But before riders hit the track in Belleville, let's back up a week to Flamboro's banked half-mile. Just a hop up the escarpment from the industrial waters of Hamilton, Ontario, Flamboro self-proclaims that it's the fastest half-mile horse track in the province-and what's true for horses is doubly true for horsepower.
Nice tracks in the heart of flat track country bring full grids and stands full of fans, and there was a buzz about the stadium. There were so many expert riders that a spot in the final wasn't a given, and it leant a welcome degree of urgency to the heat races.
At staging it was good to see Chris Evans back on his Harley after injuries sustained at the Welland, Ontario, short track, and it was a welcome surprise to see ex-champ and suspension-tuner-to-the-stars Jon Cornwell on his blue and gold XR750. Cornwell, whose gaze can turn ice to water, admitted that it had been four years since he'd ridden the big bike in anger.
The fly in the ointment for domestic experts in the summer of '16 has been journeymen Californian (by way of Pennsylvania) rider Chad Cose. Cose, who trekked north after an invitation by injured ace Don Taylor, had previously ridden a Jim Sehl Rotax to nip Steve Beattie at Leamington, but at Flamboro he had his own Kawasaki twin.
And he was fast.
So fast that as the grid lined up for the final it seemed unlikely he could be caught. And that's how it played out-right up until the leading trio of Cose, Steve Beattie and reigning FTC champ Doug Lawrence ran in to lapped riders late in the 15 lap final. Beattie, who has a deep revulsion for losing, suddenly closed the gap on Cose and pulled even on the last lap. But it was not to be for Beattie, as Cose maintained his momentum and won, with Beattie a few bike lengths back. The alarmingly fast teen Brodie Buchan-astride a Kurt Beigger Honda 450-powered framer-denied Lawrence, in the midst of a frustrating season, the final podium spot.
In other Flamboro results, Buchan deftly hip-checked Dave Pouliot on the run to the checked flag to win DTX Expert, with Mike LaBelle third. Intermediate open was won by Dustin Brown over American Landen Kawczak and Cody Marentette, while Marentette claimed his revenge by winning Intermediate DTX ahead of Kawczak and Joshua Shear. (Full results for all other classes can be found at flattrackcanada.com.)
Which brings us back to Belleville. With the season winding down and with Steve Beattie ahead in the Expert Open standings, Doug Lawrence needed to steal points from Beattie. And Lawrence knew it. Where the high banks of Flamboro favoured the big twins, the Belleville Fairgrounds has a narrower, old school track better attempted on a single. Lawrence came east to Belleville with a fresh engine in his Honda-single-powered framer, but it wasn't to be-the engine died in practice and Lawrence was forced to ride his XR-750 that he'd brought as backup.
At least the boys didn't have Cose to contend with, as he'd gone west to a Sturgis AMA round. But it would have been hard to imagine anyone keeping up to Beattie on this Sunday. He won his heat race and the dash for cash with ease, and lining up for the final it would take a good start and heroic riding to deny Beattie. Buchan seemed up to the challenge, and burst off the line (he didn't jump, officials claimed) like buckshot from a shotgun. But then he did a massive wheelie and the pack left him for dead.
Beattie, meanwhile, was in the clear with his Biegger Honda. (Earlier Beattie had confessed almost apologetically that while the Honda was the prudent choice, it pained him to leave his beloved Harley back in his pit.) And although he faded as the race progressed, in the early going John Parker rolled back the calendar two decades and was on a tear. Close behind Beattie was Tyler Seguin on a George and Chris Evans Honda. Lawrence, aided by an overcast sky that helped the track retain moisture (Sunday's make-up race was a daytime affair) worked his way ahead after a poor start and had Beattie and Seguin in his sights.
Meanwhile, Buchan had collected himself after his wheelstand and was on a march. He passed Lawrence, then Seguin, and was gaining on Beattie. But Buchan had lost too much time early on and that's how it ended-Beattie, Buchan, Seguin, with Lawrence in fourth.
Belleville DTX results saw Dave Pouliot edge Buchan with Nick Wenzler third. Intermediate open was Dustin Brown ahead of Jodi Christie and Tyler Brown and Intermediate DTX was Dustin Brown again in front of Cody Marentette and Christie.
With four rounds remaining in the national championship, Beattie has stretched out an 18-point lead over defending champ Doug Lawrence in the race for the number one plate. (A win is 23 points, with 20 for second and 18 for third.) This coming Saturday (August 27) the merriments resume in London at the Western Fair District.
We'll hope to see you there.