Jordan Szoke and Brett McCormick Are Set to Battle For the Canadian Superbike Championship Again in 2011
But for all that has changed off the track, the competition on track should have a familiar look to it, especially at the sharp end of the grid where Jordan Szoke (above left in 2009), the all-time leader in wins and championships in Canadian Superbike history (36 and 7, respectively) enters the season as the favourite – again.
The Brantford, Ontario rider has so dominated Canadian motorcycle road racing in recent years (he’s won both Superbike and Pro Sportbike titles every year since 2006), that it is hard to conceive of any other rider ending the 32 year-old’s dominance, save for one.
Brett McCormick (above, right), a 19-year old rising star from Saskatoon, has returned to Canada after a year spent in the AMA competing as a replacement rider with Jordan Suzuki in the American Superbike class. McCormick will race for the factory RadX BMW Motorrad Canada team in 2011.
At one time, McCormick was Szoke’s teammate at Kawasaki (2007-08), before he moved to the Blackfoot Suzuki team in 2009. That season was memorable for being one of the most hotly contested Canadian Superbike championships in recent years, as Szoke edged out McCormick by a mere five points, even though McCormick won more races (4-3). It was, by far, the most closely contested of Szoke’s five consecutive titles.
In 2010, with McCormick racing in the AMA, Szoke didn’t face nearly the same level of competition. Competing on Honda equipment for his self-funded effort, Waznie Racing, Szoke cruised to his fifth consecutive Superbike and Sport Bike titles. He won every race, some by a wide margin, and finished the season with a 132 point advantage over Andrew Nelson of Kars, Ontario for the championship.
Over the winter Szoke worked out a deal to return to Canadian Kawasaki Motors, the organization for which he won four consecutive Superbike and Sport Bike titles (2006-09). The move reunites him with personnel he’s familiar, led by engine builder Mike Crompton, owner of Competition Systems which runs the team for Kawasaki.
The first on-track sessions for both Szoke and McCormick took place during a preseason test at the JenningsGP circuit in Florida in late April, a spring training of sorts which gives teams and riders an opportunity to evaluate new equipment.
Szoke was joined on track by McCormick and his BMW teammate Michael Ferreira of Kitchener, Ontario, and it wouldn’t take long for the seven-time champ to start feeling comfortable on the Kawasaki’s new ZX-10.
Ferreira, was first on track in the morning, followed by Szoke, the Champ giving the brand new 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10 its national track debut. Eventually both Szoke and McCormick used a pair of Superbikes each to evaluate different engine and chassis combinations, as well as the latest Pirelli slick rubber.
In the very hot afternoon sessions, Szoke eventually got down to a best unofficial lap of 1:15.2, not far off the track record (for Canadian spec machinery) of 1:14.42 set back in April of 2009 by “Jordan of the Jungle,” also for Kawasaki. The unofficial best ever outright lap times for the popular test venue were set by AMA U.S. series Superbike racers Ben Bostrom (Suzuki) and Larry Pegram (BMW) during their most recent off-season sessions, lapping in the 1:13 range.
“I’m really comfortable with our new Ninja,” explained Szoke at the end of the first day of on-track action. “We made solid progress, and I’m getting a good idea of the direction we need to head in. Going back and forth between the two 2011 Kawasaki’s allowed us to get lots done today, and I really have to thank the crew – we’re ready to make improvements all through tomorrow’s track time.”
Best lap time for the BMW squad was set by McCormick, with a tour of the two mile long circuit at 1:15.4. “We were working through a bunch of things, and I’m getting comfortable with everything, learning the bike,” confirmed the teenager, who placed second behind Szoke in the 2009 Parts Canada Superbike Championship.
“I really haven’t been pushing the front end yet, and I know there is a lot more to come,” continued McCormick. “I know Michael and I will have no problem being competitive at the opener at ICAR in Quebec at the end of May. Patrice (lead tuner Goyette) has made a lot of improvements to the Superbike after BMW’s debut season with the S1000RR last year.”
Overall, Szoke was the fastest at the end of the test. His best unofficial lap time was a 1:14.2, which came mid-morning on the second day.
In the afternoon, Szoke suffered a minor tumble from one of his two works Ninjas, surviving uninjured to bring the bike back to the pits. Late in the day’s running, the current number one plate holder backed up his earlier effort with a lap at 1:14.4 aboard his other racer. Both of the top times for Kawasaki on the second day were slightly faster than Szoke’s official lap record for Canadian class machinery, a 1:14.42 effort set two years ago when full series electronic scoring was on hand for the spring warm-up.
“It’s great that we could run such strong times with two different, all new bikes, working at two different engine and chassis set-ups,” smiled Szoke at the end of the test. “We know that when it gets really hot like it did today, the track is about a second and a half off what might be possible when it’s less greasy. So I thing we could have run down to the AMA series times with cooler weather.”
After very warm conditions on the first day, the sessions on day two were hotter still, meaning optimum laps were most likely earlier in the day. American tour Pro competitors Ben Bostrom and Larry Pegram lapped in the 1:13 range earlier in the pre-season, enjoying cool conditions at the same 2 mile long track.
“I’m really comfortable with our bike, that’s the big thing, and we got so much done in terms of preparation for our Canadian season,” continued Szoke. “We’ve worked on the chassis, the engine management, and then the traction control, and everything is coming along, there is already a good balance.”
Both RadX BMW Motorrad Canada riders were pleased with their JenningsGP progress. Early on, McCormick set a lap at 1:14.6, and figured he could have gone faster still if it was a priority.
“We were working through a whole range of changes to the bike,” started McCormick, following his first sessions aboard the BMW S100RR. “I really feel like we have a good handle on it, and Michael and I have compared notes, and know what we can do at the ICAR opener in late May.”
“I think it’s going to be a great season of racing up in Canada,” stated McCormick. “We’ve seen over the past two days that both these teams have made some big strides, and the bikes are really working well – they’ll only get better as we continue preparations. I’ve really enjoyed getting back on track, and I’m having fun sliding the bike, and that’s always a good sign.”
If 2011 turns out to be anything like 2009, Canadian Superbike fans are going to be in for one exciting and memorable season.