Canadian Thunder Series: First Family of Thunder – Part II

Canadian Thunder Series: First Family of ThunderIt’s not that Brett McCormick is shielded from the Canadian Thunder Series’ maelstrom of strategies, tactics, politics and psychological plays. At 15-years old, racing’s figurative youngest son just seems set aside from it, the quiet kid in this sport’s raucous family. Everyone here seems to speak of “the Kid” with some sense of reverence. While Ruthless Racing’s Darren James makes off with the series’ top spot, establishing a points lead that hands him the Canadian Thunder Series Championship for 2006, it’s Brett McCormick who has stolen the dreams and admiration of racers. Indeed his shoulders may carry the aspirations of the future of racing in Canada.

This is Brett’s first year on the “big bikes”, namely the Ruthless Racing Buell XB9R and his own Yamaha R6. That puts Brett racing in two classes with races periodically run back to back – a grueling prospect for most racers. Brett isn’t most racers though, the quiet teen’s name has been invoking words like “prodigy” and “phenomenon”. True, Brett is proving himself an exceptional talent, finishing third in the overall points for the series, to BMW’s second place Oliver Jervis, and his first place teammate Darren James, but those words do a disservice. They imply that all this comes easily, but underlying Brett’s natural-born talent there is a rare work ethic.

Brett’s father Grant McCormick openly admits, “We’re blue collar. Everything we earn goes into this.” In some families, the hubbub around Brett’s performance, along with the unflagging dedication of his parents, could lead to a sense of spoiled teen entitlement, but that doesn’t seem the case here.

Brett pitches in, tearing down the tent, helping pack the bikes and tools, assisting with the thousand menial tasks that surround the sport. You cannot detect a trace of prima-donna here. More importantly, talking with Brett’s father, Grant, there is no hint of “hockey dad” pushing his son though a sport to live out the father’s dreams. In a world of latchkey kids umbilically tied to an X-Box and squinting at life through an LCD screen, the McCormicks spend an exceptional amount of time together in their racing effort.

With his parents support Brett has been riding since he was four, starting with motocross (his mother and father are both active in the sport), transitioning to road racing in 2004 as part of the Alberta Mini Roadrace Association, and now racing the Canadian Thunder Series and the International Motorcycle Supershow Amateur 600 Sport Bike classes. This is a rarity; unlike Europe we don’t tend to start motosport young here. By comparison Derek Vammus, the Ducati Factory racer, is a latecomer to the sport, starting at age 25.

Bound by a common passion and steeped in down to earth values that make you pine to associate with them, the words “good people” seem built for the McCormicks. Within the extended family of racers the McCormick family leads the way for motorsport by example, and their values may help shoulder a heavier burden.

On the part of the community of racers there seems an unspoken hope, that Brett McCormick, or his like, may be a transformative figure for Canadian racing. In Canada, road racing has not had a catalyst such as Valentino Rossi or Nicki Haden, that sparks the passion in the next generation of racers, drags fans out of their Sunday morning stupor to the tracks and, more importantly, inspires media coverage on a grander scale.

A tall quiet teen, Brett McCormick, potentially is such a galvanizing figure. A straight-A student, approachable, likeable, free from posturing and posing, delightfully humble, good humoured and carrying a hint of charisma in charming blue eyes, Brett instills values that any parent would be proud to see their child aspire to and the media can find an inspirational story in – the type of story racing in Canada needs.

Still, “the Kid” is not entirely protected from cynics. Those of a cold analytical bend point out that Brett is tall for 15 years, and his father is pretty muscular. In a sport that prizes the likes of MotoGP rider Danny Pedrosa, rumoured to weigh 110lbs, genetics may become Brett’s most dangerous opponent in racing.

Rumours can be heard that Brett has been acting under team orders in a strategy to push teammate Darren James’s overall standings upwards for the series. That misses the point, though, that off-track strategy is as much of the race as on, and team orders, are part of the game, be it the Tour De France, Dakar Rally or MotoGP.

Out on the track, there is no whispering. The thunder of the air-cooled twins is only slightly damped by the rain and the stands, while thinly populated, are rapt with attention. The rain is cold and your breath plumes like exhaust. Then it happens at the far end of Shannonville’s long back straight; Brett McCormick’s Number 91 Buell XB9R, loses the front end and his race ends.

Next to me a woman exhales a little, not a gasp, just a little bit of hope escaping. Watching someone like Brett McCormick it’s easy to see glory days and your own childhood dreams of speed and thunder. It hurts just a little to see those dreams temporarily dashed.

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