The team had high expectations heading into the event. Michael has a sweet spot for Canada's most eastern road racing circuit. During his Canadian Thunder days, Michael had some excellent results at Shubenacadie including a pole position, a lap record, a race win and multiple podium finishes.
"I always feel like I'm coming home to Shubie. My dad grew up in Glace Bay on Cape Breton and we visited numerous times when I was a kid. The people out here are so sincere and kind, they remind me of my Dad," commented Michael.
On the Superbike last year, the team struggled with stability issues. Crew chief Kyle Blakely, suspension consultant Jon Cornwell, and Michael decided to begin the race weekend with a different suspension setup, a strategy to try to make the bike easier to ride on the famous roller coaster and be less prone to bottoming out the rear shock at the bottom of Corner 5.
The new approach worked. The weekend was off to a good start for the team during the Friday Superbike Superpole session where Michael was able record the fourth fastest time, 1:09.327 seconds, a personal best for Leon around the Shubenacadie track. Fourth place at all of the other Canadian tracks is front row, except for Shubie, where the narrow track forces a 3-2-3 configuration. So a second row start it was. Again.
Saturday's SBK race was the highlight of Michael's season to date. Although he finished fourth, he was in the battle for third with fellow BMW racer Ben Young throughout the race. In the opening laps, he set the thirrd fastest lap of the race at 1:08.862. This new personal best was a full two seconds faster than Michael’s best lap from the 2015 SBK race, demonstrating how much progress the team has made.
“I’m pretty excited about Saturday’s race. My plan was to latch on to the three leaders and hang on as long as I could to break away from the rest of the pack. I was pumped to be able to keep up with Ben and be close to a podium finish. I had a few passing opportunities but it would have been tight and I wasn't able to pull it off. I knocked 25 seconds off of the complete race time from last year, more than a second a lap.” said Michael.
Sunday brought another solid result although under more hectic conditions. About 20 minutes before the Superbike grid roll out, it began to sprinkle. There wasn’t enough rain to wet the track so the decision was made to get things started before the skies opened up. Michael ran in fourth for the opening laps until he was overtaken by Yamaha-mounted Trevor Daley.
“I have to admit; I was a little spooked by the conditions. The track wasn’t really getting wet. I think the track temperature was more of an issue than the rain. On Saturday, we had track temps in the 50s. Today, we got a reading of 31 on the track surface. It’s funny how a few weeks ago, I was thrilled with fifth, and now I’m a little disappointed. At least we brought it home safe,” stated Michael after the race.
The next scheduled event for the team is Round 4 of the RACE regional series on August 7th. Michael currently leads the points in the Pro Superbike class and is in the hunt to reclaim the series No. 1 plate. Drop by Shannonville to see some exciting racing!
The Royal Distributing Racing Team would like to thank Royal Distributing, BMW Motorrad Canada, Pro 6 Cycle Dunlop, Shoei Helmets, Speed & Strength, Hindle Exhaust, Gianmajor Inc., Armour Bodies, MWR Airfilters, Vortex Racing Sprockets, Windmill Motorsports, Bickle Racing and Dave Smith.