With the Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship ushering in a new era in 2023, there will be plenty of changes and twists to follow in all classes. However, if history has taught us anything, it’s that nothing will be as unpredictable as the support categories when the new year begins at Shannonville Motorsport Park next weekend, May 18-21.
Returning to SMP for the first time since round one of 2019, the amateur and lightweight classes will have changed extensively since the last time local fans saw them, while a pair of new classes will be heading there for the first time.
The AIM Insurance Amateur Superbike and Scorpion EXO Amateur Sport Bike classes won’t have any returning podium finishers from five years go – four of them having since turned pro – while only one Super Sonic Race School Amateur Lightweight podium finisher remains in the class.
The Lightweight Pro/Am (debuted in 2022) and new-to-2023 Pro Twins will be a complete fresh start, having never run nationally at SMP before.
But even amidst all the uncertainty, every year brings with it the early championship favourites, and each class certainly has one. The most notable name to watch is that of Andrew Cooney, the latest star to emerge seemingly out of nowhere after winning four races and finishing as the title runner-up in his rookie Lightweight season.
The son of former top pro Darrell Cooney and a talented motocross rider, the younger Cooney cemented himself as the pre-season betting favourite when he torched his fellow competitors at the Winter Test in Jennings. In fact, the Fast Company Honda rider would have even been the fastest Pro Sport Bike rider at the test, finishing just a second off the top-eight combined pro times.
Cooney won’t be without challengers, however, and a pair of younger riders in the form of Mack Weil and Mavrick Cyr appear to be the next in line. Both impressed at the Winter Test and flashed strong pace in the class one year ago, as they hope their added experience will win out over the pre-season favourite.
Also in the mix will be the top returning rider in each class, Erick Gosselin in AIM Insurance Amateur Superbike and Serge Boyer in Scorpion EXO Amateur Sport Bike, while reigning Lightweight champion Bryce DeBoer also moves up to the middle ranks.
Leading off the all-new Pro Twins class is one very familiar name to most fans, as former GP Bikes Pro Superbike race-winner Jeff Williams returns to the Bridgestone CSBK paddock after a terrifying crash three years ago.
Running jointly on-track with the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike class, the new Twins category is expected to be a developing project in 2023, but Williams will bring plenty of pedigree as he returns aboard his Williams Paving Aprilia.
Expected to join him in the new Twins class is regional veteran Hans Van Sleuwen and west-coast teenager Andrew Van Winkle, the latter showing good pace in his first taste of Bridgestone CSBK action at the Winter Test aboard a privateer Suzuki.
Last but certainly not least comes the two Lightweight divisions, and primarily the always nail-biting Super Sonic Race School Amateur Lighweight class – featuring the next prodigy in Canadian racing, Vincent Lalande.
The runaway champion of the inaugural MiniSuperbike season (now the FIM MiniGP Canada Series) and the first graduate into the CSBK paddock, the 15-year-old Lalande will step up to the national ranks aboard a SpeedFactory67 Kawasaki where he instantly becomes the title favourite.
It remains to be seen who will be returning from the 2022 championship fight, but one who would surely be Lalande’s biggest challenger if he does return is east-coast star Vincent Wilson, a race winner and the fourth overall finisher from a year ago.
Also expected to continue is class veteran Jacob Black, having finished third overall last season and always threatening the podium as he chases his first National victory.
Lalande will also be one the riders to beat in the Lightweight Pro/AM should he choose to participate, where competitors from both ranks battle it out in one race. Many of the same names from the Amateur Lightweight championship return for the Lightweight Pro/AM, making the pro grid the more fascinating rivaly.
Reigning pro division champion Jared Walker is expected to race at SMP and be the betting favourite alongside his race-winning brother Cameron, though Jeff Williams is believed to be joining the Pro grid as well, with other former top pro Gary McKinnon expected to continue in the class.
The full schedule for this weekend’s support class action – as well as the feature GP Bikes Pro Superbike and Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike classes – can be found on the series official website.
For more information on the Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship, visit www.csbk.ca.
Main picture: Andrew Cooney (#133) is the overwhelming favourite in both Amateur Superbike and Amateur Sport Bike, after comfortably topping the Winter Test for Honda. Photo credit: Rob O’Brien / CSBK.