As I mentioned earlier, I had also signed up for the three hour endurance race with my good friend and team mate Marc. Me and my bright ideas…
I had decided for Marc, after signing up for four sprint classes, that he would be the one to start the race. He had only run two sprint races so he should be full of energy to start the race. Realistically I was just happy it wasn’t me. We got the bike on the grid and the pit set up and we were ready to roll. Marc took a camelbak with him to hopefully give him some water during his stint and reduce fatigue. The flag dropped and off he went, getting a good start and up with the front pack and our most likely rival, Squids 4 Kids racing. Unbeknownst to me and all the riders, the cones used to reroute the course for the Supermoto race had not been removed so half the field hit the drag straight and slowed down not sure of what was happening. Several guys including Marc slowed back to the start line expecting a restart that never came. Great, we were already down half a lap on some teams right off the hop.
Marc pitted after 30 minutes making a quick rider only change and I was back on the track. It was a fairly lonely stint I spent keeping track of where we were in relation to the Squids team eventually pulling some time off them as their lead rider Scott started to tire. We pitted again around an hour to switch riders again and take on fuel. Marc was back on the bike and I got to take a much needed break. Another half hour flew by and it was once again my turn. A quick rider change and I was back out on track merging in behind TJ Surette now riding on the Squids 4 Kids bike. I immediately set out to get by TJ and try and pull back some time. I caught him within a few laps and made the pass. Figuring he’d never hear the end of it TJ turned up the wick and passed me back a few laps later. The next 40 minutes was a great bit of racing as I tried my best to get him back. We were passing the slower riders on both sides as he did his best to drop me and I was having none of it. I was starting to run into an issue of the bike popping out of third gear so I kept losing the time I was making and was never able to get him back. RJ Hrevnak eventually caught us up on the Cuttin’ Corners CBR and I could only hold him off for a few turns. My stint was up and I brought it in for a rider swap and our final fuel stop. I told Marc about the shifting and to keep an eye on it and back out he went.
With only 50 minutes left my final stint would only be 25 minutes so I should be able to give it everything. With 25 to go Marc pitted for our final rider change and back out I went. I did my best to push but I was still having shifting problems so I made the best of it. The brake guard was also starting to rub through my glove which made for a painful last stint. With five minutes to go I leaned the bike in and suddenly lost drive. Standing it up it got power back again but it was getting worse with each turn. We were running out of fuel. I made one pass of the pits pointing at the fuel tank and pitted the next for a splash and dash. It was a quick stop and back out again. Then with one to go it started to cough again. It wasn’t going to make it. I pulled in to avoid the ride on the crash truck and missed the flag by seconds.
All in all the race went well considering the amount of testing and tuning we had done on the bike, which was pretty much none. We had a few hiccups but we were confident in a podium finish as we had passed both the Prairie Dogs team and the Twisted N’ Addicted team several times.
Saturday evening saw everyone too tired to do much of anything and we hit the sheets early for once.
We arose Sunday morning and went to check the results sheets from the day prior. I was right where I expected in all the sprint races. However, somehow in endurance we had ended up fourth. We had been docked seven laps from our score sheet and we could not figure out why. Furthermore the perennial class winners Squids 4 Kids racing had ended up third when most of the teams had agreed they had definitely won on the track. We had a discussion with the Squids team and we had both passed both the Prairie Dogs and Twisted teams several times on track, with Twisted also having to pit twice for mechanical issues. Even the Prairie Dogs couldn’t figure out how they got second. Marc went to check the score sheets, but ultimately the results did not change. This was definitely disappointing for the team and we will have to triple check our scoring going forward to avoid a situation like this in the future. GTU is the most competitive endurance class and even one lap lost could mean the difference between winning and being off the podium.
First up for Sunday was going to be the Amateur 600 Extreme final. It was a huge 32 rider field and I would be running back to back with the Lost Era Lightweight race immediately after. Lovely. I made sure to inform Linda and Mike at pit out about my back to back races so I have some time to take on fuel and re-hydrate between races. It was great to see Mike back at the track Marshaling after receiving a heart transplant just last year. Mike and Linda have been big advocates for organ donation as, much like my own father, it has given Mike a new lease on life. If you haven’t already, please to sign up at BEADONOR.CA and also consider SPONSORING Mike for the Cardiac Fitness Association Walk of Life coming up on June 13-25th.
The time is now. Let’s go Racing!
I knew with the large grid I would need a good start to get in the mix. I got a good launch from the third row and found myself fifth into turn one, and immediately up the inside of Jordan Bauer into fourth going into Big Daddy. Bauer got back by on the gas down the drag straight, and then Ross Lieber pulled along side coming out of OMG corner. I had a good speed vs braking duel with Ross almost every corner for the rest of the lap with both of us getting back by Bauer before hitting the drag straight once more. Unfortunately, coming to the braking zone at the end of the straight Conner Waugh was trying hard to get by Brodie Coveyduck and either made contact or came very close. This sent Conner off at an angle and left Ross nowhere to go as he was coming in very committed on the brakes. Ross’s front wheel made contact with Conner’s rear and over he went. I was hoping he was not hurt as this had put me up into third position, but one corner later the red flags came out. We were ordered back to the pre-grid and eventually back to the pit as they had to roll the track Ambulance, and call in another from the local hospital. Luckily Ross would be back before the end of the day with a clean bill of health and no major injuries other than a busted up bike.
The race would be restarted to a shortened eight laps and we would be starting from our original grid position. Bollocks.
On the restart I got another good start and once again found myself fourth into turn two. Once again Jordan Bauer got by on the gas down the straight and the race was on. The next few laps was a seesaw for me in fifth losing time on the straights and making it back up on the brakes with second to fourth still very much within reach. Around half distance Conner Waugh started to lose pace. Bauer got by and I was right on his wheel. I didn’t have the power on the straight and he was right on the line in the corners making it hard to get by. This allowed Kellen Hodgins to close up and join the fray. He tried to pass both of us into turn one and almost became the second rider that day to taste Conner’s back tire but somehow pulled it up with millimeters to spare. Kellen was able to get by which opened the door for me to follow him past. The remainder of the race saw me lose him on the straights and close up on brakes, but not enough to get past so I grabbed a fifth place finish. I am actually pleased with the result as I made it out with myself and the bike in one piece and in a points position I can work with for the season coming. Had I got by Conner sooner I might have had a shot at a podium but that’s how it goes sometimes.
Immediately following the Amateur 600 race I had to pull a U-Turn in the pits and head right back out for Lost Era Lightweight final. Thankfully my mom was waiting with some fresh fuel, a cold water down my back, and a cold drink. Here’s to all the family and friends who help out their racers as we could not do what we do without you.
For once during the weekend I got a poor start from the front row as the clutch dragged too much and put me into a wheelie off the line. Luckily I somehow still made it into turn two in second place behind my good friend and great rival Mike Doody. This would turn out to be one the best and closest races we’ve ever had. Doing my best to stick onto his back tire as he pulled me down the straights and I reeled him in on the brakes I made the pass for the lead on lap three and gave it everything to get away. No matter what I did I couldn’t shake him. I was staying ahead, but just barely. As we got into the lapped traffic I could hear him right on me in the corners. I had to make sure I played my cards perfect to get through the lapped riders without losing the lead. Truth be told, I’m not much of a card player. Getting by Hugh Earl and Don Morris into the kink coming to the white flag I figured I had played my hand perfectly as Don’s BMW is the size of a small car and would hopefully hold Mike up enough for me to get away. Wrong again. He somehow overcame the small gap made by another lapper and was right on my tail on the back straight and went for the pass into the carousel. I didn’t even know he was there and braked as late as I could still figuring I had it made. He couldn’t squeeze by and I held him off to the flag. What a race!
Next on the docket was Amateur Superbike. After getting a third in the wet heat race I was unsure how this race was going to pan out. Starting from the front row I once again got a good launch and was second into turn one and a quick shot of throttle put me into first going through turn two. After the first lap I started to think I might have something for the big boys on 1000s. That was short lived as Adam Witt and Brett Fenwick flew by on the straight. Determined to get them back I braked late and rode around the outside of Brett in the carousel and got right on Adam’s tail going into turn one. Adam ran a bit wide through turn two and I thought there was enough room to sneak up the inside. I was wrong. I ended up making contact and pushing Adam wide. I quickly looked back to make sure I hadn’t run him off track and put my hand up to apologize. He didn’t seem too fazed as he flew back by down the next straight with Fenwick in tow. For the remainder of the race I couldn’t overcome their straight line speed but was able to hold station behind. Eventually Paul McIntosh and Doug Mills made it past to bump me off the podium but I finished fifth being the highest placed 600. Not bad. I don’t know if I will continue with the class but it certainly was fun to battle against the big bikes. The move I put on Adam was completely my fault and I went over and apologized after the race. He is a great competitor and accepted my apology and it is now water under the bridge.
The final race of the weekend was Lost Era Heavyweight. It is a lot of the same guys as the Lightweight race minus Mike Doody unfortunately. Once again I’d be up against TJ and his GSXR-1000 and this time he was on the right tires. After watching TJ almost crash on the warmup lap I figured if he got in front I would just follow and wait for a mistake. I got a pretty good start but TJ got a better one, riding on the back tire all the way to turn one. I tucked in behind in second place and gave chase. He had tons of speed out of the corners and braked well, but I was making time mid corner. I made the pass for the lead into Big Daddy on the second lap sparking a drag race down the straight and a breaking duel at the end. He got me but then ran deep into the 180 left after OMG corner and I snuck up the inside. He came back and we had another braking duel into the corner onto the back straight. I got him this time. Once I got past I set sail and pulled a gap. Unfortunately, around lap six or seven the red flag came out. There had been a coming together between Glen MacTavish and one of the BOTT riders and Glen had gone down breaking his collarbone. Thankfully he made it back before the end of the day and was still able to pickup his plaque at the podium ceremony.
With most of the Streetsville Sunday Racing crew finished for the day we went out to spectate the final race of the day, the Rookie Challenge. Our old street riding buddies Ken and TJ would be running this race as it is their first season. Ken’s goal was not to come last and TJ figured he had it won. TJ got a good start and was up with the front boys early, while Ken was moving his way up from the back of the pack. We were impressed with Ken’s progress through the field and TJ was up in the top three before we knew it. Unfortunately Ken’s ambition outweighed his talent and he ran off into the grass attempting a pass and layed it down. The only thing that seemed damaged was his pride as he threw his gloves in disgust. Lesson learned and a new helmet on order, he’ll be back. TJ managed to win a good podium battle and took home second place.
All in all a great weekend. Everything was still in one piece and the bike ran well. I will be looking for improved results in the Amateur 600 Extreme class in the coming rounds but making it out of Round 1 still in the hunt is good enough for me.
As always this couldn’t be possible without A LOT of help from friends, family, fellow riders, and sponsors. Big thanks to:
– St. Onge Recreation for their continued support with parts, accessories, and gear to get me ready for this season.
– Orange on Orange Web and Graphic Design for this awesome website.
– Winterborne Bicycle Institute for their support off the track.
– Dunlop tires for keeping me stuck to the track.
– My Mom and Dad for their continuous support on and off the track.
– My girlfriend Melanie for her support on and off the track. She always makes sure I am fed, my gear is ready, the bike is ready, the tire warmers are off, and all the other things I forget or don’t have time to check.
– Mike Johnston and Mike Doody for always having the tools and parts I forgot at home.
– Marc, Neil, Paul, Ken, Brian, TJ, and all the other SSR guys who help eachother out in the pits during the weekend.
– The SOAR staff for working their butts off to let us do this.
– The EMS guys for making sure we make it home every weekend.
– The Marshal’s for standing out in the sweltering heat and dealing with all the stupid mistakes we make.
– All my fellow competitors for giving it all out there and making for a fun and safe racing series.
– Sheri Manuel for all her great photos which she provides and asks nothing for in return.
– All the other photographers who take their personal time to make sure all the racers have some photos.
Best wishes on a speedy recovery to all the riders who were injured this past weekend. We all hope to see you back at the track soon!
Check out the Videos section for videos of all the races past and present.
Photo credits for this article go to Sheri Manuel and Linda Willis.