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June 3, 2009

Photo Report: Calabogie Road Race

Well, it only took 25 years and 24 days, but I finally enjoyed my first, live road race. I know, I know … I should have sealed the deal much earlier, but with my past duties at RXC, my weekends were always tied up at the MX track.

Fortunately, with this swanky new job at Yamaha Motor Canada, I had the opportunity to attend Calabogie Motorsports Park on May 24 for the opening round of the Parts Canada Superbike Championships.

The trip started out in Marmora on Sunday morning, where I was picked up by Yamaha’s PR Specialist, Bryan Hudgin, in James Stewart’s truck of choice, a Toyota Tundra. During our two and half hour journey from Marmora to Calabogie, Bryan and I exchanged stories about college, road trips (we both shared some very eventful ones from our respective stays on the CMRC National MX tour, but we’ll save those for another column), and what it all means. Deep stuff, for sure [laughs].

We arrived to the track shortly after ten o’clock and received a rather unwelcoming welcome from the front gate people. It seems that our VIP badges, Yamaha wear, and heavily labeled truck weren’t enough to warrant us access to the pits. Instead, we were asked to drive down into the gravel pits and park with the public. Nice!

Other than their staff not recognizing ‘big wigs’ 😉 when they see them, Calabogie is a welcomed addition to the series. This was only Calabogie’s second year as part of the national circuit, but will probably remain on the schedule for many years. They have an impressive facility that features a 5 km track, 5-star chalet overlooking the front straight, and pristine landscape. In my very limited knowledge of RR, I thought that the track didn’t cater to the spectators very well (I know,  it’s not MX …) but I’m sure the racers love the long and fast layout, and the many unique sections and corners.

Rather than explaining every detail of my experience, let’s take a look through some pics instead. As always, feel free to offer some feedback. Maybe share with us your first road racing experience??

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Quigley Down Under?
No, unfortunately, Tom Selleck didn’t make an appearance in Calabogie, but some really fast dudes did on street bikes. This section was pretty cool to watch from; it was the final corner before the finish and we saw some pretty exciting passes coming out of it. It’s kinda neat driving into the track, too. You’re driving down these back roads, in between gravel pits, feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere, and then, all of sudden, you climb over this huge hill and see a brand new racetrack. Just neat is all….

052409_calabogie_two
New kid in the class
For 2009, we’ve partnered with Andre Laurin and his OTSFF Motorsports Group (who we also work with in snocross racing) to attack the Superbike Championships. While some pundits are skeptical regarding our new alliance/team and experience, our potential was easily visible in Calabogie. We found the podium in both classes with our veteran leader, Kevin Lacombe, and newbies, Tony Kasper, and Royce McLean, showed signs of brilliance in their first Canadian road racing debuts. And once we have more time on the all-new YZF-R1, and the riders adapt better to its new power delivery, look out!

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The Calabogie crowd
Since this was my first road race, I really can’t really say what a good crowd is, but here’s how I normally define a good crowd at a MX race. Let’s see if Calabogie makes the grade:

1. Fans interacting with racers – check.
2. Lots of attractive girls – check.
3. Lots of attractive girls who don’t pay any attention to me – check.
4. Fans surrounding the track – check.
5. Fans eating cheeseburgers and consuming beers without shirts on – check. (And nope, for once, I actually did have a shirt on.)

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Boy Wonder
I’ve seen a lot of young, accomplished Canadian MX riders graduate into the pro ranks far too early (I still think our system needs to be reworked) that end up falling apart because they can’t deal with the pressures of pro racing. No matter how well you do in amateur stuff, it doesn’t mean anything when you line up against the men.

However, Alberta’s Royce McLean is a little different than most of the young guns that I’ve come into contact with. The 14-year-old is a naturally gifted rider,  who also knows how to overcome the pressures and distractions as well. McLean was never shook all weekend. He ran competitive lap times and never lost composure anywhere – on or off – the track all weekend.

While he was shooting for a top-5 finish in the 600 class, McLean settled for a 7th behind veteran Steve Crevier, and fellow Yamaha supported rider, Andrew Nelson. He even signed up for the Superbike class for extra track time to work on his bike setup, and managed to finish just outside the top-10 in 11th. Not bad.

Keep an eye on this kid as he gets more track time and experience against the pros….

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Kasper “The Ghost” and “Smiley” Nick
Two more new faces at the Canadian races and under the Yamaha tent are Minnesota’s Tony Kasper (left) and Nick Cristofaro (right). Kasper has had some good results in AMA Pro Racing, and is also a top snocross racer, while Nick, who hails from Brampton, is a former MX technician for the OTSFF team and also enjoys working out and playing soccer.

Kasper’s weekend didn’t go as planned after sliding out on his R6 in the 600 final while running fifth. His goal was to finish on the podium, as he knew that would surely make Nick smile for the first time in 2009. Just hassling you, Nick.

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I’ll let you create the caption for this one….052409_calabogie
Good luck to Team Toyota Yamaha/OTSFF, and to everyone who will be trying to be beat them, at Round 2 in Montreal on June 11-14!

DanBro

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Posted @ 10:35 am in Racing,Special Events,Sport   

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