From one end of the country to the other, race season has begun.
If you are in the mood for a little motorcycle racing you are in luck as the racing season in Canada is firmly underway with the opening round of the Pro MX series in Kamloops, BC while the Canadian Motorcycle Drag Racing Association started its 2016 campaign of laying down fast times and smokey burnouts at the Spring Nationals in Medicine Hat, Alberta. The Canadian Superbike series also commenced in May with the opening round in Shannonville, Ontario.
There will be a lot of exciting racing this summer if you can get to it. The race on Sunday, sell on Monday mantra of old may have less relevance today than 30 years ago but motorcycle racing in Canada—be it motocross, road, drag racing or flat track—is still one of the sport’s concentrations of enthusiasm and while the audience and participation is small considering motorcycling in general, that enthusiasm sends out waves and often to younger riders. MotoGP may be the premier racing series in the world with the “celebrities” but it doesn’t reach Canadian audiences the same way. There is a need for homegrown racing in Canada and the reason is as obvious as the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Pittsburgh and San Jose in case you hadn’t been paying attention, which it seems that much of the country hasn’t been. The ratings for the playoffs have been reported as “shockingly low” with the audience in some rounds 61 per cent less than 2015. Fifty per cent of the players in the league are Canadian but none of the teams are or were this season. Canadians want to watch Canadian action in Canadian venues.
Unfortunately, the Canadian race landscape features mainly regional events for most of the national series. The Canadian Superbike series has rounds in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The Canadian Flat Track series is primarily run in Ontario with a western series based in British Columbia. The CMDRA National series finds all five rounds in the west and all but the final in Alberta with the last race in British Columbia. There is however an eastern division series. Only the CMRC Pro National wends it way across the entire country starting in Kamloops, BC going all the way to Truro, Nova Scotia before ending the season in Barrie, Ontario.
I was at an event recently and talked turned to the Canadian racing scene with wistful reminisces of the late seventies and early eighties when it seemed that road racing in Canada was endlessly abundant, the grids full and the competition fierce whether the race was in British Columbia or Quebec. Full schedules, multiple heats, great action. The competition is still fierce but variety has certainly been curtailed. Jordan Szoke, although not yet old enough to be referred to as the ageless man of Canadian roadracing, started the 2016 season the same way he ended 2015 season—by winning. Is Szoke on track to win his 11th Canadian championship? The cast of racers around him evolves and changes yet Szoke remains at the forefront.
Canada is a big country and racing in its various guises is an expensive proposition especially when considering the costs for travel on top of everything else. Many racers are private individuals making do the best they can and pursuing their passion not for the chance for wealth and celebrity but because competition is in their blood and scraping together an effort is well worth the enjoyment because it speaks to the soul.
As we discuss in this issue, retro bikes are very much the current flavour, and often bikes with a retro race feel be it road or old time hare scramble. The glow of the golden years of motorcycle racing still holds sway. The Isle of Man, Bonneville, Pikes Peak and the Dakar— every name is a legend. So visit one of the Canadian series if it comes your way as little bit of that legend is in every race no matter what the venue.