Saturday, May 16th was the Flat Track Canada opener for the 2015 championship series and, despite threats of bad weather, racers from all over Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, New York and even Illinois came to ride the battle of the deep cushion. There's absolutely no way really to describe how it is to ride the deep, rutted and challenging surface of the half-mile track at the Paris Fairgrounds other than to say it's thrilling and very addictive.
A very promising 151 entries showed that there's been an increase in interest in the sport of flat track. We saw a surge in American racers as well as a number of newcomers, including a large number of youths and adults.
It seems to be a growing trend worldwide for road racers to take the stage in flat track racing since the influence from Marquez and Rossi. Last year, Canadian Superbike Champion Jodi Christie and Canadian Sport Bike Champion Kenny Reidmann competed in a couple of rounds of the FTC series. This year, 2014 CSBK Superbike runner-up Trevor Daley gave flat track a try at the Paris half-mile, joined by fellow national road racers Kris Garvie, Ross Milson and Tomas Casas. Daley showed a very impressive ride, taking a second and a first in his heats. In the Intermediate DTX final he finished 7th despite falling, and in the Open Intermediate final he pulled off a very impressive 4th place. As for the other road racers, Garvie placed 7th out of 17 in both Novice classes, with Casas finishing 8th in the Intermediates, pretty impressive with full fields.
A slew of other amateur road racers were there competing, giving the excuse that flat track is just too much fun without forking out a ton of money or committing a full weekend.
The big news of the weekend was the absence of reining FTC Expert No. 1 plate holder and defending champion Don Taylor. Don's wife is pregnant and overdue on her birth, so he made a very difficult decision to miss out on the racing. That leaves a large opportunity for the championship to be up for grabs for 2015. In the Open Expert heat races, veterans Steve Beattie and Chris Evans battled like they were in their twenties, displaying the best racing and a top notch show. Beattie, racing the small 450 cc Honda and Evans on the 750 cc Harley Davidson, played tango on the race track, swooping in passes turn to turn. The main event was poised as the one to watch as Bugs Pearson from Illinois rode his Water's KTM 990 to a heat race victory over young fast GNC2 Daytona winner Justin Jones and 2014 FTC runner-up Tyler Seguin.
In the DTX main event it was New York's Justin Jones bringing home a comfortable win on his Yamaha YZF450 over Tyler Seguin on his KBR sponsored Honda CRF450.
The Open Expert final turned out to be one of Flat Track Canada's greatest races, and one of the best half-mile races in Canada. For lap after lap, corner after corner, fans were on their feet and cheering for the passing amongst the leading riders. First it was Tyler Seguin and Rob 'Bugs' Pearson with the early battle. After only a couple of laps Seguin faded fast and it looked like a hungry Chris Evans was warping from 1999 to put the pressure on Bugs. From that point on, the race was spectacular - Bugs on the 990 KTM banging and crashing into Evans' XR750 Harley, handlebar to handlebar. They went at it for about four laps and then, out of nowhere, Steve Beattie threw himself into the mix on his KBR Honda CRF450.
Bugs started to fade at about the halfway point of the 15-lap main with the fan favourite, Doug Lawrence, sitting back in about sixth position. The race became a constant battle between Evans and Beattie, with Beattie navigating his smaller, nimble bike quickly through the turns and Evans challenging back in the straightaways, showing off the big horsepower of the Harley. It was very neat to see, and typically you'll only get to enjoy this big bike/small bike kind of battle here in Canada.
As the last couple of laps to go it looked like Evans was in control of taking home the win, but as this point all eyes were on Doug Lawrence, who went from sixth place to second in only a matter of a couple laps. The pressure was on, and Chris knew Lawrence was coming; he had to hold on only a few more moments as the rough, demanding track had taken its toll on the 50-plus-year-old Evans. As the riders came out of the final corner to the checkered flag, Evans threw himself on his fuel tank, just using every last bit of energy to bring it home for the big win! It was another very well-deserved and respected win for Chris Evans.
In the Intermediate class, Brodie Buchan came out with a big win in the DTX class with Braden Vallee finishing second despite having to start from the third row. In the Open Int, Buchan struggled with bike issues on his Kawasaki twin, leaving the door open for Vallee who edged out Justin Crumb for the victory. Frontrunner Shane Corbeil struggled while blowing his engines in the heat races.
Braden Vallee (54)
ATVs had a good turnout, with Peter Grison taking home his first Flat Track Canada win on the Yamaha Banshee. Brandon Doucette built a Honda quad with a CBR600 F4i engine in it; he's still working out the bugs, but it showed it worked fairly well, finding a 5th place finish.
Another highlight was young superstar Dallas Daniels, who made the trek from Illinois. This 11-year-old showed he could run with the big guns and did an awesome job handling his bike to 3rd in the Novice class. Dallas also took home a win in the 250 class. Very promising performance and I'm sure we'll see him back again.
In the full field of 85s, Chase Saathoff took home the win. Brian Newman from New York edged out Niagara Falls' Hunter Bauer for second place, while Paris' own Jimmy McCullough finished 4th.
Flat Track Canada would like to thank everyone for coming out and supporting. Bike time thank you to all of the volunteers and a big thanks to our sponsors: Parts Canada, Harley Davidson, Suzuki, Diesel Equipment, Honda Canada, Dunlop, Kawasaki Canada, Sturgess Cycle, Grand River Powersports, Town Moto, Klotz, & Outlaw Productions.
We hope to see everyone this Saturday in Burford!