Two more titles for Szoke! Outstanding rides from Welsh!

September 8, 2009

SHANNONVILLE, Ont. - Canadian Kawasaki Motors factory rider Jordan Szoke enjoyed a historic weekend in the final round of the Parts Canada Superbike Championship at Shannonville Motorsport Park.

With a second place finish in Sunday's Superbike feature on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R the 30-year-old from Brantford, Ont. secured his fourth straight Parts Canada Superbike title and his sixth national crown. No one has ever won four Canadian Superbike championships in a row and only one other rider has six titles to his credit.

"When I think about winning four in a row it just makes me realize what an awesome career I've had," said Szoke, who won his first title for Kawasaki in 1998. "I just want to keep it going for a long time. This has been a super year, it's been really exciting for me. This is a lot of weight off my shoulders."

Szoke also clinched his fourth straight Yoshimura Pro Sport Bike crown riding the Ninja ZX-6R, becoming one of only two racers to take the title four consecutive years.

Szoke went into the weekend knowing a second place finish would be enough to lock up the Superbike championship. He was third overall in Friday practice as the team experimented with some different set-up ideas, and placed third again in Saturday's pre-qualifying after the Canadian Kawasaki Motors squad reverted to a more traditional package.

"We went with a set-up similar to what I would use in Calgary [Race City]," Szoke explained. "With this being a flat track, and the bumps, it seems to work and it's something I really like."

True to form, Szoke got the most out of the Pirelli SuperPole qualifying session, making an improvement of some three-quarters of a second to secure the number two spot on the grid for Sunday's race with a time of 1:04.172 around the 2.45km (1.53-mile) ‘Pro' Track to compare with a 1:04.943 in the morning.

"I knew I did the job but I also knew I left a lot on the table," said Szoke, who pointed out the continuing development of the Ninja ZX-10R package as he eclipsed his own lap record of 2007. "I have a different pressure than normal, since I really just need to be on the front row and finish second. Into corner two I tried to take it easy and I braked so early - I had no corner speed. There were a few other things like that. I was actually surprised with my time."

In Sunday's 20-lap race Szoke got a great start to lead the opening lap.

He was shuffled back to third on lap two but was back up to second on lap 4, enough to lock up the title.

"I got a good start but after I dropped to third it took me a few laps to collect myself," he admitted. "I got a great pace going and I was really comfortable.

"It was definitely a tough year for winning the championship. I don't think we made a mistake all year but it was tough."

Szoke clinched the title with five points to spare over his nearest rival.

Szoke went into the Pro Sport Bike season finale in a similar position to the Superbike championship, with a second place finish enough to clinch. He qualified second with a time of 1:04.860, about three-tenths shy of the pole.

Szoke's team-mate Alex Welsh stepped up to help out in the Pro Sport Bike race. Despite racing with a fractured pelvis sustained at the previous round of the series in Nova Scotia, the 21-year-old qualified fourth and got a great launch from the outside of the front row to take the lead on his Ninja ZX-6R.

The Uxbridge, Ont. racer stayed there for two laps before dropping back to third, right behind Szoke, and holding off a five-rider train behind him. While Szoke eased clear to a runner-up race finish and his fourth straight championship, Welsh completed the podium.

"I have the best team-mate in the world," enthused Szoke, who clinched the title by five points. "Alex was really battling for me back there."

Szoke took three victories on the Ninja ZX-6R to claim the Sport Bike crown.

"This Kawasaki's been great all year," he said. "I'm actually upset we didn't win more races, because it's such a great motorcycle."

Welsh's third place finish was his fourth podium in seven races this year (although he missed one round due to his injury) and he ended the year a solid fourth in the Pro Sport Bike standings.

"It was a little tough out there because I haven't been training too much with my injury," the former HJC Pro Rookie of the Year explained. "The pace wasn't easy by any means but I was comfortable."

Due to his condition Welsh elected to ride his Ninja ZX-6R in the Superbike race and did well to put the bike in Pirelli SuperPole, where he lined up seventh on the grid, behind six 1000cc machines.

From eighth after the first lap Welsh worked his way up to sixth late in the race, but crashed on the final lap in a collision with Steve Crevier heading onto the backstraight. Parts Canada Superbike Championship series officials reprimanded Crevier for causing what they believed was an "avoidable collision."

"I was committed to the corner," a disappointed Welsh explained. "I felt his bike on my shoulder, and every time I leaned in he would catch my front tire.

"I think I might have stayed behind Crevier too long, otherwise I could have got up to fifth. The back tire was spinning up and I had a couple of moments. That allowed Steve to catch up to me."

It was Welsh's first DNF of the Superbike season but he still took seventh in the final point standings.

Topping off a magnificent campaign for the Canadian Kawasaki Motors factory team, the squad claimed the Inside Motorcycles Team of the Year Award for the second straight season.

"I'm genuinely surprised," said team manager Jeff Comello on the podium. "We had some tough competition this year from Pascal's team and others which forced us to work harder than ever to achieve what we did. But our team never gave up and constantly ensured the bikes performed flawlessly day in and day out. In the end it's the details that can make all the difference."

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