NOVA SCOTIA RACER SOAKS UP PRESSURE TORONTO, Ont. (July 30) -- The pressure is on Truro, N.S. native Brian Blaauwendraat, but the 24-year-old motorcycle road racer doesn't mind. In fact, he likes it that way. Blaauwendraat is facing a couple...
NOVA SCOTIA RACER SOAKS UP PRESSURE
TORONTO, Ont. (July 30) -- The pressure is on Truro, N.S. native Brian Blaauwendraat, but the 24-year-old motorcycle road racer doesn't mind. In fact, he likes it that way.
Blaauwendraat is facing a couple of critical races in his young career. It starts this weekend with the fourth round of the Atlantic Roadracing Championship at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie, N.S. That is followed Aug. 7-9 by the biggest weekend in Maritime motorsports as AMP plays host to the sixth round of the Parts Canada Superbike Championship national title chase.
Blaauwendraat is currently the runaway leader in both the Pro Superbike and Pro Sport Bike classes of the ARL series, having won every race so far. But this weekend he will be up against his toughest competition of the year as a number of the national series regulars have come east to get in some practice before the Parts Canada weekend.
"I know I can run fast when the pressure's on," Blaauwendraat says. "It's going to be pretty exciting this weekend with quite a few national riders here. But that will be good for me. It was the same last year, and I know running against guys like Clint McBain [the eventual national Superbike runner-up] was really good practice for me heading into the national."
Blaauwendraat has only been able to run a partial schedule with the national tour, so the Aug. 7-9 Parts Canada Superbike event will offer a rare chance for him to strut his stuff in front of the key players on the Canadian road racing scene. Despite the backing of Honda Canada and Dartmouth, N.S. dealership Pro Cycle, Blaauwendraat has been racing on a tight budget and he has missed two of the five events so far.
Last season Blaauwendraat ran the full national campaign as he found himself in the thick of the battle for the HJC Pro Rookie of the Year Award. He narrowly lost out to Alex Welsh, who then picked up a factory ride with Canadian Kawasaki Motors.
"The budget is the huge thing," he explains. "When I saw I had a chance at Rookie of the Year I really couldn't afford to miss a race. So I spent whatever I had, maxed out credit cards, trying to get to each round. Now I'm not only paying for this year's racing, but trying to pay off last year as well."
While Blaauwendraat didn't pick up a factory ride like Welsh, his efforts did get the attention of Honda Canada, who helped set him up with a 2009 CBR600RR. Up to that point in his career he had been racing the same 2005 Honda, making his efforts last season all the more impressive.
But while having the most modern equipment available never hurts, adapting to the 2009 bike has brought its challenges. The '05 Honda may have been old, but in some respects it was like that well worked in baseball mitt; Blaauawendraat knew it intimately and was able to get the maximum from it.
He's still finding the limits of the new bike, and that has been a frustrating process at times.
"The bike is way more powerful and it feels good, but once I get down to my best times I feel like I'm hitting a wall, there's something holding me back," Blaauwendraat explains. "I can't pinpoint what it is."
He will use this weekend's ARL regional to work with mechanic Darin Marshall and try some new set-up combinations with the bike in an effort to unlock its potential.
"I have a comfortable points lead in both classes, so now is the time to do it," he points out. "This weekend we'll try some different stuff.
"Honda and Pro Cycle have been great, and I have Pro-Tech Suspension as a sponsor, but even so, there's not much of a team behind me. When I come off the track I don't have a suspension guru waiting to make changes to the bike."
While Blaauwendraat continues to be the class of the ARL regional scene, his brief national appearances have been frustrating. Part of the problem has been adapting to the new bike, but another factor has been the increased depth of the field, especially in the Yoshimura Pro Sport Bike class.
"I think everyone knows just how deep the field is in Sport Bike," he says. "Last year I was getting top 10 finishes everywhere, but at Calabogie this year I was fighting for 15th spot with Francis Martin [a two- time Canadian Superbike champion] and it was one of the best races of my life."
Blaauwendraat heads home 17th in the class point standings although he is confident of a strong showing in the AMP national event. It was at his home track that he burst onto the Canadian scene with a dominant victory in the 2007 Amateur Sport Bike national. Last year he put his old Honda into the top 10 Pirelli SuperPole shootout in the Superbike class and finished in the top six in three out of the weekend's four Pro races.
"I'm going for top 10 finishes for sure at the national," he says of his prospects for the Aug. 7-9 weekend. "And I'd like to be in SuperPole again; that was a great experience."
Blaauwendraat hopes a solid weekend at the Parts Canada Superbike national can lead to bigger things in his racing career.
"I hope that Honda Canada and Pro Cycle will want to help me out more next year," says the mechanic for a John Deere dealership in Truro. "Otherwise I don't know what my options are. I'd really like another go at the full national series. I don't feel like I've had a real crack at it yet."
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.