Canada is proud to have one of its countrymen participating in WSBK with the arrival of 20-year-old Brett McCormick, Canadian Superbike Champion of 2011. Originally intended to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale in the Superstock 1000 category of WSBK with Effenbert Liberty Racing Team, at the first race of the STK1000 in Imola, Brett made his debut directly in the premium category in WSBK.
Our European correspondant, Nicole Karlis, was able to get a few words with the Saskatoonian between the races.
Q: How does it feel to be the only representative of your country after years of not seeing another Canadian in WSBK?
Brett McCormick: It’s a pretty awesome feeling, there have been some great racers from Canada in the world scene but it has been a while since someone really had a good shot at it so I’m really proud. There is a feeling of responsibility too flying the Canadian flag for everyone back home, people are pretty excited about it.
I’m going to do the best I can, there is some pretty tough competition out there but today we had a good first race and we’ll see what Race 2 brings. I think as the season goes on I’ll get a better feeling with the bike. At the start of this weekend I hadn’t really ridden the bike, so this is more like a test for us in reality.
Q: You were originally signed on to race in the Superstock 1000 category and now you are making your debut in the WSBK category instead, which is quite a step up. How do you feel about that change?
B.M: It’s the same feeling as being the first Canadian in WSBK in years. When I first signed on with these guys it was for Superstock which was a big deal and a great honor so to get the bump up to World Superbike is just crazy. I’m really happy, the team is treating me very well, we have a great effort here. There are four guys, two of them were signed up to be up front but now this change gives me and Maxime a chance to develop as riders. It’s a great situation, I couldn’t be happier.
Q: What is your impression of the Imola circuit, have you ridden here before?
B.M: I had raced last year in Superstock as a wild card a couple of times but this is my first time at Imola. It is a quite a stop-and-go circuit, but you find that in some of the Canadian circuits too, being in first and second gear a lot, so it was familiar in that regard.
For sure the tracks are very different here; there a lot of straights on the European tracks, in Canada we don’t have that. In Canada I always focused on getting in and through the corners fast and your drive out doesn’t matter a whole lot because you don’t have that far until the next one, whereas here the most important part is the drive out because of the long straights. It’s a bit of an adjustment but Imola is a great track to practice that.
Q: How are the tracks here in Europe compared to Canada?
B.M: A lot nicer and safer, you can push the limit a lot more here because you’re not worried about running off the track. In Canada if you miss the chicane and run straight usually there is a wall 20 feet off you’re gonna hit pretty hard. They’re also a lot smoother because of the more mellow winters. In Canada, winter is pretty harsh so the tracks end up a lot bumpier. It’s super nice to be racing here.
Q: Last year you won the Canadian Superbike Championship on a BMW S1000RR and now you are racing with a Ducati 1198, two completely different motorcycles and engines. How are you adjusting to the new bike?
B.M: It’s a big adjustment, honestly, it’s pretty tough. It’s mostly the engine characteristics, the twin has so much more engine braking and for me that’s the big thing. Just learning about throttle control mid-corner and in the chicanes, like if you keep off the throttle the BMW or Suzuki will keep rolling whereas the Ducati will just stop right on its face. I’m still working on it but I consider myself a fast learner so I’m getting the hang of it.
Q: You mentioned the exit from the corner being a bigger part of riding on the European tracks, do you think the Ducati has an advantage in that section?
B.M: For sure, I think the Ducati has been known over the years to be a little better at putting the power down exiting the corners, it’s also a little easier on the tires. The bike is amazing getting through the tight stuff and coming out of the corners onto the straights. It felt really good for me the whole time.
Q: You are quite a tall rider, how are you settling into the riding position on the Ducati?
B.M: It’s actually really good, the 1198 is pretty stretched out so I’m fairly comfortable and not too cramped up which makes riding a little easier for me.
Q: Could you tell us about your progression in race 1?
B.M: The first couple of laps were crazy. On the 1st lap there was carnage in the first few chicanes and I just wanted to come away from it clean, get five laps in and see where I’m at, and I ended up being quite a way up front. Then some front runners like Melandri obviously passed me, so I got shuffled back a few positions, but then I got into a rhythm following Hopkins and pretty much stayed behind him throughout the race.
Doing that I fell into some good lap times, I wanted to be consistent and learn. The races are a lot longer than any other superbike series in the world so I’m getting used to that too.
Q: On Saturday the weather was very different with higher temperatures and sunny weather, but today the temperature has dropped a lot with quite a bit of humidity and cloudy weather. How did that affect the bike settings and your preparation for the races today?
B.M: It’s a little bit different, the biggest thing being tire wear as we didn’t have any information from the rest of the weekend with this kind of weather. It’s a bit of a guess with the tire choice but it worked out pretty good actually, we ended up with not a bad tire at the end of the race and it didn’t affect my lap times, I was still able to go fast. I’m happy with the decision the team and I made about that.
After a short interval for lunch in the Effenbert Liberty team hospitality and a little something called Race 2 we caught up with Brett in the team’s box for a little update on the second half of the day
Q: So how did you go in the second race of the day?
B.M: The second race was good for me, I got off to a good start again. I don’t think I was quite as far up as Race 1 but I rode behind Hopper again and some other fast guys. I got into a decent pace and just settled in like in Race 1. My best lap time was 1’50.1 and I was able to stay in the one-fifties for the whole race so we just need to figure out how to go faster at the start and take advantage of the tires.
Our race pace near the end is similar to the guys in the top 10 so it’s just that first half of the race where they are a second, a second and a half faster than me on the new tires. I’m happy with our performance this weekend, we came away from it OK, we didn’t crash so we’ll just keep working to improve for the rest of the season.
Q: You have quite a support system with you at your first race. I heard some nice things from your former machinist, Doug, who followed you since the beginning of your career.
B.M: Doug is a good friend of my family and always helped us build my race bikes since I started on mini road race bikes to fit road parts on dirt bikes. He has always helped me and he is a big reason I’m here, so it’s cool to have him here supporting me for my first race weekend in World Superbikes.
My dad and some close friends like Darren (James) and Caroline are also here with me. Darren runs most of the HD stuff in Canada and he gave me my first professional factory bike on Buells in Canada. I’ve had some good support.
Q: Were there any hairy moments in the races?
B.M: Not really, they were both pretty mellow for me, well, of course I was riding hard but I didn’t have any big moments. No highsides, no tucks in the front. This track is pretty hard to not miss the chicanes so lots of guys are running straight but I managed to hit all my marks and be quite consistent.
Q: How is your collaboration with the team going, working on the bike and communication?
B.M: Really good so far, the whole crew they threw together for me is great. Luca my engineer/crew chief has been awesome. A really good guy, driven, works hard and we get along well so we should be a successful match for the future.
Q: Since you raced the Buell have you raced a twin engine bike again?
B.M: No, it was quite a long time ago and since then I raced on pretty much all the inline-fours so it’s a big change coming back, but I like it. Carlos was up the front all weekend so it’s one of the best bikes to be on and I think I’m a lucky kid.
Q: So what is your next stop from Imola?
B.M: I’m heading up with my family and friends to Venice to check that out. No heavy partying as the life of a racer is pretty strict. We have to be careful with our diet and training but we haven’t really seen the east coast of Italy, so it will be a nice interval until Tuesday when I start training again.
Finishing his first WSBK race weekend in 16th position in both races Brett “The Kid” McCormick made a respectable start in his career at a world level. CMG wishes him all the best for Assen on 22nd April.