“It hasn’t really been a long off-season, but it feels like it at times,” explains former Canadian national flat track champion Doug Lawrence, who will make the move to the Pro road race ranks this season aboard a Suzuki GSX-R1000. Lawrence announced his new Suzuki Canada program for the 2017 Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship at the Toronto Motorcycle Show last weekend.
“I’m excited to get a program to ride the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 in 2017,” confirms the man some call ‘Fresh.’ “I’m excited to go road racing, that’s what it comes down to. I’ve had some offers, with different bikes, from great people, and really I’ve just been trying to figure out what could work the best for me. I appreciate all the help from everyone, and I think the Suzuki program is right for me. My aim is to build with that, to get the ball rolling with Suzuki and their return (to Canadian Superbike).
“I’ll get a bike, hopefully, by mid-March, and get it track-ready,” Lawrence continued. “For me, with my level of road racing experience, it’s essential to just get on the track and get riding. I need bodywork and suspension, but that’s really all I will need to get out and start riding. Then I can get going from there, get the feedback for the people who are working with me.
“I think that usually, with Suzuki, things are pretty close to perfect, and this bike has been in development for some time,” says Lawrence about his weapon for 2017. “I’m confident that the new GSX-R1000 will be good.
“People tell me it doesn’t make sense to test on old tires, things like that, and I do understand the advice,” notes Lawrence, whose entry into the Pro SBK ranks is perhaps the most interesting story of the 2017 CSBK preseason. “But I have only ridden a road race bike for seven or eight days in total. I really just need to get some laps in before we really start development, doing race laps, race-distance testing. I just need to get the bike underneath me, really fell it, and go from there. I’d like to ride Grand Bend, Mosport, Shannonville, before those national rounds. I would like to go down south, I have some good connections in Ohio and Michigan. We’ll see what happens.
“I have to manage my plan, not get too overwhelmed with stuff – I have been so excited over the past few months. I need to get one motorcycle ready, and go from there.”
As far as flat track racing goes in 2017, the former No. 1 plateholder is depending on his mechanic and father, Doug Sr, to lead the charge.
“My Dad is excited for me, and wants to see where I’m going. He’s not a huge road racing fan,” Lawrence laughs. “He knows what I have going on, and he wants me to do it. He’s building another flat track bike for me, to ride in the new Twins class in the States.”
However, Lawrence did admit that following the national CSBK tour will curb his Canadian flat track appearances.
“My riding in the Flat Track Canada national series will be restricted. I raced 26 weekends last year, and I got a bit overwhelmed in the last half of the season. My mind was focused on the CSBK round at Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) after I started my first national at St-Eustache, and I know my flat track program suffered for that. I’m not committed to too-too much in the States, and fortunately my dad says ‘Hey, we’ve got this bike ready for you whenever you want to go for it and ride.’
“Right now, I have a plan for doing the first two American half-miles before the CSBK nationals start, but I have to dedicated my time and mind to the Suzuki program for the CSBK national series. After the final CSBK round at CTMP, there are still four or five American Flat Track races I can get to in the United States. Those eight or so AMA races are at racetracks I want to ride at as well.
“I have some goals in flat track that I want to achieve, and I feel like I can turn up at those races and be right up to speed.”
As far as support is concerned, Lawrence admits that “there is lots of talking going on, and I have been waiting to get the Suzuki deal confirmed. I have supporters and friends who have helped, and I know they are there for me, and now I have to get out there and work on it. I know that we can’t have the big factory deals of 10 or 20 years ago, but I really wanted to do it, to race the CSBK series.”
Lawrence will be visiting several tracks for the first time, including the home of the famed east-coast ‘roller coaster,’ Atlantic Motorsport Park, in Shubenacadie, NS.
“I’m excited to go places like Shubenacadie,” Lawrence states. “During the off-season, I have told people I actually had more fun racing at St-Eustache then I did at Mosport. I’ve been watching videos, and it seems like you have to be really accurate at Atlantic Motorsport Park. You have to minimize mistakes. It’s another track with a lot of character, lots of uphill and downhill. It’s all new to me.
“I think the Shannonville opener will be really tough; lots of the guys in the series grew up riding there. Grand Bend will be more of a level playing field, not too many of the national guys have a lot of laps around there. Mosport is at the end of the year; I like that place. The speed is a little higher than flat track, and it’s really flowing, but the track is in some ways forgiving. By that time, I aim to be up to speed with the faster group, and I’m comfortable with the drafting.
“I don’t have any specific goals in terms of finishing positions,” Lawrence humbly admits. “I’m more concerned with getting comfortable on the bike, be able to adapt to riding in the Pro ranks on a big bike. The Brooklin Cycle Racing Pro Rookie of the Year is a goal, but that isn’t my only target. I want to do better in every race. I have to wipe the slate clean after every race, good or bad. It’s a rebuilding process and there is a new race track at the next round. I can’t get too high, can’t get too low.
“I’ve been through all of these things in my flat track career,” summarized Canada’s newest Pro Superbike racer. It’s a different discipline, but it’s still racing a motorcycle.”