Szoke back on top. More milestones for Welsh.
July 21, 2009
BOWMANVILLE, Ont. (July 20) - Brantford, Ont.'s Jordan Szoke regained the lead of the Parts Canada Superbike Championship point standings with a superb sweep of the doubleheader at Mosport International Raceway on Saturday and Sunday.
The three-time defending series champion was leading Saturday's race on his Canadian Kawasaki Motors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R when it was called due to rain after 11 of a scheduled 20 laps. Twenty-four hours later, the 30-year-old Szoke repeated the feat, this time coming out on top of a thrilling three-way fight that went the full 20 laps.
Szoke also led the most laps on Sunday, and with two races now remaining in the season he is poised to claim a sixth national Superbike crown and an unprecedented fourth in a row. He has 251 points to the 226 of his closest rival, with a race win worth 50 points.
"What a great weekend for Kawasaki. I think this is one of the best weekends of my life," said Szoke, who became the winningest Superbike rider at Mosport with six victories and now has 29 career wins, more than any other racer.
Szoke qualified second for the pair of Superbike races, although he was one of the few to improve on his pre-qualifying time in the single-bike Pirelli SuperPole shootout.
Saturday's opening race was held under threatening skies and Szoke found himself embroiled in a three-rider scrap for first place.
"I'm extremely happy. It seems the luck finally went my way," said Szoke after his second victory of the season. "Unfortunately it didn't end the way I would have wanted it to [with the early stoppage] but we'll take it for sure. I've lost races like this before too."
Sunday's race will go down as one of the classics in the sport's history, as three riders took turns at the lead and just 0.336 seconds separated the top trio at the finish.
"What a great race; that was anybody's win," Szoke said after his second career Mosport doubleheader sweep. "Fortunately I pulled it off. I got a good break through traffic near the end.
"Every bike has its strengths and our Kawasaki really comes off the corners well. But [engine builder] Mike Crompton was the man today. That's a big long backstraight and he built a great motor."
Szoke's Canadian Kawasaki Motors team-mate Alex Welsh also enjoyed a stellar weekend at Mosport. In Saturday's race the 21-year-old from Uxbridge, Ont. claimed his first career Superbike podium with a third place finish on his Ninja ZX-10R.
"We just didn't have the outright speed," he explained. "We were quicker than our SuperPole pace but we were still about three-quarters of a second behind the top guys. But we did have a consistent set up and I'm confident I could have done those laps all race."
On Sunday Welsh improved his set-up, sticking with the lead pack before losing the draft in lapped traffic around half distance and settling for a fifth place result. Last year's HJC Pro Rookie of the Year had the third fastest lap of the race, just 0.029 secs. off his winning teammate's mark.
"We found some things in the morning warm-up and made a huge jump," he explained. "It was a little bit of everything. The front end felt more planted going in to the corners and the rear was more planted coming out. The problem is, we knew it was good for eight or nine laps but there was no way to anticipate how it would react as the race went on.
"It's good moving forward. We now have a lot of data for getting the bike better and if we can find the balance between consistency over the long run and the speed to match we'll be in good shape."
Welsh improved to fourth in Superbike points with 145.
Szoke also put himself in an excellent position to claim a fourth straight Yoshimura Pro Sport Bike title at Mosport. After losing victory on the last corner in Saturday's race he bounced back to win for the third time this year on the Ninja ZX-6R on Sunday, despite an anxious moment at half distance.
"I guess I got a little too comfortable and I grabbed too much throttle going onto the backstraight," he admitted. "It shot me out of the seat but I was able to gather it all back together."
The race came down to a four-way shootout, which included Szoke's teammate Welsh, at the end of the backstraight on the final lap. Welsh made a big move from fourth to take the lead into the corner but ran wide on the exit, allowing Szoke to reclaim the top spot. Welsh was able to recover to finish second and complete the Ninja 1-2.
On Saturday Welsh had planned to execute the same move but didn't get a strong drive onto the backstraight and had to settle for third.
"The team worked hard and the Kawasaki was great all weekend," said Welsh after his career best national finish on Sunday. "We had a great race yesterday and I learned from that. I almost had the win today. I got a good draft and was first into turn eight but I couldn't get it turned quick enough and Jordan snuck back by me."
Szoke also claimed his third Pro Sport Bike pole of the year at Mosport and now has 255 points in the class standings. He takes a 27-point lead into the penultimate round of the championship at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie, N.S. Aug. 7-9. Welsh is now third in the rankings with 178 points.
The Mosport weekend was a fitting tribute to the 25th anniversary of Kawasaki's Ninja brand. Szoke and Welsh ran with special one-off bodywork on their Superbikes to mark the occasion, and the pieces will be auctioned off at the end of the year. Money raised will go to the Get Well Trev Fund for injured Canadian moto journalist Andrew Trevitt and the Canadian Rider Safety Fund.
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