The Parts Canada Superbike Championship Turns Over a New Leaf
It seemed to come out of nowhere – a press release in late February crossed the wire with this lead:
“Frontline is proud to announce that they are the newly appointed management company of the Canadian Superbike Championship. Frontline CSBK Inc. is a Canadian owned and operated company dedicated to the development and advancement of motorcycle road racing in Canada.”
After owning and operating Canada’s national professional motorcycle road racing championship for years, Professional Motorsports Productions (PMP) has stepped aside in favour of new management.
The Frontline group is headed by Kevin Graham, a Canadian road racing veteran who has been involved with the Series for the past ten years in various capacities including stints at Honda Canada and with Orion Motorsports, Pirelli’s motorcycle tire distributor in Canada.
Pirelli has been the spec tire supplier for the Parts Canada Series for the past five years, and despite the new job, Graham isn’t stepping down from his position at Orion.
He told PRN that the Series’ corporate partners were consulted and he will occupy both positions with their support.
To ease the transition, many of the staff who worked for PMP will migrate over to Frontline, which should help maintain continuity from an operational standpoint.
The support of several key partners, particularly Parts Canada (about to enter its 11th season as a main sponsor) and the manufacturers, is vital to Graham’s plans to expand the Series’ popularity.
James Danyluk, president of Parts Canada, has embraced the change.
“We are thrilled to be at the forefront of a new outlook at Canadian road racing. Parts Canada has always been proud of our affiliation with the Canadian Superbike Championship, and it’s very exciting to be part of a new energy that will inspire the restructuring of the Canadian Series,” he said in a statement.
Since the world economy went into a downward spiral after the 2008 season, the manufacturers have made significant cutbacks in their support for road racing around the world. Honda’s U.S. unit withdrew from the AMA Superbike series, Kawasaki left MotoGP and in Canada, both Suzuki and Yamaha scaled back and then closed their factory teams.
In fact, Yamaha eliminated its funding for the Series entirely following the 2009 season, which in turn made new R1s ineligible to compete in the Superbike class in 2010.
Suzuki, however, did pay to have its bikes homologated so they could continue to be used in the Superbike class and also paid contingency money to riders last season. The factory team has yet to return, but keeping a toe in the Series is a hopeful sign.
Graham knows that, in the long run, the manufacturers have to support the series financially if it is to grow and prosper.
Although it is still early days, he’s encouraged by the feedback the changes have produced.
“The reception from the OEMs has been quite positive, both from those that are participating and those that are not,” he said.
This year, at least six OEMs will participate in the Series, including BMW Motorrad Canada who will field a two-rider factory team, and Deeley Harley Davidson Canada, which will support a class comprised entirely of its own XR1200 machines. Honda Canada also returns for its fourth season of support for the CBR125R Challenge, a developmental class for young riders at the beginning of their road racing careers.
One of the biggest has already occurred. The Series website has been completely overhauled and rebuilt with new branding.
Graham told PRN that the new website is the first foray in a strategy that will place a greater emphasis on web-based media, which is not only much less expensive than television, but also allows for a broader range of coverage that has greater depth and immediacy.
Social media, including a new Facebook page, also figures to be a big part of the Series online efforts to expand its fan base.
“We want people to be checking our website constantly (for fresh content),” he said.
As for the schedule, which is comprised of seven rounds at five tracks (two in Ontario, two in Quebec and one in Nova Scotia), the biggest change was the removal of Race City in Calgary, a decision that was a difficult one for Graham to make.
Although Western Canada has supported motorcycle racing well for many years, “most of our riders are based in the east, and we need to have events that they will be able to commit to,” he said, referring to riders based in Quebec and Ontario who would sometimes skip the Calgary event due to cost.
Graham does plan to take the Series back to Western Canada within the next few years, but wants to improve its overall health first.
“It’s our intention to strengthen the grid before we go back to back out west,” he said.
More riders and OEM support first, an expanded schedule later.
When your to-do list is long and varied like Graham’s is, you need to be able to set priorities if you want to get things done.
On that score, he’s off to a good start.