Sport Bike Preview: Tremblay the major favourite at Grand Bend as Young bows out

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The second round of the Bridgestone Canadian Superbike Championship will represent a major opportunity for Sebastien Tremblay, as he will head to the Grand Bend Motorplex without having to face his major rival in the Economy Lube Pro Sport Bike class when it kicks off June 7-9, presented by Southwest Marine & Powersport.

Tremblay enters round two as the Sport Bike championship leader following a crucial win in race two at Shannonville, having come out on top of a thrilling battle with Ben Young after the latter was victorious in race one.

However, Tremblay’s win was aided by a costly mechanical issue behind him, as Young encountered rad hose troubles on the penultimate lap which caused his crash out of second place, opening up an early advantage for Tremblay in the title fight.

Now, that slight gap has the potential to be completely blown open, as Young has confirmed he will not have his Scot-Build Suzuki ready for round two, choosing to focus on his Superbike campaign and title defence.

While Tremblay would have had a strong case to be the weekend favourite anyways – having proved in race two that he is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the three-time Canada Cup champion – his odds will surely be increased by not having to fight Young on Saturday and Sunday.

That will be a slight bit of relief for Tremblay, who hasn’t always had the best luck at Grand Bend despite strong pace. The Turcotte Performance Suzuki rider was infamously taken out of the lead in 2019 and left with a broken collarbone, while his return last year brought another crash in a wet Superbike race.

However, the 2021 champion will also remind everyone that he escaped with a pair of second place finishes at Grand Bend in his return to the Sport Bike class last season, losing out only to home favourite and eventual champion David MacKay.

Tremblay won’t have MacKay to contend with this time, either, but that won’t mean he has a shortage of other contenders to go up against this time around.

Tops amongst them are the second and fourth-placed riders in the championship, Elliot Vieira and John Laing, who each turned in very respectable weekends at the Shannonville opener and will look to build upon it in Grand Bend.

Vieira was especially strong at the Motorplex last season, finishing fifth in race one (his season debut after missing the opener) before charging to third in race two aboard his GP Bikes Ducati.

In fact, that third-place finish for Vieira came just 0.969 seconds behind Tremblay as part of a spirited last-lap battle, one that will remind both riders what Vieira is capable of in round two and at virtually every track moving forward.

As for Laing, the Cochrane, AB native had a far less enjoyable time in his first trip to the circuit, though he still escaped with strong finishes of seventh and ninth. While a repeat of that won’t be good enough to keep his title hopes alive in 2024, Laing did prove at SMP that he is now a better rider than the already stellar version seen in 2023.

That should give the Vass Performance Kawasaki competitor some reinforcement as he enters round two, especially having tested at Grand Bend in recent weeks and running competitive times compared to the local SOAR regional riders.

Sebastien Tremblay (centre) will still have to deal with Elliot Vieira (left) and John Laing (right) at Grand Bend, just as he did in race two at the Shannonville opener. [Photo: Rob O’Brien/CSBK].

Those regional specialists will once again prove to be a major X-factor at the venue, as Grand Bend – more than any other circuit – is known for having its SOAR stars produce strong national results at their home track.

Amongst those names to watch will be the trio of Nathan Playford, Zoltan Frast, and Sebastian Hothaza, who have all proven to be very fast at Grand Bend in recent history.

Frast was the one to beat in the regional Pro 600 race last weekend (the equivalent to Pro Sport Bike), escaping with a six-second victory over Hothaza aboard his Clare’s Cycle Kawasaki. Frast took solid finishes of eighth and seventh in round one, but could be on course for a first career national podium at Grand Bend after taking a best finish of fourth in race one a year ago.

As for Hothaza, the KSR Yamaha rider earned a career-best sixth in race one last season, and his regional pace suggests he will likely be in the same range as he eyes a top-five result in round two.

Playford, meanwhile, turned plenty of heads on day one at SMP when he qualified fourth and just marginally off the front row, but the Playford Company Ducati rider could only convert that into a pair of sixth-place finishes – something he will look to better or at least replicate in his return to Grand Bend.

Should any of the “locals” falter in the national spotlight, however, there will be a pair of young rivals ready to pick up the pieces in their first pro trips to the Motorplex.

Sixteen-year-old phenom Philip Degama-Blanchet first put himself on the CSBK radar last season with finishes of fourth and third at Grand Bend, the latter being his first of five amateur podiums, and his fourth-place finish as a pro at SMP proved that there won’t be many growing pains for him against top-flight competition.

The same goes for 19-year-old Mavrick Cyr, who was the double-amateur champion from a year ago and won both races at Grand Bend. The Rizzin Racing Triumph rider is fresh off a heated duel with Degama-Blanchet in round one but was no easy task to beat himself, taking fifth place finishes in both contests.

The absence of Young will represent a massive loss for Suzuki in the inaugural Sport Bike Constructors Championship, having extended a 20-point advantage over Ducati in round one thanks in large part to his and Tremblay’s efforts.

Now, the duo of Vieira and Playford – as well as the potential return of veteran Louie Raffa from injury – could be enough to swing the title fight in Ducati’s favour, though Kawasaki also lurks just another five points back thanks to Laing and Degama-Blanchet.

The full schedule for the Economy Lube Pro Sport Bike class – as well as the six other national classes – can be found on the series’ official website.

Main picture: Sebastien Tremblay (24) will carry the Economy Lube Pro Sport Bike championship lead into round two at Grand Bend, but won’t have to contend with rival Ben Young (86) this time around. [Photo: Rob O’Brien/CSBK].



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