Szoke entered the final race with some legitimate concerns as his Mopar Express Lane BMW Motorrad S1000RR was plagued by a number of mechanical issues, but the veteran was able to overcome any difficulties and place himself right in the lead pack, where he would ultimately finish fourth.
In the end, the Lynden, ON native will walk away with yet another impressive championship, though he says this one was much different from the other twelve.
“Definitely one of the tougher championships I’ve won, that’s for sure,” he laughed. “But we battled through, and it was a tough race and a tough season. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster year, so this one means a lot.”
Although Szoke is fully expected to return in 2019 to chase yet another championship, he did leave the podium with an interesting reflection on his recent run of success.
“I partnered with BMW about eight years ago, and we’ve now won seven championships and probably could have won eight,” he said. “I’ve had a really great run here with the team and the bike, and it’s been awesome.”
Though he ultimately came out on the losing end of the four-way battle, there were still plenty of theatrics to watch ahead of him, as Belfountain, ON’s Kenny Riedmann managed to win his first ever Pro Superbike contest, one that American racing legend and first ever Canadian Superbike race winner John Long dubbed “the best Superbike race he has ever seen.”
Riedmann finished as the runner-up to Szoke in last year’s championship fight before entering a brief retirement, though his return at CTMP could hardly have gone any better. In his lone two races of the season, the Sturgess Cycle/Riedmann Management Kawasaki ZX-10R rider finished second and first, respectively, with the latter result nearly bringing the youngster to tears on the podium.
“I don’t know what to say, I’m kind of at a loss for words. I’m just so happy,” said a choked-up Riedmann. “It was pretty cool to just come out here with no expectations, and just ride and have fun. It was awesome.”
The victory marked the second first-time winner in as many races at CTMP, after Collingwood, ON’s Ben Young scored his inaugural win on Saturday. The Scot-Build Barrie BMW rider would have needed a very poor result from Szoke to claim his first ever title, but he was still happy to finish ahead of his rival once again.
“I’m so glad to be a part of such an amazing race, and to ride up there with Kenny and just give it our all. I’m pretty sure we bumped a few times there on the last few laps, but luckily we came out alright,” Young said. “We wanted to get another win and try and maximize our points for the championship, but it was always going to be a longshot, so congrats to Kenny on his first win and now we’re looking forward to next year.”
The final spot on the podium went to Blysk Racing BMW’s Samuel Trepanier, who stormed all the way back from further down on the grid for the second time this season. The St. Isidore, QC native was as low as ninth at one point but managed to work his way back to the lead group at the end.
“I had a great time out there. It was not a very good start, and I got in my head a little, but I was patient and eventually I caught up,” Trepanier said. “They were all riding amazing, so I didn’t think I would get on the podium, but Jordan made a little mistake towards the end there which he doesn’t normally do so I knew I had to throw it in, and luckily I held on to it and I’m happy to be up here.”
The top-five was rounded out once again by Beaconsfield, QC’s Michael Leon, who scored consecutive fifth-place finishes aboard his Royal Distributing BMW to close out the season.
The top rookie of the day for the second-consecutive race was Langden, AB’s Ryan Boddy, who finished 12th aboard his Kawasaki. However, the season-long Brooklyn Cycle Racing Pro Rookie of the Year award would eventually go to Lasalle, QC’s Samuel Desmarais, who finished the campaign ninth overall aboard his Playground Poker Club Kawasaki ZX-6R.
“I’m very happy to win this, there’s really no words to explain it,” Desmarais said. “I worked so hard all year competing with the Superbikes aboard my [Sport Bike], so it means a lot.”
Szoke did, however, see his streak of Team of the Year awards snapped, as Ben Young and the Scot-Build/Barrie BMW Ben Young Racing Team took home the honour for their first time.
The Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike class also saw its season end in exciting fashion, though it hardly compared to Saturday’s hectic race which saw 19-year old Tomas Casas claim his second-consecutive title aboard a Parts Canada Yamaha YZF-R6.
Things were much different on Sunday, as Casas launched out to an early lead and didn’t look back, cruising to a dominant victory ahead of Ripley, ON rival Mitch Card and his Fast Company Yamaha machine.
“It was nice to get out in the lead and concentrate on my own thing with no pressure on the championship,” Casas said. “It’s really cool to close out the year with a win, especially at my home track.”
The Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike title was wrapped up in convincing fashion with a spectacular final race, as Blackstock, ON teenager Jake LeClair hung on to claim the inaugural championship with an action-packed victory.
It was a brilliant bounce-back performance for the young Yamaha YZF-R3 rider after he crashed on Saturday, as well as for his 15-year old younger brother Ben, who took his best ever result in third behind second-place finisher Connor Campbell aboard a Kawasaki Ninja 400.
“It was much better than yesterday,” Jake laughed. “We swapped positions all race, it was so much fun. Winning the championship just makes it so much better, too.”
It was an equally exciting performance for his brother, who appears poised to contend for his own title in 2019.
“I actually got bumped way off the track at the end there, but I got a good draft and was able to ride it out to the line,” said the younger LeClair. “It was so much fun out there, it was honestly like a Moto3 race. It was crazy!”
The Amateur ranks also witnessed their first double-champion in a number of years, as Mirabel, QC’s Luc LaBranche wrapped up both the Magneti Marelli Amateur Superbike and Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike championships.
Riding a Yamaha YZF-R1 in the Superbike category, LaBranche entered with a commanding lead over Ajax, ON’s Michael Van Ek, and was able to hold on to that lead by finishing third, despite a dominant victory from Van Ek and his BMW machine.
As for the Sport Bike category, things were a bit more dramatic, as LaBranche – this time on a YZF-R6 – took a convincing victory, with 16-year old Verdun, QC phenom Nicolas Meunier settling for third aboard his Kawasaki ZX-6R.
Though both will advance to the Pro ranks for 2019, it’s still an impressive result for LaBranche, who overcame a nine-point deficit entering the weekend to finish just four points ahead of his younger counterpart.
The first ever Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike Hard Charger season award was also given out on Sunday, as Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu, QC rider Christian Allard secured the trophy aboard his Kawasaki machine after showing yet another strong improvement from qualifying to the race.
Full results from the entire 2018 season, as well as other information, can be found on the series’ official website at www.csbk.ca.