SASKATOON ACE THRIVES IN NEW HOME TORONTO, Ont. (June 18) -- When Saskatoon motorcycle road racing star Brett McCormick made his off-season switch from the Canadian Kawasaki Motors program to the Team Suzuki / Blackfoot / Picotte Racing squad,...
SASKATOON ACE THRIVES IN NEW HOME
TORONTO, Ont. (June 18) -- When Saskatoon motorcycle road racing star Brett McCormick made his off-season switch from the Canadian Kawasaki Motors program to the Team Suzuki / Blackfoot / Picotte Racing squad, many experts in the business questioned his judgement.
After all, they argued, how can you leave a team that has won the past three Parts Canada Superbike Championship titles for an outfit that hasn't even won a national Superbike race since 2005?
But it turns out McCormick may be a bit smarter than the pundits. Two races into the 2009 campaign the 17-year-old has a win and a second place finish to his credit and is leading the Parts Canada Superbike standings heading into the third round of the series at Calgary's Race City Motorsport Park June 26-28.
"It's gone about as well as it could have gone," says McCormick of his early season performances. "I really can't complain. When you switch teams there's always an adjustment. Everybody always has their little doubts and you really never know how it's going to go. But I wouldn't say I doubted the decision. I knew that I could get the riding part done and I just needed a team that could put the bikes under me."
McCormick was the hottest young talent in Canadian racing when he joined the Canadian Kawasaki Motors factory squad for the 2007 season, where he was teamed with Brantford, Ont.'s Jordan Szoke. The rookie lived up to the hype in that first year, running away with the HJC Pro Rookie of the Year Award and finishing fifth in Superbike points while Szoke claimed his second straight Parts Canada title.
Last year was a frustrating one for McCormick, however. Injuries dogged him from early in the season and he was forced out of the key doubleheader at Mosport International Raceway after a big crash.
He ended 2008 in fine style, however, claiming pole position in the final two races at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie, N.S. and Shannonville Motorsport Park, and claiming his first career national Superbike win at Shannonville.
"Last year was a tough year, no question," McCormick admits. "It was a character builder. But I learned from it. I just have to take one race at a time, leave the last one behind and keep going forward.
"It seemed like a long time since I had won a race and I think getting the pole at Shubie was a stepping stone."
And despite surrounding himself with a new crew McCormick was able to carry that end of season momentum into 2009. He was on the pace at the official preseason tests in Jennings, Fla. at the end of April and he came out flying for the Parts Canada Superbike season opener at Calabogie Motorsports Park, qualifying on pole and leading until the final lap on his Suzuki GSX-R1000 before Szoke snuck by.
"We actually struggled a little bit at Jennings but by the end of the Calabogie weekend everything was clicking," McCormick says. "It was disappointing to lose the race like that, but it was a great weekend for us. It was my first race weekend with the team and I was pretty happy with what we accomplished."
At round two of the national series on the new Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Que. McCormick was not to be denied. He was quickest in every session and took the lead on the second lap on his way to victory.
"At Calabogie we were on top quite a bit of the weekend and finishing second was pretty heartbreaking," he says. "But that just made me stronger going into Mirabel. It told me that I had to work harder if I was going to win."
In the Suzuki team McCormick has the benefit of the tutelage of team manager Pascal Picotte, a two-time Canadian Superbike champion who also tasted success in the United States. The two have quickly formed a strong bond that has helped things gel quickly in the squad.
"When it comes to talking to the crew every rider has his own language and with a new team it can take some time to work the bugs out," McCormick explains. "But Pascal and I seemed to understand each other pretty well right from the start. Now we practically read each other's minds."
While Picotte has contributed to McCormick's overall racing development the teenager feels it is in the area of setting up the motorcycle that he has learned the most.
"The biggest thing has been my ability to give the team feedback," he explains. "And Pascal has helped me learn how to do that. But he also is very clear with me on what changes are being made and any time the crew makes an adjustment he makes sure I understand why it's being done. So I've come a long way already in understanding how the bike works and how to set it up.
"Maybe I'm hungrier to win this year too. I know I'm in a position where I need to win races and I have a desire to learn the stuff that's going to help me do that."
McCormick is clearly a rider on the fast track in the racing world and a career outside of Canada surely beckons. But he is not letting that distract him from his focus for the remainder of the 2009 season.
"I don't know what next year's going to bring," he says. "I've still got a lot more winning to do in Canada and I'm just going to worry about that. I just want to focus on doing well here. As for the other stuff, I don't lose sleep over it."
The third round of the Parts Canada Superbike Championship takes place June 26-28 at Race City Motorsport Park in Calgary. For ticket information go to www.calgarysuperbike.com.
The Parts Canada Superbike Championship will hold a press conference at Flames Central at 219 -- 8th Ave. SW in downtown Calgary on Wednesday, June 24 beginning at 11:30 a.m. Three-time defending Parts Canada Superbike champion Jordan Szoke, current series leader Brett McCormick and HJC Pro Rookie of the Year points leader Royce McLean will be in attendance. Please RSVP to John Hopkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.