UP AND DOWN SEASON PICKS UP FOR LACOMBE TORONTO, Ont. (August 4) -- The line between success and failure can be a very narrow one, and nobody knows that better than motorcycle road racer Kevin Lacombe. At last month's Parts Canada Superbike...
UP AND DOWN SEASON PICKS UP FOR LACOMBE
TORONTO, Ont. (August 4) -- The line between success and failure can be a very narrow one, and nobody knows that better than motorcycle road racer Kevin Lacombe.
At last month's Parts Canada Superbike Championship doubleheader at Mosport International Raceway the Granby, Que. competitor opened the weekend with a blown engine on the first lap of Saturday's Superbike race.
But 24 hours later the 26-year-old had experienced a reversal of fortune as he finished third in the second Superbike feature following a tremendous battle for the victory with eventual winner Jordan Szoke and Brett McCormick.
It has been that sort of season for Lacombe, bitter disappointment alternating with strong results. But his performance in the second race on Mosport's legendary 3.9km (2.459-mile) road course convinced Lacombe that he and the Team Toyota Yamaha / OTSFF squad had turned a major corner, and he comes into this weekend's sixth round of the national Superbike tour at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie, N.S. brimming with confidence.
"If we keep improving we should be good," he said. "We just need a little more time between myself and [crew chief] Evan [Steele] and our data guy. The series is so short and we're just starting to get good.
"That Sunday race at Mosport was the first race I've had a decent bike. I could stay in the draft and the suspension was really good. I think with that bike I could have been in a dogfight every weekend."
Lacombe knew he had a couple of big challenges ahead of him coming into the 2009 season. Although he was continuing his relationship with the Yamaha Motor Canada factory program, running the team had changed hands to OTSFF (Ocean Transportation Services Freight Forward, Inc.), a relatively new player in road racing, and Texas-based Evan Steele Performance.
As if adjusting to a new team wasn't enough, Lacombe also had to adapt to a radically new motorcycle in the latest incarnation of Yamaha's YZF-R1 Superbike. The new R1 features an irregular piston firing order compared to more conventional four-cylinder motorcycles. The new system is reputed to improve power delivery, but it is a big adjustment for a rider not used to such novelties.
"It's taken us five or six weekends to figure a lot of things out," Lacombe explained. "Evan's been working his ass off. He likes working hard and he understands what I want. The only problem has been not having enough time on the bike."
Despite a 1999 crash at AMP that left him critically injured, Lacombe has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the tight and demanding 2.56km (1.6-mile) track. He has three national Superbike wins there.
He says one of the secrets to success at AMP is good physical conditioning.
"As soon as I got home from Mosport I started training hard," he pointed out. "I was riding my bike with my brother-in-law and some of my motocross racing friends. We covered a lot of kilometers.
"I know doing well at Shubie is about being aggressive and being in good shape. It's a matter of having a good bike set-up and being able to push hard for a 22-lap race."
The AMP track is also notoriously difficult to pass on, and a good start is another key to victory, according to Lacombe.
"Every time I've won I've had the holeshot and pulled away from everybody," he said. "You need a good start, put in some fast laps and ride the wheels off the bike."
Good starts have been one thing Lacombe has had working for him this year. At the Parts Canada Superbike season opener at Calabogie Motorsports Park, near Ottawa, he led the opening lap before having to settle for a third place finish.
He also led the first lap of round two at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Que. but crashed on the second lap, ending his race.
At the second of the Mosport races Lacombe again led on the opening lap, only this time he was able to stay in the hunt the entire distance.
"This year, every race I've been able to get off the line pretty good," he said.
Lacombe also enjoyed a third place finish in round three of the Parts Canada Superbike series at Calgary's Race City Motorsport Park, but in a short, seven-race series his two non-finishes have ended whatever slim chances he had for the 2009 title.
He comes to Nova Scotia seventh in the point standings, well clear of his closest challenger and still with a realistic shot at cracking the top five.
With only one round in the championship after this weekend, the top two in the standings, Brantford, Ont.'s Szoke and Saskatoon racer McCormick will be watching their points while Lacombe only needs to worry about winning.
"I have nothing to lose," he said.
Szoke is trying to lock up a record tying sixth Canadian Superbike title, while the 17-year-old McCormick is looking for his first professional racing crown.
A fourth AMP victory would be sweet vindication for Lacombe, proof that he and his Team Toyota Yamaha / OTSFF squad have found their footing and can consistently run at the front of the Parts Canada Superbike Championship.
The sixth round of the Parts Canada Superbike Championship take place Aug. 7-9 at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie, N.S. Advance weekend passes are $40 and are available through www.atlanticroadracing.com.