AUSTIN, TX, APR. 7 – With every new racing season comes high hopes brought about by cleanly wiped slates. Everyone starts anew: No one has any victories or championship points, nor have they suffered any missteps. And this is the only time all season that this is the case. By Sunday night, all that changes.
The historic 40th season of AMA Superbike racing will begin at Circuit of The Americas this weekend, April 8-10, with the first two races of the MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship taking place at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, in conjunction with the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas – round three of the MotoGP World Championship.
Monster Energy/Graves Motorsports Yamaha’s Cameron Beaubier leads the 29-strong entries in the Superbike class, the defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion heading to the Lone Star State fresh off his dominating performance in the recent test at COTA. Beaubier circulated well under his lap record of a season ago during the two-day test with a best lap of 2:08.764 (compared to his 2:09.653 that earned him pole position for last year’s race). Thus he comes to COTA full of confidence.
“I’m pumped and ready to get going,” Beaubier said on the eve of the first race weekend of a nine-round MotoAmerica season. “I’ve had a great off-season. We’ve done a fair amount of testing and I left the test here at COTA happy with our performance. We did some solid lap times and we’re ready. I’m excited to get back to racing and being here in front of the MotoGP paddock and all our fans is a great place to get the season started.”
The two men expected to be Beaubier’s biggest hurdles in his attempt to win a second Superbike title are his Yamaha teammate Josh Hayes and Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden. Four-time Superbike Champion Hayes, who won 10 races last year in narrowly missing out in the title chase to Beaubier, struggled during the recent test. But not many believe those struggles will continue. Hayden, meanwhile, ended the test with the third fastest time as he chases a first-career Superbike title.
Several riders will make their MotoAmerica debut at COTA, including former Moto2 World Champion and MotoGP race winner Toni Elias, who is filling in for injured Jake Lewis on the second Yoshimura Suzuki. The Spaniard was impressive at the recent test and only Beaubier ended up going quicker.
Claudio Corti is another foreigner who will make his MotoAmerica debut this weekend in Texas, the Italian set to compete for the HSBK Aprilia team on a RSV4 RF.
South African Sheridan Morais, meanwhile, is back for more MotoAmerica action in 2016, but this year he’ll be aboard a Yamaha on the Team Rabid Transit team after racing the HSBK Aprilia last season.
Among those moving up to Superbike for 2016 are Bobby Fong and David Anthony, the pair making up the Latus Motors Racing team on a set of new Superstock 1000-spec Kawasaki ZX-10Rs. Both Fong and Anthony competed in the Supersport class in 2015.
Jake Gagne, the 2015 Superstock 1000 Champion, makes the move to the Superbike class for 2016 aboard the Broaster Chicken/Roadrace Factory Yamaha YZF-R1. Kyle Wyman is another making the leap to Superbike and he’ll do so on the Millennium Technologies/KWR Yamaha R1. Ditto for Josh Herrin and Hayden Gillim. Herrin, who finished second in the Supersport Championship last year, will ride a Superstock 100-spec Yamaha R1 for the Wheels In Motion/Meen Motorsports team; Gillim will be aboard a Superstock 1000-spec Suzuki GSX-R1000 for the Cycle World Suzuki team.
MotoAmerica Supersport Champion JD Beach headlines the Supersport class for 2016 as he returns armed with the same Y.E.S./Graves Motorsports Yamaha R6 that he won the title on last year. Beach has put in the work during the off-season and says he’s ready for the new year.
“We’re here in Austin for round one and I’m looking forward to getting started,” Beach said. “It’s going to be a little bit harder this year because I have the number-one plate and it kind of puts a big target on my back, but we had a great off-season and I’m feeling really good. I can’t wait to go racing.”
In all, 13 riders will line up for the Supersport race at COTA with four manufacturers represented – Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and MV Agusta. Beach’s main competition is likely to come from his teammate of last year Garrett Gerloff, the Texan having led the recent test at COTA on his Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha.
The M4 SportbikeTrackGear.com Suzuki team is completely changed from last year and will get a spark from the addition of South African Cam Petersen, Frenchman Valentin Debise and former KTM Cup standout Xavier Zayat. Petersen competed in the class last year on a Yamaha with Debise set to make his MotoAmerica debut at COTA. Zayat moves up from the KTM RC Cup.
Also making his MotoAmerica debut in Supersport is Dakota Mamola, the son of Grand Prix legend Randy Mamola. Mamola joins last year’s Superstock 600 Championship runner-up Richie Escalante in the HB Racing/Meen Motorsports team. Escalante suffered an off-season injury and won’t return to action until Road Atlanta.
Joe Roberts is back for more on the Wheels In Motion/Meen Motorsports Yamaha, the 2015 Superstock 600 Champion moving to the Supersport class full time in 2016 after winning the first of two Supersport races in the season finale at New Jersey Motorsports Park last year.
Benny Solis, meanwhile, will go to battle with the lone Honda in the pack at COTA, the Team H35 CBR600RR-mounted Californian hoping for a solid 2016 performance.
Josh Hayes will begin his 19th season of professional racing in 2016. Hayes has won 58 Superbike races and has earned 38 career pole positions in the premier class. He also has 80 total AMA class victories on his impressive resume.
Cameron Beaubier‘s 2015 Superbike title was his second as a professional (he won the Daytona SportBike – now Supersport – title in 2014). Beaubier won eight races en route to taking the championship last year, bringing his career total to 11 as he begins the 2016 season.
This is the second time that MotoAmerica will race at Circuit of The Americas. Josh Hayes and Cameron Beaubier split wins in the two Superbike races in 2015 with JD Beach winning the lone Supersport race, which was held in a driving rainstorm.
Cameron Beaubier earned pole position for last year’s Superbike race at COTA with a best lap of 2:09.653. Beaubier lapped at a best of 2:08.764 to lead the test here a few weeks ago.
Garrett Gerloff was on pole for last year’s Supersport race with a time of 2:13.420. Gerloff also led the test a few weeks ago with a very impressive 2:11.987.
In addition to getting their new motorcycles prepped and ready for this opening-round race weekend, the teams were also busy at the COTA test trying the latest spec tires from Dunlop. In addition to the slew of race-compound tires, teams and riders were also busy getting acquainted with the soft-compound Qualifying tires that will be used during Superpole in the Superbike class this year. This season marks the return of Qualifying tires, or what the teams and riders refer to simply as Q’s, so many of the riders were unfamiliar with the extra grip the tires provide.
Because of that extra grip, the Qualifying tires allow the riders to do their fastest lap times. However, it’s a double-edged sword: Since the tires are soft, they don’t have much life and the riders need to come to grips (no pun intended) with the procedure. They basically have four laps to get the most out of the tire – two laps to get it to temperature, a hot lap to qualify, and another lap to get back to the paddock.