Ducati 1098R Desmo mounted McCormick cut over a second from his best time from the opening morning Free Practice, turning a best tour of 1:45.082 in the 45 minute first Q period. McCormick is 17th overall, just three tenths of a second from 16th spot – the top 16 qualifiers move into Saturday afternoon’s Tissot-SuperPole program.
“I’m only a second off the top Ducati, so that is a positive step,” explained McCormick. “We changed the rear ride height for the start of the session, we’re working to change the balance a bit – the bike felt good, lap times were about the same, but we were working harder. I stayed out to see if that might be OK over a distance, but it didn’t improve, so I came in.”
“From there, we changed the rear ride height, changed our tire choice, and instantly picked up a second,” continued McCormick. “We had more side grip, I had a really good overall feeling with the bike, and my confidence is certainly coming.”
McCormick was originally scheduled to compete in FIM European 1000cc SuperStock class for 2012, but after a strong initial test the team switched him to the premier class. He made his SBK debut at round two at Imola in Italy in early April.
Then McCormick was injured at the third round in the Netherlands, and returned from a broken neck at the most recent event at the Nurburgring in Germany two weeks ago, where the 21 year old earned his first World Championship point.
“I still need to be more aggressive with my entry into a couple of the slower sections,” reflected McCormick after a brief review of his onboard data gathering system. “My top speed is better, I could feel the improvement – I could sense the bike was a little stronger over the hump where they put the trap!”
McCormick went through the speed traps at 291.1 kph, an improvement from the morning of more than 5 kph. Best trap speed in opening qualifying once again belonged to the works Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja of Tom Sykes at 311.2 kph.
After a busy session when he completed 16 laps, McCormick admitted to a little more drama than usual on-track. “Yeah, I tucked the front a few times,” confirmed McCormick to a trackside observer. “When you release the brakes, sometimes you slide the front a foot or two, but it isn’t a big deal, it’s not a problem, if the feel is there- the bike is working the way it should.”
McCormick’s short term goal is to use tomorrow morning’s final open Qualifying session to move into the top 16, meaning the Saskatchewan native will compete in “knock down” Tissot-SuperPole Qualifying three brief sessions in the afternoon.
At the front of the pack, BMW S1000RR mounted title contender Marco Melandri was quickest with a lap at 1:43.19, edging the works Aprilia RSV4 Factory of Eugene Laverty at 1:43.58. Session one pace setter Sykes, also in with a shout in the fight for the crown, earned third at 1:43.731.
Fourth best performance belonged to the works Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR of Jonathan Rea, fresh from his MotoGP debut substituting for Honda’s injured star Casey Stoner. Current SBK Series leader Max Biaggi was seventh quickest with a time of 1:43.99 on his Aprilia.