LOCAL RACING STAR LOVES SUMMER JOB TORONTO, Ont. (July 8) -- For a lot of university age students a summer job can mean waiting on tables in a restaurant or working as an intern in a stuffy office building. But Uxbridge, Ont.'s Alex Welsh ...
LOCAL RACING STAR LOVES SUMMER JOB
TORONTO, Ont. (July 8) -- For a lot of university age students a summer job can mean waiting on tables in a restaurant or working as an intern in a stuffy office building.
But Uxbridge, Ont.'s Alex Welsh enjoys a somewhat faster pace. When not in school the 21-year-old is tearing up Canada's race tracks as a member of the Canadian Kawasaki Motors factory team in the Parts Canada Superbike Championship.
"It works out pretty well for me," admits Welsh, who is enrolled in a sports management program at Brock University in St. Catharines. "This year my school term ended in late April, just before we started our testing for the racing season. And I'll go back to school for the off-season. Right now I just happen to have a cool summer job."
Welsh is in his second year as a Pro racer in this country's premier motorcycle road racing series and his first as a member of the Kawasaki squad. The series reaches its midpoint at Bowmanville, Ont.'s Mosport International Raceway July 17-19 with its traditional doubleheader, the fourth and fifth rounds of the seven-race series.
The event is a homecoming for Welsh, who arrives at Mosport sixth in the Superbike standings and fourth in the rankings for the Yoshimura Pro Sport Bike division, the top national support class in the series.
"I wouldn't say I have a home track advantage," he concedes. "I haven't ridden a great deal of laps there. But I should have some family and friends come out, and I get to sleep in my own bed. And I don't have to worry about things like packing my luggage and plane tickets; I can just go on my own schedule."
There will be more than just local attention focused on Welsh, who is considered one of Canada's rising stars on the motorcycle road racing scene. He leaped to national prominence last season when he won the HJC Pro Rookie of the Year Award in the Parts Canada Superbike Championship, riding the slightly unconventional, three-cylinder Triumph 675 Daytona in a small, privately-funded team.
"Nobody knew who I was or where I'd come from," explains Welsh, who finished seventh and sixth in the Pro Sport Bike races at Mosport last July. "I really didn't know where I'd finish heading into the year. It was a little frustrating. We had no type of factory support and when things went wrong we didn't have the parts or the budget to fix them. But [crew chief] Zed [Saleemi] built a great bike for me."
In retrospect Welsh thinks racing the only Triumph in the field and having some success with it may have helped gain him attention among the factory teams.
"It was gratifying to do it on our own and I got a great opportunity out of it with Kawasaki," he says. "I don't know if it would have been the same if I'd been riding a more conventional four-cylinder bike. We really stood out."
Welsh's Rookie of the Year performance earned him a tryout with the Kawasaki factory team at the end of September. The squad was coming off a third straight Parts Canada Superbike title with Jordan Szoke but needed a replacement for Brett McCormick, himself a former Pro Rookie of the Year.
"They wanted to do a practice day at Shannonville [Motorsport Park] and I certainly wasn't going to say no to that," Welsh recalls. "They weren't looking for great lap times, there was no pressure on me. The day went pretty well and two or three weeks after that we did a deal."
Welsh has been most successful so far this season on Kawasaki's ZX- 6R Sport Bike. He claimed his first career Pro podium at the most recent round of the Yoshimura Pro Sport Bike series in Calgary, finishing third behind teammate Szoke and McCormick.
He took a fourth place finish in the season opener at Calabogie Motorsports Park, near Ottawa, and was fifth in round two at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Que. after suffering a fall in qualifying.
"The first two races I expected to be closer to the front, but in Calgary things really came together," Welsh says.
Adapting to the more powerful ZX-10R Superbike has been more of a challenge, but Welsh is growing in confidence with each race. He finished sixth in the first two rounds and was seventh at Calgary's Race City Motorsport Park after running third early on.
"The Superbike is living up to what I expected," he admits. "It's got a lot of power and it can be a real beast. I'm learning to tame it. In Calgary, for the first five, six or seven laps I was right up there in third place. But I had trouble later in the race. I need to get used to sliding the bike around a bit more.
"But it bodes well for Mosport. Now I know what it's like and Mosport suits me. It's not bumpy, there's a lot of elevation changes and a lot of speed. It suits my style."
Welsh has a two-year deal with Canadian Kawasaki Motors. He says by the end of this year he'd like to be winning races and then next season be in the hunt for a national championship.
"I know I can run up front and I think the team and myself will be up for it," he says.
As for future ambitions, the World Superbike Championship is a target.
"I think that would be a cool thing to do and I think that's a realistic goal for me," Welsh says. "I'm not old. I'm only 21; I'm not past my prime. I know it's tough to make a career in racing, but if the opportunity presented itself I'd certainly take it.
"But I'm at a cool part of my life right now. I'm not complaining."
The fourth and fifth rounds of the Parts Canada Superbike Championship take place July 17-19 at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont. For ticket information go to www.mosport.com or call 1-800- 866-1072.