Calgary Herald story on Chris Peris


Young rider's career already at full throttle

Todd Kimberley
Calgary Herald
CREDIT: Dean Bicknell, Calgary Herald

Chris Peris has turned plenty of heads in the American Motorcycle Association, but he won't rush into joining a team south of the border. He's a privateer and a prodigy. In that order. Chris Peris, the local two-wheeled phenomenon, doesn't even enter legal adulthood until September. And yet he's already attracted international attention as Canada's hottest young motorcycle export -- and the top privateer in the American Motorcycle Association's 600 supersport division.

American road racing factory suitors have already started to court the 16-year-old Calgarian. But for his own good, says his crew chief and father, those deep-pocketed swains will just have to wait.

"I never thought he'd be at this level so quickly. It's all happening so fast," said Fernando Peris on Thursday morning as he and Chris parked their motor home and unloaded their trailer in preparation for this weekend's Parts Canada Superbike Championship tour event at Race City Motorsport Park.

"Quite a few people are already talking about Chris joining teams next year in the States, but I think we're better off waiting another year," said Fernando. "Teams talk about developing riders, but as soon as the rider stops making the podium, they stop developing him. It can be the kiss of death for a young rider to go too soon.

"Last year (when Chris was named to Honda Canada's factory team for the Parts Canada tour), he really wasn't ready. He was under too much pressure -- not from Honda, but from himself -- and being 15, being on the biggest team in Canada, may have been a little too much."

Chris has already accomplished more before his 17th birthday than most riders could even dream of, let alone realize, in their road racing careers.

Because the Calgary Motorcycle Roadracing Association didn't allow 14-year-old riders in 2000, the Peris clan found another speedway -- Willow Springs International Raceway in Los Angeles -- that did.

And after a year of flying in monthly to LAX, where they kept his bike in a van at the airport parking lot, and driving to the track, Chris captured the Willow Springs 125 GP Series in December 2001.

That didn't escape the attention of Honda USA, which called its Canadian counterpart and got Chris a factory ride on the 2002 Parts Canada tour, where he finished ninth in the 600 sport bike division on a CBR600F4i, despite riding in only three of seven events.

Chris also won all three races he started on the Can-Am 125 GP Challenge, and became the first Canadian to qualify for a 125 World Grand Prix event, in Valencia, Spain, last November.

This year, he's found another gear as he and his father operate an independent, or privateer, campaign on the AMA national circuit -- finishing 18th at Daytona, Fla., 16th at Fontana, Calif., and 14th at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colo.

That gutsy showing at Fontana, in fact, was the reason he got an audition from Anaheim, Calif.-based Erion Racing, one of the elite American factory teams, during an AMA tour stop at Sears Point in Sonoma, Calif., on May 4.

Owner Kevin Erion used Chris as a replacement for Roger Lee Hayden, who'd hurt his wrist. Chris didn't disappoint, finishing 14th on a CBR600RR, and followed that up by jousting mightily with Hayden last weekend at Pikes Peak.

"It's a lot more work," said Chris of his privateering venture, which will see him cram AMA, Parts Canada and Formula USA races into a very hectic 2003 calendar. "There's a lot more races, a lot more travelling involved, and it's a lot more expensive.

"It's harder to do, but it'll pay off in the long run," predicted Chris, who's sponsored by Topline Printing Inc. and BikeCards.com. "If you're planning on making a career out of it, you've got to make a name for yourself down in the States."

Nick Ienatsch, a former AMA superbike champion and a renowned motorcycle instructor and journalist, has helped coach Chris for the past couple of years, and likes what he sees.

"A truly gifted rider. Nice, quiet kid and very fast," Ienatsch wrote for AMASuperbike.com during the weekend of Chris's guest appearance with Erion Racing.

"I'm thrilled that the system works . . . privateer tries hard on his own nickel, struggles but succeeds, factories notice and give him a shot."

tkimberley@theherald.canwest.com