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Friday, December 9, 2022

Colin Fraser: Connor Campbell plans comeback after AMP crash

Colin Fraser

Connor Campbell was optimistic heading into the 2022 CSBK National season, comfortable he had put in the necessary preparation work, during the winter of 2021-2022, for the upcoming campaign.

“I had good focus, trained all winter, as hard as I could,” stated the 23-year-old from Ottawa. “I rode a lot on the ice. I have a KX450F and a KX500, and we train all winter on the ice, at a local track at Kemptville (ON). We put a good program together.

“Jamie Barclay joined our team, and he was great. He has so much experience, and improved our program. He helps behind the scenes, at the track, all winter long – he builds a good bike, he gets us up front and he is the kind of person you need to win a ‘number one’ plate.

“Then we struggled a bit at the beginning of the year. We had a lack of useful seat time before the first National round, at Grand Bend,” continued the lanky Campbell, who slimmed down for 2022. “We certainly picked up the pace at Calabogie; we were four seconds a lap faster than the year before!”

At this point, Campbell was fourth in the Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike standings aboard his B&T MacFarlane / Kubota Canada Kawasaki, and was looking to add his name to the incredible list of breakout youngsters who won their first National, in the class, during 2022.

(NOTE: Please check TSN or YouTube for the exploits of new champ Trevor Dion, David McKay, Elliot Veira, Jake LeClair, and Mosport hero Matt Simpson – all first time National victors in ‘22.)

“At Shubenacadie, I thought I had the pace, was a potential winner.” Maybe make me the fifth winner. I was confident after qualifying, just wanted to test a few things Saturday morning before the first race,” stated Campbell, remembering what turned into a traumatic day on the east coast.

“I went down in Corner 8, a high-speed crash, and had some serious injuries – a punctured lung, eight breaks in my ribs on the right-side, pretty messed up collar bone, my arm – but we’re optimistic about a full recovery after the surgeries.

“I really didn’t know what happened, and it happens fast there,” reflects Campbell. “But talking to other racers at the next round, at Mosport, they were having similar issues. It’s a bumpy track, and it’s hard on parts. You just have to deal with these problems, learn and move on.”

It turned out the incident started with a broken steering damper mount.

Connor Campbell at the opening CSBK National of 2022 at Grand Bend Motorplex, ON, in Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike action aboard his Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja. CREDIT Colin Fraser / CSBK

Expectations for a close fight were high for Pro Sport Bike in 2022, given that class leader Sebastien Tremblay had departed for the feature Superbike category.

But no one dreamed the season would yield so many winners, and almost non-stop great racing.

“I knew the pace would be strong, a lot of young guys were ready to step up, they have good programs,” continued Campbell. “Coming into the series, I knew it would be tough to get onto the podium; tough competition for sure.”

“I was aiming for more pace initially, but there were a few crashes, racing is racing – we all know anything can happen, so finishing was important. I finished fourth in Grand Bend, just fell short of a Podium.

“I was really impressed by the new Pro Sport Bike Champ Trevor Dion,” said Campbell, confirming recent comments made by series ace Jordan Szoke. “I’ve been friends with Trevor for quite a while, since we raced the Lightweight bikes. It’s good to see him get up there, get that ‘number one’ plate. He rode well all season long. I wish I were up there fighting with him!”

When Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike launched in 2018, the stated focus was on developing young Canadian riding talent. This is why CSBK works with the Super Sonic Road Race School’s various programs. Campbell is part of a strong group that have moved swiftly up through the ranks to the Pro divisions.

“Racing Lightweight helped us so much and I recommend it to all the up-and-comers,” smiles Campbell. “It’s a good place to start at the Nationals. It teaches you so many things, and so much of it transfers straight through to the big bikes. So many Lightweight guys have moved up, and there will be more to come.”

By the time Campbell was back working trackside, with Toni Sharpless at the late August 2022 MiniSBK Lombardy events, his arm was no longer in a sling. And by the Pro 6 GP round at Calabogie, at the start of September, his arm was out of its cast.

The Super Sonic Road Race School, staff and a few racers, celebrate at the final Motul MiniSBK round at Lombardy in late August, with boss Toni Sharpless (far left) and staffer Connor Campbell, third from left (with cast on arm, top CSBK National Superbiker “T.V. Tommy” Casas to Campbell’s left). CREDIT Colin Fraser / CSBK

Not many young National Pro competitors could be bothered to help the next generation of talent, but Campbell is clear headed about the ladder system under construction.

“I raced motocross starting when I was four years old,” says Campbell, of his not-so-long ago riding days. “Then my dad started doing track days and I quit motocross and started to focus on this stuff.

“I love helping out, and it’s great working with Toni and the whole crew. I can’t wait to see some of the top MiniSBK racers from this year as they move to CSBK and the bigger bikes.”

CSBK Pro racer and Super Sonic Road Race School staffer and instructor Connor Campbell talks at Lombardy with the 2022 break-out star of the MiniCSBK series, 14-year-old Ohvale Canada Cup class Champ Vincent Lalande. CREDIT Colin Fraser / CSBK

Campbell has attracted his own attention, some of it negative, for the fact that his Kawasaki is not trimmed in green, but an equally distinctive orange.
“I’m sponsored by B and T MacFarlane, and they are a Kubota dealership, so that links us with Kubota Canada. Kubota has helped us out for a couple of years, and for years to come. They certainly help us with the program, and they asked to have some orange! So that’s what we did. But everyone ask why our Kawasakis are orange! The bike could be even more orange next year.

“We made quite a big jump in 2022, and hopefully, we can make another jump next year and see what we can do with the top guys – hopefully fight for podiums every race, fight for the ‘number one’ plate. Everybody wants to win, right? That’s why we are all here – but the ‘number one’ plate is a dream of mine.

“I remember being at Shannonville for the National, when I was racing the smaller bikes, and watching the Pro Sport Bike roll-out from the stands and thinking it would be cool to be out there. Now I’m actually out there,” continued Campbell, “And I’m happy, proud of myself, but I need to stay motivated. I need to focus on what is to come.”

  • By Colin Fraser

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