Canadian Brett McCormick had a pair of outstanding performances on his way to career-best fifth place in the opening race of round 13 of the eni Superbike World Championship at Portimao, Portugal.
The 21 year old from Saskatchewan showed serious race craft in ever-changing conditions, getting the most from the Team Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati 1098R Desmo twin. It was 2011 Canadian Pro Superbike National Champion McCormick’s fourth career World SBK Championship event.
At the previous SBK round McCormick earned his first ever Championship points with a 15th place in the opening race at the Nurburgring in Germany. He now sits 23rd in the overall SBK series standings.
In a wet, damp, then drying two-part round that was interrupted due to track clean up requirements, McCormick ran with the lead pack in both portions of the 22 lap race. In the fight for fourth on the last lap, McCormick couldn’t make a pass stick on Aprilia’s Max Biaggi but managed to jut hold off Honda’s Jonathan Rea in a drag race to the finish line. His dice with the two series stars was a central talking point in the paddock post-race.
“I think I showed that with some more seat time, I can ride at this level,” explained McCormick post race, referring to the fact he has missed most of the season recovering from a neck injury. “I was really happy with the bike, with how I managed the tires, and it felt great racing at this level with these guys.”
McCormick went on to explain that “the second race, the longer portion, could really be split into three parts. From the start I didn’t launch too well, and then I had to catch up with the leaders. That actually happened pretty fast, so then I was in that fight at the front.”
“Then the track was drying, the rear tire started getting sketchy, it was the same for everyone. It was also hard keeping your visor clean with all the crap coming off the track, but it would blow itself off in the high speed sections. So in the second part, I was dealing with the spray, hanging in there, managing the tire.”
In the final portion, McCormick fought hard with Championship points leader Biaggi, as Rea paced the pair from a short distance behind in sixth.
“Yeah, I really got at it with Biaggi,” chuckled McCormick, who was brake tested by the “Roman Emperor” at the start of the European season at Imola, Italy in April.
“At one point, he was holding me up so bad I was changing my lines just to see what the traction was like, but man was his bike fast.”
“ I had probably four massive tucks with the front end, but with the track changing all the time, it’s going to be like that,” continued McCormick. “Really, the tire were great leaned over, the Pirellis worked well when you consider the track conditions. I was trying to find the wet spots to cool the tires, I think that helped lots.”
McCormick also explained that his early career racing in Canada helped with the tricky conditions. “In Canada, you don’t necessarily use conventional lines,” stated McCormick. “You go where the track is rideable, and that approach really helped.
In the end, McCormick was fifth, just .2 of a second behind fourth placed Biaggi and virtually tied with Rea – the margin was eventually declared as .02 of a second between fifth and sixth.
At the front, Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes kept his title hopes alive, controlling the race to win from the charging Ducati of current World Champ Carlos Checa. Third belonged to the Ducati of rain ace Sylvain Guintoli.
With three races left in the SBK series, Biaggi maintains first with 331 points, while Sykes jumps to second with a total of 316.5. BMW’s Marco Melandri slipped to third with 308.5 points after a first turn multi-rider crash eliminated the Italian from the opening portion of the race. Melandri was taken to a local hospital for attention to a bruised kidney, and is not expected to participate in race two.