Before the 2020 MotoAmerica Superbike season began, a lot of people—including riders, team personnel, MotoAmerica staff members, and informed fans—felt that the “playing field” had the potential to be its most level in a very long time. With Yamaha and Suzuki re-structuring their factory teams into factory-supported teams with new companies and personnel taking the helm in the form of Attack Performance and Team Hammer, the other teams on the Superbike grid felt that 2020 could be their best chance ever to move closer to the front, land on the podium, and even win races.
We are only two rounds into the 2020 Superbike season, and both of those first two rounds took place at the same venue, Road America, which is a track that favors factory-level horsepower and top speed, so as we head into round three at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, a track with characteristics that are entirely different from Road America, will we see this more-level Superbike playing field start to be realized?
Let’s take a look at some of the riders and teams and speculate about what may be to come at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and beyond:
Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha
The bLU cRU still has Cameron Beaubier, and he’s not the four-time and defending Superbike Champ for nuthin’. A rider who could comfortably slide onto a seat in World Superbike if not MotoGP, Beaubier is a homeboy who likes to sleep in his own bed most nights, and he loves racing, and being paid good money to race, in MotoAmerica. And, as the season began at a track where Beaubier usually begins his comeback each year, he had the advantage of starting out the season at his comeback track. It served him well as he notched three victories in a row, which started people wondering if he could go undefeated on the season. That speculation literally hit a bump in Sunday’s race two at round two when Beaubier reminded us that he is, in fact, human and he crashed out of the race. Mind you, he still is the points leader.
Beaubier’s teammate Jake Gagne, lest you forget, is a former MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 Champion on a Yamaha YZF-R1, as well as a former World Superbike competitor who got his shot at the international level, but it was unfortunately on a motorcycle that wasn’t quite up to the task. Some people may have forgotten how talented Gagne is, but his results at Road America 1 and 2 made a loud, but unspoken statement from the quiet Californian, “Hey guys, I’m still here, and I’m still fast on a motorcycle.” Gagne didn’t forget how much he likes riding a Yamaha R1, and things are definitely on the rise for the number 32. He already has a third-place finish and two second-place results under his belt. Will victories be next?
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki
Toni Elias won the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship in 2017, and he’s come close to repeating that feat every year since then. He’s on essentially the same Suzuki Superbike as last year—with some mechanical and electronics improvements that have actually made him faster than last year. He’s on a new team with a new crew chief, so the change in personnel has undeniably had an adverse effect on his results. Elias is also 37 years old and as fit as ever, but a young son and another baby on the way can have a profound effect on riders. Priorities change, the clock seems to unwind even more quickly, and age 40 looms on the horizon. And, whether it’s Josh Hayes, Tom Brady, or Tiger Woods, Father Time is a heartless sonofabitch. However, Elias will next race at a track that he likes and where he has had good results during his time in America. Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta could be just the elixir that the Spaniard needs to jumpstart his season.
Bobby Fong got his first Superbike win. Just as most people felt about Garrett Gerloff’s Superbike breakthrough last year, those same people felt that Fong was primed for a breakthrough, as well. And also like Gerloff, can Fong go on a tear? Does that first victory give him that extra little bit of swagger to go out and do it again and again? Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta is a known as a “Suzuki track,” so round three will have a lot to say about whether Fong’s mojo is rising.
Road America is not a good track for Mathew Scholtz. He can’t really explain it, but there is just something about “America’s National Park of Speed” that makes Road America a forced march through the wilderness for Scholtz. The South African has had good results there, including his second-place finish in Saturday’s Superbike race one at Road America 1. But then, there was “the pass in the chicane” in Sunday’s race two at Road America 2. Who does that? Who tries to pass on the inside in a chicane? Mathew Scholtz does, and if Toni Elias leaves Scholtz just a little bit of an opening on the inside, Scholtz will try to make that pass every time. And, his team will applaud him for it, too, even if Elias won’t. Perhaps you’ve heard about the undocumented retaliation that Elias took towards Scholtz on the cool-down lap after the race and again near parc fermé. There is no videotaped evidence that it happened. Just “he said, he said.” Will we see more of the Elias-Scholtz battle at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta? Stay tuned.
Kyle Wyman Racing
When Kyle Wyman finished second in Superbike race two at New Jersey Motorsports Park in 2017, it was the feel-good story of that year and beyond. Then Wyman bought a Ducati Panigale V4 R. Then he got some parts and advice from Ducati Corse in Italy. Then he got his jacked-up neck and spine fixed during this off-season. Voila! Second place isn’t good enough for Kyle Wyman or his fans anymore. This is 20-freaking-20, and he’s going for wins. Two podiums at Road America 2. The Ducati has a lot of top-end speed…but can it handle? We’ll soon find out at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, and Wyman is bringing a couple of other things to Georgia in his bag of privateer tricks. The time is now. Why? Because Wyman.
Josh Herrin. Who thought Herrin would finish on the podium in the second Superbike race of the year? Okay, yes, all you screaming Josh Herrin fans did. You all knew he could do it on a new team and aboard a very-new-to-him BMW S 1000 RR Superbike. Do you think he can win races this season? Oh, you think he can win at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta? Yes, we know. It’s his home track not far from the famous Herrin Compound. Okay, let’s see what happens.
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