Sport Bike Preview: Tremblay, Young face off at Shannonville

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The long wait for the 2024 Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship season is finally over, as the national series will return to historic Shannonville Motorsport Park for the opening round this weekend, presented by the Fallen Riders Support Team sponsored by Pace Law.

Included amongst the action will be the Economy Lube Pro Sport Bike class, which has endured plenty of changes from its 2023 grid. Reigning champion David MacKay and former SMP winner Connor Campbell have both graduated to the Superbike ranks, last year’s title runner-up Matt Simpson has entered a semi-retirement, and injuries have sidelined frontrunners Brad Macrae, Alex Coelho, and Louie Raffa.

While a new influx of talent will surely help offset those absences – including a loaded rookie class – it would have been fair for title favourite and 2021 champion Sebastian Tremblay to be licking his chops entering round one at Shannonville.

Instead, he’ll now need to deal with an unexpected rival – three-time Canada Cup champion Ben Young.

The face of the Superbike class will do double-duty for the first time in his career this season, joining the middleweight grid aboard a Van Dolder’s Home Team Suzuki and committing to all six national rounds in both classes.

Young hasn’t raced in the Sport Bike division since 2015, earning a second-place finish in his final appearance at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, but his recent Daytona 200 finish proved there should be minimal adjustment as he pivots back to the smaller machine.

His path to a championship will be anything but a formality, however, as he’ll be going up against one of the best Sport Bike riders of the modern era in Tremblay.

The Turcotte Performance Suzuki rider won the final three races of the 2023 campaign and finished third in the championship despite sitting out round one – the same pro track layout that will host round one this season – reminding everyone why he swept the 2021 campaign behind eight consecutive victories.

That Sport Bike experience will play massively in Tremblay’s favour, setting the table for what should be a fantastic duel between the two former champions both at the opening round in Shannonville and throughout the 2024 campaign.

Focusing on only each other would be a mistake, however, as both will have their hands full just fending off the rest of the field in what has been the most unpredictable class in recent CSBK history.

Ben Young was the top Canadian at the Daytona 200 back in March, as shown here. The three-time CSBK champ will add competing in the Sport Bike class to his weekend agenda this season. [Photo: Colin Fraser].

Leading that charge is the duo of Elliot Vieira and John Laing, the fourth and fifth-place finishers in last year’s championship. Vieira missed three races with mechanical issues and very well could have been in title contention without them, while Laing was one of the most consistent frontrunners following his crash in the opening race of the season.

Vieira will be back aboard his GP Bikes Ducati and hoping to build upon his strong finale at Shannonville last year, where he finished second and third (albeit on the long track layout). As for Laing, the Cochrane, AB native now has a year of experience under his belt around the Ontario circuits, and will aim to build some early momentum ahead of his home races in round three.

Perhaps the biggest leap in potential from 2023 to 2024 is sophomore Alex Michel, who quietly put together a strong rookie pro season last year and recently won the Sport Bike race at the SuperSeries regional at SMP. The young Kawasaki rider finished seventh in each of the two races around the pro track last season before claiming his first career podium at CTMP, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him return to the front at Shannonville like he did this past weekend.

Amongst the other returnees is a group of dark horse contenders that includes Marco Sousa, Nathan Playford, and Zoltan Frast, amongst others. Sousa in particular has shown some of his best pace at Shannonville, scoring a pair of fifth place finishes to begin last year’s campaign, and a podium spot is hardly out of the question for the Suzuki veteran.

Each of the returnees will need to keep an eye out for some of the new names around them, though, with at least five high-profile rookies expected to make the jump from the amateur ranks this season.

Headlining them is none other than 19-year-old sensation Mavrick Cyr, the champion in both amateur classes last season and one of the brightest talents in the Bridgestone CSBK paddock. Any doubt of Cyr’s potential was quickly silenced in September, when he got an early start to his pro career and finished ninth in the final race of the season aboard his Rizzin Racing Triumph.

Joining Cyr will be a quartet of young rivals from his amateur days, including the likes of Mack Weil, Phil Degama-Blanchet (the youngest pro rider at just 16 years old), Bryce DeBoer, and Andrew Cooney. Weil joined Cyr in the pro finale last year, finishing 13th, and is hoping to build on that experience aboard his Kawasaki.

New to the class in 2024 will be the Constructors Championship, which has added an extra layer of intrigue in the Superbike class since its introduction in 2021 and will now expand to the middleweight division.

Suzuki will enter as the overwhelming favourites with the two main title protagonists in their stable, while Sousa will provide support as the third rider in their program.

Kawasaki will lose a major piece of their 2023 puzzle with MacKay gone, but will only need two of Laing, Michel, Weil, or Degama-Blanchet to perform well at SMP to open the year on a high note.

Ducati will rely heavily on Vieira and Playford in the early going, adding Raffa to the mix once healthy, while former frontrunners Yamaha will be in tough following Simpson’s departure and Macrae’s injury.

The full weekend schedule for the Economy Lube Pro Sport Bike class – and the rest of the seven Bridgestone CSBK categories – can be found here.

Main picture: 2021 Pro Sport Bike champion Sebastien Tremblay (24) heads into the opening round of the season the early class favourite as the CSBK season kicks off this weekend at Shannonville Motorsport Park.
[Photo: Rob O’Brien / CSBK].



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