Sarnia’s Will Hornblower is a national champion after finishing first overall on this year’s Canadian Pro Sport Bike series.
Not bad, considering he doesn’t possess a motorcycle street licence.
“In Sarnia… driving around in my car is scary enough,” said the 24-year-old veteran rider.
“The mindset of racing is hard to get out of (when you’re) street riding. At the racetrack, we have medical professionals within a minute or two of you.”
The Lambton College grad finished first at the final race of the season in Bowmanville, Ont. on Aug. 11, edging out rivals Sebastien Tremblay and Tomas Casas to take his first national title.
The conclusion to the seven-race season was a thriller with all three of the seasoned riders virtually neck-and-neck with just a few laps remaining at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Casas attempted to claim the lead and he went down, taking Tremblay with him.
“I was in third right behind them and saw this all go down and ended up with a 10-second lead after they crashed,” Hornblower said.
“It was my first pro win so it was really amazing.”
For the season, he had two first-place finishes and was second four other times.
The title also earned him the right to wear the #1 plate in the Canadian Pro Sport Bike Class next year.
The milestone season comes nearly a decade after Hornblower first appeared on a motorcycle track.
The SCITS grad spent much of his younger years riding dirt bikes on the family’s 13-acre Courtright property, he said. With the support of his father – accomplished racer Bill Hornblower – he began racing 125cc Hondas on pavement after taking a training course as a 15-years-old.
That first season went well, despite crashing more than 20 times, he said. He quickly learned high-speed spills come with the territory.
Crashes have left Hornblower with several concussions and a broken ankle. He also lost part of his pinky finger. That happened during his third season after losing traction in a corner at Grand Bend Motorplex.
“I didn’t let go of the handlebar in time and the bike propped up on my hand,” Hornblower said. “It’s a badge of honour now with motorcycle racers.”
Today he races a 600cc, four-cylinder Yamaha R6 for Team Hornblower, which is owned and managed by his father. That’s the bike of choice among many in the sport bike class, and on some tracks it’s not uncommon to reach 260 kilometres-per-hour, he said.
Hornblower said his bike requires a finely tuned suspension and a laptop, which he uses to customize engine settings based on the course and conditions.
A national championship is a considerable accomplishment for Team Hornblower, given it operates with a small crew and only a couple of sponsors, Hornblower noted.
The process operator said he might one day move up to the 1000cc superbike class, and he’s also eyeing some U.S. competitions.