CAN MARTIN DO IT AGAIN? TORONTO, ON There are plenty of questions surrounding the opening round of the 2006 Parts Canada Superbike Championship at Shannonville Motorsport Park this weekend. Can Francis Martin win a second straight national ...
CAN MARTIN DO IT AGAIN?
TORONTO, ON There are plenty of questions surrounding the opening round of the 2006 Parts Canada Superbike Championship at Shannonville Motorsport Park this weekend.
Can Francis Martin win a second straight national Superbike crown? Who will succeed the legendary Steve Crevier as king of the Hindle Exhaust Pro 600 Sport Bike class? And just how effective will former champion Pascal Picotte be as he recovers from nasty preseason injuries?
Martin will certainly be in the spotlight as the bikes take to Shannonville's 4.0km, 15-turn 'Long Track' this weekend. The Rock Forest, QC native parlayed an opening round win last season into his second Canadian national Superbike title, and his first for Suzuki.
Martin remains on Suzukis and the potent GSX-R1000 for 2006, but has switched from the now-disbanded Diablo squad out of Montreal to Calgary's Blackfoot Motosports team. The scenery is familiar to Martin, however, as he raced for Blackfoot Suzuki from 2001 to 2003.
Among those chasing Martin will be his Blackfoot Suzuki teammate Clint McBain. The Calgary rider is coming off a banner year in 2005, as he won his first two career national Superbike races and placed a close third in the final standings.
Picotte is an unknown quantity heading into this weekend. The Granby, QC rider suffered a crash at Barber Motorsports Park last month in which he broke three veterbrae, a bone in his foot and banged up both knees. Picotte is reportedly planning to ride but it is unclear how effective he will be on the Picotte Performance Yamaha YZF-R1.
Yamaha hopes may well rest on the shoulders of Picotte's teammate and fellow Granby racer Kevin Lacombe, who finished fifth in Superbike points last year with the Blackfoot Suzuki team.
The Kawasaki forces shouldn't be underestimated this weekend. American star Tom Kipp returns to the factory team aboard the updated ZX-10R. The Chardon, OH racer was quickest in last autumn's Pirelli tire evaluations at Shannonville and was second to Picotte in testing in Jennings, FL this spring.
Pirelli has become the spec tire supplier for the national tour this season.
Joining Kipp in the factory Kawasaki team is Brantford, ON's Jordan Szoke, who returns to the squad for which he won his first of two national Superbike crowns in 1998.
A Kawasaki darkhorse is Kleinburg, ON's Frank Trombino, who will be running a privateer ZX-10R with support from Kahuna Kawasaki. Trombino placed a close second to McBain at Shannonville's RACE Ontario Superbike opener earlier this month.
Honda Canada's efforts will be led by defending HJC Pro Rookie of the Year Erick Beausejour of Val Senneville, QC, who will campaign a CBR1000RR.
Defending Pro 600 Sport Bike champion Crevier doesn't have a regular ride for 2006, so the title chase is wide open to begin the season. Suzuki's McBain finished second in points last year and won the title in 2002, while Andrew Nelson won the opening round of the RACE series on his Yamaha.
Teenager Karl Daigle marked himself out as one to watch in this year's International Motorcycle SUPERSHOW Amateur 600 Sport Bike battle as he won the RACE opener on his Honda CBR600RR.
This weekend also sees the openers for Suzuki SV650 National Cup and Canadian Thunder.
Qualifying for national classes will take place Saturday afternoon with feature races on Sunday.