MARTIN GAINING MOMENTUM HALIFAX, N.S. (August 5) -- After a slow start, the 2008 Parts Canada Superbike Championship season has been getting better and better for Francis Martin, and he expects the momentum to carry into this weekend's ...
MARTIN GAINING MOMENTUM
HALIFAX, N.S. (August 5) -- After a slow start, the 2008 Parts Canada Superbike Championship season has been getting better and better for Francis Martin, and he expects the momentum to carry into this weekend's key doubleheader at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie, N.S.
The rider of the Team Suzuki / Blackfoot / Picotte Racing Suzuki GSX- R1000 is coming off his best weekend of the year in the previous event at Mosport International Raceway, where he scored third and fifth place finishes in the two races.
"For sure I'm pretty confident coming into Shubie," says the two-time Canadian Superbike champion from Sherbrooke, Que. "I think I can definitely get two podiums."
The 34-year-old Martin comes into this weekend fourth in the Parts Canada Superbike Championship standings, 25 points behind third place Clint McBain. And he has been one of the most consistent riders this season, finishing in the top six in all four rounds of the series so far.
Martin battled illness to salvage a fourth place finish when the 2008 national tour opened at Calabogie Motorsport Park at the end of May, holding off Steve Crevier for the final podium spot until the closing laps of the race.
"I'm not sure what it was at Calabogie," he says, "but I think I only slept about five hours the whole weekend. I had a lot of difficulty concentrating when I was on the track."
In the following round at Calgary's Race City Motorsport Park, Martin finished sixth, again losing a spot in the late going, but had been part of a four-bike scrap for third for most of the race.
Next up was Mosport's doubleheader weekend, the halfway point in the seven-race Canadian championship. Martin scored an excellent third in the first race and was running fifth in the other when rain starting falling just after half distance and the race was stopped.
"I think I would have had another shot at the podium if we had gone the full race," he maintains.
It's not that long ago Martin dreaded the annual visit to Atlantic Motorsport Park, instead of looking forward to it. But that all changed in 2005, when he and his crew chief at the time, Patrice Goyette, came out east early and Martin spent time racking up the laps.
"Me and Patrice, we tested two weeks before the race in '05," Martin explains, "and I really started to enjoy the track. And after that I've had some strong results there."
AMP also hosted a doubleheader in 2005 and Martin finished third in both Superbike races, on his way to his second Canadian national crown.
He improved to second in the Superbike race in 2006, but crashed in last year's race due to what he describes as a front tire problem and crossed the line in 14th.
Martin has also been pleased with the pace of development of his Suzuki GSX-R1000 this year. The bike is now in its second year of service, meaning the Team Suzuki / Blackfoot / Picotte Racing squad has a good idea of what set-ups will suit it at each stop on the national tour.
"It makes things a lot easier," Martin says. "At Mosport, for example, we already had a good base set-up to work with and we just had to make little changes from there. It's a lot easier to go through a weekend when you have that."
Martin has also benefited from changes within the structure of the team. This year he is working closely with ex-Superbike racer Benoit Pilon as his crew chief, and the two enjoy a strong relationship.
"I always had a good relationship with Benoit, even when he was racing against me," Martin says. "He understands what it's like to be a rider and what a rider wants."
Additionally, team leader Pascal Picotte has taken a break from racing this year and is concentrating solely on running the three-rider squad, which includes young guns Chris Peris of Calgary and Mississauga, Ont.'s Matt McBride, in addition to the veteran Martin.
"Pascal has a lot of experience, and when he helps us with set-up, he usually sends us in the right direction," says Martin of his fellow two-time Superbike champion.
All the ingredients are there for Martin to visit the top step of the podium this weekend, and a couple of Superbike victories would go a long way to erasing some of the disappointments from earlier this season.
The fifth and sixth rounds of the Parts Canada Superbike Championship will be held at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie, N.S. Aug. 8-10.
Weekend Schedule: Practice and qualifying will be held Friday, Aug. 8 with feature races set for Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Tickets: Weekend Passes are $50 to be paid at the gate. Further information on tickets, directions, schedules, etc., can be found at www.atlanticroadracing.com