CALGARY'S STEPPER SET TO JOIN BIG GUNS CALGARY, Alta. (June 24) -- For a lot of young racers entering their fourth season of competition, nabbing a top five result against the best in the country would be considered a pretty big ...
CALGARY'S STEPPER SET TO JOIN BIG GUNS
CALGARY, Alta. (June 24) -- For a lot of young racers entering their fourth season of competition, nabbing a top five result against the best in the country would be considered a pretty big achievement.
But Calgary motorcycle racer Jeremy Stepper doesn't quite see it that way.
Although the 20-year-old was pleased to finish fifth in the opening round of the Parts Canada Superbike Championship at Calabogie Motorsport Park last month, he thinks he could have placed as high as third.
Stepper will get another shot at the podium when the national road racing series holds its second round at Calgary's Race City Motorsports Park this weekend.
Riding his Suzuki GSX-R1000, Stepper was the top privateer finisher at Calabogie, placing behind factory riders Jordan Szoke (Kawasaki), Kevin Lacombe (Yamaha), Steve Crevier (Buell) and Francis Martin (Suzuki).
"I think I could have got into the top three," says Stepper, who qualified ninth for the race. "There was no reason why I shouldn't have been there, and I'm a little bummed about that. I had a really bad start, and once I got past a few guys and was behind Francis and Steve they were just too far ahead.
"I made a few mistakes and it's hard to make up time once you lose a bit of ground like that. But I could run the pace they had."
Indeed, Stepper's fastest lap of the race was quicker than Crevier's and less than a tenth of a second slower than Martin's.
Stepper's performance at Calabogie was all the more impressive considering he is a true privateer racer. His Stepper Racing team essentially consists of himself and crew chief Willie Vass. Primary backing for the squad comes from the family business, Stepper Custom Homes, while there is also support from Cochrane, Alta. Suzuki dealer Mountain Toys, Signetix, Bow Cycle, Parts Canada and VP Fuels Western Canada.
"Running your own team is a lot of work. My parents give me as much backing as they can, and they're very supportive," Stepper says. "But this is really a one-man show. It sometimes feels like a full time job, but it's pretty fun once you get going."
Stepper only started road racing in 2005. After two strong years as an Amateur running in the Calgary Motorcycle Roadracing Association series based out of Race City, Stepper joined the national Pro ranks last season. He placed a solid 12th in the Yoshimura Pro 600 Sport Bike standings with a couple of top 10 finishes to his credit, and was fourth in the HJC Pro Rookie of the Year rankings.
He hoped to join Cochrane rider Clint McBain on his Acceleration Racing team for this season, but was forced to go back to running his own program when a major sponsorship deal didn't come through.
"It would have been nice to ride with Clint, but it wasn't too big a setback," Stepper says. "Willie [Vass] was already in, and we already had one bike. Mountain Toys helped out and we were ready to go."
Stepper credits Vass with being the biggest addition to his 2008 effort. The vastly experienced motorcycle tuner has previously worked with another Calgary racer, Chris Peris, who is now a member of the Team Suzuki / Blackfoot / Picotte Performance factory squad.
"Willie built all the bikes, and he knows so much about suspension, and setting them up properly," Stepper says. "He sets everything up for me, where before it was really a shot in the dark. He knows what to do and I'm learning from him. And he gives me a lot of confidence, because I know the bike's capable of good results."
Stepper admits Race City is not his best track, although he enjoys the opportunity to compete in front of his family and friends.
"For some reason I have some bad habits that I picked up racing there," he explains. "In a way I prefer going to new tracks. But it's fun having a lot of people I know around."
Stepper would like to establish himself as the top privateer rider in the Parts Canada Superbike field over the remainder of the 2008 season, and maybe even go a step further.
"Ideally I'd like to beat a few of the factory riders," he says. "I'd like to be able to pick up my pace a bit, and not only be the top privateer, but also running with the factory guys."
One of the keys to doing that, he says, will be improving his race starts.
"I know they have some drag nights at Race City," he laughs. "Maybe I should come out with my race bike and do some of those."
Round 2 of the 2008 Parts Canada Superbike Championship will be held at Race City Motorsport Park in Calgary June 27-29. The event is the second of seven races at five venues across the country for Canada's premier motorcycle road racing series.
The Track: Race City Motorsport Park is a 3.2km (2.0-mile), 11-turn road course. This will be the 27th Canadian Superbike event at the track, which has the second longest tenure on the national tour.
Weekend Schedule: Practice will be held Friday, June 27 with qualifying for all classes on Saturday afternoon. Feature races will run Sunday afternoon.
Tickets: Call the track at (403) 272-7223 or go to the website at www.racecity.com