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Brett McCormick Has Left the Canadian Superbike Field in His Wake

Brett McCormick Photo by Ramesh BayneyWhen fans of the Canadian Superbike Championship by Parts Canada last saw Brett McCormick (pictured) in action prior to this season, it was in 2009 when, as a factory rider for Suzuki Canada, the Saskatoon native came up just short of winning his first title.

Despite winning four of the seven races that season, he finished five points behind Brantford, Ontario’s Jordan Szoke, who went on to claim his fourth straight Superbike crown.

After a year spent in the AMA Superbike class as a substitute rider for Jordan Suzuki, McCormick’s return to Canada as the lead rider for the radX/BMW Motorrad Canada team this season has been nothing short of dominating.

Heading into the final month of the season, McCormick has won all four rounds of the championship and holds a commanding 46-point lead over Szoke (219-173), with three races remaining. Last year’s runner-up, Andrew Nelson of Kars, Ontario is third, 79 markers back.

With a gap almost equal to that of a win (50), McCormick’s lead isn’t completely insurmountable, but it will be near impossible for Szoke to catch and pass him unless McCormick turns in a really bad result or two in the remaining rounds at Atlantic Motorosports Park (AMP) and Mosport International Raceway.

Given the kind of form he’s shown this season, that shouldn’t be considered a likely scenario.

Coming into the season, it would have been hard for any observer to imagine Szoke would still be looking for his first win so late in the championship.

He came into 2011 as the favourite, just as he has in season’s past, and was returning (after cruising to his fifth straight title on a self-funded, Honda-powered team last year) to Competition System Kawasaki and engine builder Mike Crompton, a combination that he won four straight championships with (2006-09).

Many, including this observer, were predicting a reprise of 2009: a hammer-and-tong, back and forth fight for the championship between the series top two riders, trading wins right up until the season-ending doubleheader at Mosport in late August.

What has happened instead, however, is the emergence of McCormick as the rider to beat in the championship – something no other rider has been able to do so far.

One of the most striking aspects of the season to date has been how closely it has paralleled Szoke’s 2010 season, when he won every race and finished 132 points ahead of Nelson in the final standings.

His march to the championship was built on dominating wins that were often measured in full seconds.

So far, this season, the closest anyone has come to McCormick at the finish line is 1.390 seconds behind, an effort turned in by Szoke at Autodrome St-Eustache.

In that race, McCormick wasn’t on pole, but got a good start, grabbed the lead on the first lap and never relinquished it.

Jordan Szoke Photo by Ramesh BayneySzoke, the polesitter, didn’t get the start he was looking for and fell back to third behind Alex Welsh. By the time he got past him he acknowledged he had nothing left to mount a serious challenge for the lead.

“My start was not good enough and I got stuck behind Alex,” Szoke explained. “Alex was riding well but Brett was getting away all the time. I used up my rear tire when I was stuck behind Alex and when I caught up to Brett I had nothing left.”

McCormick’s margin in victory in his other wins has been much larger – in the first race at Shannonville Motorsport Park, he started on pole and finished an astonishing 20.421 seconds ahead of Szoke.

Afterwards he could only acknowledge McCormick’s efforts.

“My hat’s off to Brett; I tried to stick with him,” Szoke said. “We need to find just that little bit more. We’ll put our heads together tonight and see what we can do.”

The second race was closer, but the same scenario played out. McCormick got a strong start, opened a big lead and was never seriously challenged for the remainder of the race. He crossed the line 11.894 seconds ahead of Szoke.

“They made me work for it off the start,” said McCormick, who was beaten into the first turn by Welsh. “But I got a good drive out of turn two and was able to get up the inside of Alex in turn three. We made some changes last night to help make the suspension last but Jordan put in a good ride. He was going quite a bit quicker today.”

And so it has gone in 2011 – even when he hasn’t had perfect races, McCormick has still been better than everyone else, and in some cases, better by a wide margin.

So with three rounds left, is there a chance for the championship to tighten up?

With a seven-time champion in striking distance, nothing is assured for McCormick, especially when it comes to Szoke’s recent history at the remaining tracks on the schedule, AMP and Mosport.

Over the past three seasons, Szoke has won three of the five Superbike races at AMP and five of six at Mosport, a track he considers one of his favourites.

McCormick too, shouldn’t let his guard down either – a close 2009 title chase turned decisively in Szoke’s favour at Mosport when McCormick finished 8th in the first of two races, a contest won by Szoke. McCormick was assessed a jump start penalty, and was penalized five positions after his bike failed a post-race tech inspection. The resulting 27-point swing gave Szoke the lead and he held it through the remainder of the season.

This year McCormick is operating with a much larger cushion (he was only 12 points clear of Szoke coming into the Mosport rounds two years ago), so it would take more than one bad result to put his title hopes in serious jeopardy.

He seems like a good bet to win his first title, but it would be stunning if Jordan Szoke finished the season without a victory or two.

So despite his impressive run to date, McCormick could yet face a serious challenge on the road to his first Canadian Superbike championship.

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