Practice for round 13 of the eni Superbike World Championship at Portimao in Portugal opened today with Canadian Brett McCormick placing a solid 18th in the opening session aboard the Team Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati 1098R.
In breezy hot conditions, McCormick took full advantage of the fact that for the first time this season, he was riding at a track where he had previously competed, turning a best lap of 1:46.16. It was McCormcik’s best opening session from his four official SBK outings.
This effort placed McCormick less than two seconds off today’s best lap time at a track with one of the longest total lap times in the series. Last year, 2011 Canadian National Superbike Champ McCormick finished his season racing in the European 1000cc SuperStock series for BMW, racing at Portimao.
“It was sweet, I actually made the fastest lap sequence,” laughed McCormick, reviewing the time sheets at the end of the 45 minute opening practice. “I’m realistically two seconds off the expected race pace, and there are lots of places to pick up the time.”
“Seriously, I felt somewhat slow out there,” continued McCormick. “I wasn’t going hard yet, not riding on the edge, so that’s good. We don’t know how fast the Qualifying pace will be, but for sure my goal is to get into the SuperPole Saturday afternoon. I fell like the bike is there; I’m not even pushing, so we have a lot of potential.”
Tomorrow afternoon’s Tissot-SuperPole session around the 4.592 km long Southern Portuguese venue will feature the top 16 riders from the first two qualifying sessions, slated for later today and Saturday morning.
“The bike was good for a first session, a little soft on the front end, so we stiffened up one side of the fork, and we might go further in that direction,” confirmed 21 year old McCormick, getting ready for a detailed debrief and data analysis session. “We went faster every time out, and the front tire was going away by the end, so I didn’t push those final few laps.”
Originally a four rider team, Effenbert-Liberty now has two competitors in the eni SBK World Championship, series rookie McCormick and new recruit Lorenzo Lanzi, the famous Italian 20th out of the 23 riders in this morning’s Free Practice session.
“One of the reasons that our bike feels so strong is that we’re down to two guys, and that means I get fresher parts,” explained McCormick. “Everything is feeling a little better, the bike is faster, and I will learn to take advantage of that. For instance, I’m down on the best Ducati for top speed, but as I work on my corner exits, that will help cut the margin.”
McCormick had a best run of 285.7 km/h through the traps, while the fastest Ducati was World Champ Carlos Checa who went 296.7 km/h on his way to the eighth best lap. Fastest of all, in terms of top speed, was Tom Sykes and the factory Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja at 308.6 km/h.
McCormick’s split times, where only a portion of the circuit lap is compared, showed that the Saskatchewan born racer is particularly quick in the downhill portions of the hilly venue. The Pirelli tire technicians on hand credited this performance with Brett’s time on the hilly “roller coaster” venue at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia.
Best lap of the session was set by the Kawasaki of Sykes, one of the2012 title protagonists. Sykes turned a lap at 1;44.34, one tenth of a second ahead of second best Marco Melandri’s BMW S1000RR at 1:44.45. Third quickest was another great result for the resurgent FIXI Crescent Suzuki squad and rider Leon Camier, with a lap at 1:44.46.
Points leader Max Biaggi was tenth quickest on the Aprilia RSV4 Factory, turning a lap at 1:44.84. With four races left to run over two weekends, Biaggi leads the standings with 318 points followed by Melandri with a total of 308.5 and Sykes at 291.5 points. With 100 points left on the table and rain a possibility on Sunday for Portimao’s pair of 22 lap counters, everyone expects a wild finish to the extremely exciting 2012 SBK series.