Two podiums for Szoke. Welsh bounces back.

June 15, 2009

MIRABEL, Que. (June 15) - Five-time Canadian champion Jordan Szoke kept his bid for a fourth straight Parts Canada Superbike Championship on track with a runner-up finish in the second round of the series at Circuit ICAR on Sunday.

The 30-year-old Brantford, ON racer qualified his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R on the front row and ran in second spot all the way. A late charge brought him in striking distance of the leader in the closing laps of the 16-lap race but he was baulked by lapped traffic on the penultimate lap and had to settle for runner-up honours.

"I was definitely going to give it a shot," he said of his late bid for the lead. "But I'm still excited to get out of here safely. We've won a lot of championships in the past and we're certainly not done yet."

Szoke had qualified second on the new 2.8km (1.74-mile) 14-turn race track, which was hosting its first ever Parts Canada Superbike national. Szoke's time of 1:25.450 was over half a second clear of his nearest challenger.

"I made a few mistakes and I didn't take full advantage of having a nice clear lap," he said after Pirelli SuperPole qualifying. "But we're constantly making changes and every time out the bike's a little bit better."

Conditions were warm and sunny through the two days of practice and qualifying but race day was the hottest of the weekend, and Szoke made a shrewd decision to go with a harder combination of Pirelli tires than many of his rivals.

He was second off the start after a side-by-side battle into turn one and looked set to grab the lead on lap two when Kevin Lacombe fell, a brief miscue in gear selection left the door open allowing another rider past.

"I thought I was on my 600 [Sport Bike]," he explained, "and did a double downshift, so I was in first instead of second gear. I was given a gift by Lacombe but I couldn't take advantage of it."

Szoke ran a couple of seconds out of the lead through the middle part of the race and it appeared he would manage a repeat of the opening round of the season at Calabogie Motorsports Park, where he grabbed the win in the final stage after lying second most of the way.

He was on the leader's tail by lap 12 but was blocked lapping a back-marker on lap 14 and dropped from contention. He is now second in the Parts Canada Superbike standings with 98 points, six points out of first place.

His teammate Alex Welsh bounced back from a tumble during Yoshimura Pro Sport Bike qualifying on Saturday to finish sixth in Sunday's Superbike race on his Ninja ZX-10R.

The 21-year-old from Uxbridge, Ont. qualified seventh in Pirelli SuperPole time trials. A poor start left him in ninth place after the first lap but he worked his way up to seventh by lap two and moved up to sixth on lap seven. He stayed there despite pressure Royce McLean and the effects of his crash on Saturday.

"The Superbike is hard to ride around here," admitted the defending HJC Pro Rookie of the Year, who was nursing a sore shoulder and back after his fall. "I felt fine yesterday after the accident, but I don't think it sunk in until today."

Welsh had opted for a softer tire choice than his more experienced teammate.

"The weather threw us off guard," he admitted. "The rear held up fine but the soft front was destroyed by lap eight or nine."

Welsh is now sixth in the Parts Canada Superbike standings with 54 points, but only eight points out of third.

Szoke controlled second position throughout the Yoshimura Pro Sport Bike race while maintaining pressure on the leader and is just two points out of the series lead after two rounds.

"I thought I had the holeshot off the start but I couldn't make it work in turn two," said the three-time defending class champion. "It just took me too many laps to get up to speed and I wasn't really comfortable all weekend around here. But we're coming away with good points and it's great to start the season with a first and second place."

Welsh put his Ninja ZX-6R fifth on the starting grid and ran in that position all the way. Despite the hot weather and the pain of his injuries he held off a challenge from Steve Crevier in the waning stages of the 14-lap race.
"We had to use the back-up bike and I had a little trouble trying to adjust to it," he explained. "The tire went away pretty early and when I saw my pit board on lap seven [half-distance] I knew it was going to be a long race. It was one of those grind-it-out races and we managed to get some good points."

Welsh is now fifth in the Pro Sport Bike standings with 61 points after two rounds.

The Canadian Kawasaki Motors factory team is back in action at Calgary's Race City Motorsport Park June 26-28, the venue where Szoke scored his first national Superbike win riding for Kawasaki en route to his first national championship.

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