Brett McCormick Captured His First Canadian Superbike Title in Dominating Fashion
How many people get to celebrate their birthday by winning a professional motorsports championship?
Membership in that club is undoubtedly exclusive, but its ranks grew by one at the conclusion of the Canadian Superbike by Parts Canada season when Saskatoon native Brett McCormick clinched his first ever title by claiming victory at Mosport on his 20th birthday.
The win, which was McCormick’s sixth victory in six races, put him beyond the reach of his nearest rival in the Canadian Superbike Championship standings, seven-time champ Jordan Szoke of Brantford, Ontario.
Clinching his first championship capped a triumphant return to the Canadian pro road racing scene for McCormick who spent 2010 in the AMA Superbike series as a substitute rider for the Jordan Suzuki team. Winning the title will also undoubtedly help to further banish his previous season in Canadian Superbike (2009) to the recesses of his memory. The battle for the championship back then was a much tighter affair with Szoke, when the two traded wins throughout the season. Despite winning more races (4-3), McCormick was bested by a more consistent Szoke, who ultimately won the title by five points.
A post-race McCormick, both relived and euphoric, attempted to put his feelings into words. “I’m a bit speechless right now. It’s been an amazing season with an amazing team. I’m shaking; it’s a bizarre feeling,” he said.
As descriptions go, bizarre is a fitting one for the 2011 Canadian Superbike season. It certainly didn’t unfold as many surely would have anticipated. In fact, the results this season were about as unlikely as any imaginable.
McCormick grabbed the championship by the throat with a win at the first round at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Quebec and never let go. He then reeled off another five wins in succession as the series travelled to Shannonville Motorsports Park, Autodrome St-Eustache, Atlantic Motorsport Park and, finally, to Mosport International Raceway.
Szoke, back in the fold with the Kawasaki works team this year after winning his seventh title (fifth consecutive) on his own privateer Honda-powered outfit in 2010, came into the season as the favourite. His results were as consistent as ever – the 32 year-old finished second in five of the first six races – but he was unable to knock McCormick off the top step of the podium until the final race of the season (see sidebar), by which time the matter had been settled. McCormick’s final margin over Szoke was 328-318.
In the clinching race at Mosport, it appeared for a first part of the race that Szoke was going to end McCormick’s streak and send the championship into a winner-take-all affair in the second race. Things started well, as he grabbed the lead off the line at the start and by the end of the first lap he and McCormick had checked out on the rest of the field.
Szoke would hold the lead for 17 laps despite occasional challenges from McCormick, who led laps 11-12, before the decisive final lap. On that lap, the two leaders headed into the final corner before the finish line, a right-hander at turn 10, when McCormick made a dive to the inside and snuck ahead. Szoke tried to power back in front but couldn’t complete the pass. McCormick’s took the victory by an incredibly slim margin of 0.053 seconds.
“It was a super-fun race and it’s great to battle for the championship like that,” McCormick said. “His bike had a little bit more motor than mine but I was a bit quicker through the corners and that made for a great race.”
Szoke said his bike ran just short of fuel as he and McCormick raced through the final few corners.
“It’s just one of those things,” he admitted. “Brett ran wide out of turn eight and I tried to get inside him and I just had no power. But no excuses. Brett deserves the number one plate; he’s a great talent. I’m glad I was able to give him a battle today.”
Gracious in defeat, Szoke’s victory in the final race of the season showed what he’s still capable of and should both he and McCormick return in 2012, fans should expect another intense and exciting championship battle.
Pirelli Pro Sport Bike
While much of the attention and interest was rightly focused on outcome of the battle in the Parts Canada Superbike class, a tight and entertaining fight for the Pirelli Pro Sport Bike championship was decided in the final race at Mosport.
With Jordan Szoke’s utter domination of the class no longer hanging over the rest of the field (he didn’t compete in the class this year after winning five straight titles from 2006 through 2010), the championship this season was wide open.
Stepping into the void, were a crop of talented young riders, led by a couple of Southern Ontario racers who separated themselves from the rest – Jodi Christie of Keene (near Peterborough) and Alex Welsh of Uxbridge.
In the end, Christie came out on top thanks in large measure to two wins and four second place finishes, even though Welsh won more races (three), including both ends of the doubleheader at Mosport. The wins by Welsh made it close, but Christie edged him out by 11 markers, 327-316.
Szoke Ends McCormick’s Winning Streak
After Brett McCormick clinched his first Canadian Superbike title in the opening round of the Mosport doubleheader, the only meaningful question that remained was whether seven-time champion Jordan Szoke would break through and win for the first time in 2011.
On the flipside of McCormick’s march to the championship, was Szoke’s winless streak, a circumstance that would have seemed unimaginable after his undefeated season in 2010 secured his seventh title and fifth in succession.
Many, including this observer, figured he would have notched several victories by the time the final race rolled around.
Yet coming into the final round of the season at Mosport, Szoke was still looking for his first 2011 victory, and was no doubt anxious to end not just one, but two streaks – McCormick’s winning streak (6 races) and his own run of second place finishes (5).
In what turned out to be a wet and wild race, Szoke put an emphatic end to both streaks.
He took the lead from McCormick’s teammate Michael Ferreira on lap five with McCormick moving into second a lap later. The race progressed and McCormick made his move heading into the lead in turn one on the final lap, only to crash moments later.
“This is one of the greatest wins of my career,” said Szoke, who saw his five-year reign as Canadian Superbike champion end the day before.
“It’s tough seeing your number one plate taken away, especially after having it for so long but this will make the winter a little easier.”
Matt McBride scored a career high second place finish on his BMW S1000RR, 15.587 seconds behind Szoke, and Francis Martin completed the podium, also on a BMW S1000RR.
“I didn’t think he would try going into turn one,” Szoke said afterwards. “After that I looked back and didn’t see anybody else and told myself to just take things easy and not make any mistakes.”