Szoke sets blistering pace. Welsh quickly up to speed.

May 21, 2009

CALABOGIE, Ont. (May 21) - Canadian Kawasaki Motors factory rider Jordan Szoke was hoping to get off to a fast start in the Parts Canada Superbike Championship, and the five-time national champion did just that in testing for the opening round at Calabogie Motorsports Park on Thursday.

The Brantford, Ont. rider paced both the Superbike feature class and Yoshimura Pro Sport Bike division by a wide margin. In Superbike his time aboard the factory ZX-10R was two minutes, 2.236 seconds, which put him just over two seconds ahead of his nearest rival.

In Sport Bike the 30-year-old Szoke showed the abundant potential of the brand new ZX-6R by touring the 5.05km (3.05-mile) Calabogie circuit in 2:04.357. That was over three seconds clear of the second fastest rider.

Szoke is aiming to win his fourth straight championship in both classes this summer. "It's only Thursday," cautioned Szoke, who won both the Superbike and Pro Sport Bike features at Calabogie last May. "It's still early and I expect the guys will catch up. But the 600 is beautiful, and we're still learning that bike. It's pretty rewarding for the team and myself to be so far out in front with it. The Superbike just feels so comfortable."

Szoke also feels the Calabogie layout suits his style. "This track is very European," he explained. "I feel more relaxed and I'm just letting it flow. I'm trying to carry more speed mid-corner and it seems to be working."

Victory in Sunday's Parts Canada Superbike feature race would be a major milestone for Szoke, as it would give him 27 career triumphs and break a tie with Steve Crevier for the most all-time national Superbike wins.

An equally impressive effort came from Szoke's new teammate Alex Welsh on Thursday. The 21-year-old from Uxbridge, Ont. was fourth in both the Superbike and Sport Bike sessions on his Kawasaki equipment. He recorded a 2:05.505 in the Superbike session and his 2:07.804 in Sport Bike put him in the thick of the battle for second place. "It's getting better every time out," said last year's HJC Pro Rookie of the Year. "The track is tricky. There are some fast kinks where there is a lot of time to be made up. "Our test in Jennings [at the end of April] was my first time riding in the past seven months, so on the 600 I'm just getting back in the swing of things."

Welsh's pace on the ZX-10R Superbike was particularly gratifying as this is his first experience with the big bike in his career. "I'm still in the process of settling in on the Superbike," he admitted. "But the bike is so good already. It's just a matter of me getting used to it and finding the right tire for it. It doesn't need any major changes."

Szoke and Welsh will get a full day of practice on Friday before the serious business of qualifying begins on Saturday. Races will get the green light on Sunday afternoon.

With a promising looking weather forecast of sunshine and dry conditions for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, everyone at Kawasaki is looking forward to a great weekend. 

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