FIM MiniGP Road Racing in Canada!

FIM MiniGP Road Racing in Canada!

© 2023, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. By Misti Hurst.

FIRST PERSON/OPINION:

By Misti Hurst

It was quite a surprise to discover that the first FIM MiniGP Canada Race series event, a doubleheader no less, was taking place at my local go-kart track, Greg Moore Raceway in Chilliwack, British Columbia, in just two days.  I’d never even heard about the series before that. How was that possible?

I read about it on the Pacific Coast Mini Roadracing Club’s (PCMRC) Facebook page and immediately set out to find more information. An online link sent me to the Super Sonic Road Race School website run by Toni Sharpless, where I learned that she was responsible for planning, organizing and getting FIM approval for this exciting new Canadian series. It would be the first-ever FIM-sanctioned road racing event in the province of British Columbia and the first time Canada would participate in the FIM World MiniGP Series.

“After three years of building, all of us at the Super Sonic School are super excited FIM road racing is coming to Canada!” Sharpless said. “The FIM MiniGP Canada series is the crucible for young Canadian athletes to develop their skills and dream of MotoGP.”

In Canada, riders are eligible to race in the national Canadian Superbike Series (a.k.a. CSBK) when they reach the age of 14. With limited opportunities for younger kids to practice and race on pavement, Canadian athletes are dropping behind world leaders in road racing.

Sharpless wants to introduce more young people to the sport of road racing, give more opportunities to young up-and-coming racers and bring the same kind of training and support to Canadians that exists in the rest of the world. Her ultimate goal is to see the Canadian flag waving proudly above podiums at World Championship events.

 

Former racer and current racer mom Misti Hurst (left) and Toni Sharpless (right), a former racer and the organizer of the FIM MiniGP Canada series. Photo by Misti Hurst.
Former racer and current racer mom Misti Hurst (left) and Toni Sharpless (right), a former racer and the organizer of the FIM MiniGP Canada series. Photo by Misti Hurst.

 

Toni Sharpless

Sharpless is an accomplished Canadian motorcycle racer and industry professional herself, and her racing background is impressive.  The oldest of three children of Hall of Famer Bill Sharpless, she began riding at just six years old.  At 9, she started ice racing, becoming the national junior class champion and the first woman to win a Canadian Motorcycle Association Championship before moving to road racing in her 20s.

She received the British Empire Motor Club’s historic Kaye Don Trophy, awarded for “the most meritorious high-speed performance on a motorcycle,” and in 1987 Sharpless and Kathleen Coburn both qualified for and finished in the prestigious Daytona 200, which led to them racing the Suzuka 8-hour, part of the FIM Endurance World Championship Series over the next four years, and extending to rides in the historic Bol d’Or 24-hour and Le Mans 24-hour races in France (finishing 9th in France).

In 2009 Toni was honored with the Canadian Woman of Influence Award presented by the Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada, and in 2011 was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame. She continues actively pouring her heart and soul into motorsports with her Super Sonic Road Race School, the Canadian MiniSBK Championship Series, and now the inaugural FIM MiniGP Canada Series.

The Series

The FIM MiniGP Canada Series with Pirelli and Motul support is a six-round, 12-race season stretching across the country with four races in Ontario, one in British Columbia and one in Alberta. Each weekend consists of two or three featured, 12-lap races and is wrapping up on August 6th at Lombardy Raceway in Ontario.

Racers aged 10-14 use Ohvale GP-0 160cc mini-GP machines, competing on kart tracks run with the support of the local mini-series organizers in each province. “(The) Ohvale is a fantastic motorcycle,” said Sharpless. “They are purpose-built for road racing and training and are perfect for kids to race. That’s why they are the spec bike for the MiniGP World Series.”

This is the first opportunity for Canadian kids to begin on the pathway to MotoGP racing without first going to Europe or the U.S. to compete.

 

Young racers waiting to go out on track on their purpose-built Ohvale racebikes.
Young racers waiting to go out on track on their purpose-built Ohvale racebikes.

 

The worldwide competition organization, Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), sets the rules and regulations and is represented in Canada by its affiliate, the Canadian Motorcycle Association (CMA).

For 2023, Canada and Germany joined the FIM MiniGP World Series for their biggest season yet. The FIM MiniGP Canada Series complements the FIM MiniCup USA, previously named the FIM MiniCup North America series. (MiniGP has been used for years and is trademarked in the U.S., which did not stop FIM from appropriating the name when it started its own series.) Other nations already participating in the FIM series include Alpe Adria, Australia, Austria, France, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Portugal, Qatar, Spain, and others.

The champion and vice-champion of each region of the world will be offered a chance to race in the finale of the World Series, held in Spain.

 

McNutt leads Scott and Hardwick for second during an FIM MiniGP Canada event at Greg Moore Raceway, in British Columbia, Canada. Photo by Colin Fraser.
Rhys McNutt leads Lincoln Scott and Ben Hardwick for second during an FIM MiniGP Canada event at Greg Moore Raceway, in British Columbia, Canada. Photo by Colin Fraser.

 

Going Racing!

It was Wednesday, June 21st, and I was reading this information, thinking about what kind of incredible opportunity it would be for my kid, 14-year-old Ashton Parker, to try his hand at competing at a national level.  But how? We hadn’t run many mini-road races over the years, just a few here and there, and we certainly didn’t have an Ohvale 160 we could use. Not to mention that the race was taking place in just two days!

However, after doing more research into the series, I  found that Sharpless, through her Super Sonic School, was offering race-ready Ohvale GP-0 160s for rent.  Not only that, but a generous anonymous sponsor has stepped forward to cover a portion of the series’ expenses, cutting the cost for families in half and making it much more affordable and accessible.

I couldn’t NOT do it.  It was a great opportunity; the door opened before us and it seemed meant to be.  I messaged Sharpless immediately to see if there was still an Ohvale available, signed the kid up, purchased all the necessary race licences, registered for the races, re-arranged my Friday meetings and headed to the track.

We live about 1.5 hours away from Chilliwack and know the kart track at Greg Moore Raceway fairly well. Ashton has done some mini road racing before, starting at age six on a Yamaha PW50.  He moved up to a Suzuki DRZ70 for a few years and then, after a sizable break, went back earlier this year to try a 125cc Kayo. There may have been an epic mom-and-son battle on track with us racing against each other for the first time ever, but that is whole other story in itself!

But this would be a great opportunity for him to try an Ohvale and compete against some of the fastest kids in the country. Let’s just say he was pretty excited!

 

Misti Hurst's son Ashton Parker (45) running 45 as tribute to the late Peter Lenz. Photo by William Snow Photography.
Misti Hurst’s son Ashton Parker (45) running 45 as tribute to the late Peter Lenz. Photo by William Snow Photography.

 

A Weekend Of Racing!

The weekend was fantastic, and Ashton had a blast competing with some seriously talented riders. “The Ohvale is very fast, twitchy, and very responsive,” he said. “It’s also very fun, and it was exciting racing against kids that are so fast.”

Sharpless and her team were well organized, and the bike rental included tire warmers, mechanical assistance, and general help with whatever we needed trackside. It’s an arrive-and-race format, which is extremely helpful for not-so-mechanically inclined parents like myself.

Back-to-back weekends are scheduled out West and in Ontario, so families like ours can reduce the overall amount of travelling.  Ashton loved it so much that he begged me to take him to the following race in Alberta, so we drove the 12 hours to compete there as well!

The series continued in Ontario with two back-to-back weekends in a row, meaning that I only had to take a week off work to be able for us to fly there from Vancouver so he could race the full series. I didn’t even know about this series a few weeks earlier, and now we’ve flown across the country to make it happen for the kid.  It was an opportunity too good to pass up, and when things like this fall in front of me, I take it as a sign that it’s meant to be.

 

Michael Galvis (83) took the FIM MiniGP Canada Championship point lead with a winning performance in British Columbia. Photo by Colin Fraser.
Michael Galvis (83) won in British Columbia and leads the FIM MiniGP Canada Championship after five of six rounds. Photo by Colin Fraser.

 

All in all, the FIM MiniGP Canada series is an exciting opportunity for Canadian kids to gain experience in road racing with the chance to compete against the rest of the world at the MotoGP Finale in Valencia, Spain, this November.  “It will just blow their mind.” Sharpless said, “Let’s get our maple leaf flag over there and see where it takes them.”

2023 Schedule:

RD1 May 13-14 Lombardy Raceway Karting, ON – Race 1&2 Exhibition Race, no Points

RD2 June 24-25 Greg Moore Raceway, BC – Race 3&4&5, Points Round

RD3 July 1-2 Strathmore Raceway, AB – Race 6&7, Points Round

RD4 July 29-30 Lombardy Raceway Karting, ON – Race 8&9, Points Round

RD5 Aug 5-6 Lombardy Raceway Karting, ON – Race 10&11&12, Points Round

RD6 Sept 15-16 Shannonville Motorsports Park, ON– Race 13&14, Bonus Round, no points

To learn more, please visit: https://supersonicschool.com/FIM-MiniGP-Canada/
contact [email protected] or call 416-629-8989

For 2024, Sharpless will run the FIM MiniGP Canada Series again with a similar scheduled but with the addition of an Ohvale 190cc class for 14-16-year-olds. This will insure that young riders can continue to progress in their motorcycle racing careers without having to switch to larger machinery. I guess this means that Ashton can race again next year. I better start looking for sponsors!

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