The boys are back in town: Jake Gagne (1), Cameron Beaubier (6), Josh Herrin (2), Cameron Petersen (45) and the rest of the Steel Commander Superbike class will begin its season at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, April 19-21. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

The 2024 MotoAmerica Steel Commander Superbike Championship is set to begin on April 20 – 209 days after JD Beach won the 2023 series finale at New Jersey Motorsports Park and 244 days since Jake Gagne clinched a third successive MotoAmerica Superbike title in the third of three races at Pittsburgh International Race Complex.

Later this week at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, a full slate of five MotoAmerica will get the 2024 championship started in earnest with three of the classes having their opening day (Steel Commander Superbike, Supersport and Junior Cup) while the other two (Mission King Of The Baggers and BellissiMoto Twins Cup) have already started their championships.

With the Steel Commander Superbike Championship kicking off its 10th season of racing, all eyes will be on MotoAmerica’s premier class at Road Atlanta. And for a fourth straight season, three-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Jake Gagne remains the target for those wanting to earn the Superbike crown.  

Simply put, if you want to be the 2024 MotoAmerica Steel Commander Superbike Champion, you’re gonna have to take it from Mr. Gagne.

Gagne will open defense of his title on his Attack Performance Yamaha YZF-R1 following an 11-win, 17-podium season that ended with him 128 points clear of second place after scoring a nice and tidy 400 points on the season.

Gagne was off the podium three times and two of those were when his bike failed him. Once was an engine failure at Road America and the other was when he was stripped of his second place in race two at Circuit of The Americas for using illegal fuel. Gagne’s third off-the-podium finish was when he tip-toed his way to fourth place in horrible conditions at NJMP in the season finale.

It was Josh Herrin who came “closest” to Gagne in 2023 as he rode his Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati Panigale V4 R to second in the championship with two wins and 12 total podiums. He will return to the team for a third season and second on the team’s Panigale V4 R. He will also do so with a new teammate with whom to share data, Loris Baz. Last year, was a one-man Superbike team on the Warhorse squad.

Baz returns to both the MotoAmerica Championship and the Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati team after two years in World Superbike with the Bonovo Action BMW team. Baz finished fourth in the 2021 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship, but is still searching for his first win in the U.S. The Frenchman should prosper as he’s raced on eight of the nine tracks the series will visit and he won’t be alone in having to learn Mid-Ohio Sports Car course as MotoAmerica adds the iconic track to its schedule for the first time.

Five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier returned to the MotoAmerica series last year after his two years in Moto2, won five races and looked to be a serious challenger for what could have been a sixth championship. Beaubier had some bad luck in the latter part of the season and a horrific accident at Pittsburgh International Race Complex put him out of action for the rest of the year. With his five wins, including the season opener in his Tytlers Cycle Racing debut on the team’s BMW M1000 RR at Road Atlanta, and eight total podiums, Beaubier still managed sixth in the championship.

Beaubier spent the end of the 2023 season recuperating and has completed a full slate of team testing in preparation for another go at title number six in 2024. Beaubier is also just two wins behind 61-time winner Josh Hayes for second on the all-time AMA Superbike win list with 59 victories.

Beaubier will be joined on the Tytlers team by JD Beach with the Kentuckian earning his way back into a full-time Superbike ride with two podiums and a victory while filling in on the Attack Performance Yamaha team for the injured Cameron Petersen at the end of last year.

Petersen, however, will be back on the Attack Performance Yamaha YZF-R1 as a teammate to Gagne after rehabilitating his broken right wrist. Prior to the injury, Petersen had two podium finishes, including a second-place finish at Barber Motorsports Park.

M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Richie Escalante had an outstanding season in his sophomore year of racing in the Superbike class. Escalante earned his first MotoAmerica Superbike podium in race one at COTA and was consistently in the top five all season long to end up fourth in the final standings.

Escalante will be back to lead the Suzuki GSX-R1000R-mounted team, and he will be joined there again by Brandon Paasch. Paasch started the season late after recovering from back surgery, and he was also impressive with a best finish of fourth coming at COTA.

Among those returning in the Superbike class are Jones Honda’s Ashton Yates, Wrench Motorcycles’ Bobby Fong, FLO4LAW Racing’s Benjamin Smith, Team Brazil’s Danilo Lewis, and Thrashed Bike Racing’s Max Flinders.

Hayden Gillim is also entered in the Steel Commander Superbike class on a Real Steel Motorsports Honda CBR1000RR-R SP. Another late entry is Ezra Beaubier with Cameron’s younger brother set to race a BMW S 1000 RR for Aftercare Scheibe Racing.

A lot of interest will fall on the return to MotoAmerica for 2021 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion Sean Dylan Kelly. Kelly left the series for a shot in the Moto2 World Championship, but the Floridian has opted to return and will make his Superbike debut on TopPro Racing’s BMW M 1000 RR at Road Atlanta. Kelly’s teammate will be team owner Alex Arango.

Among the notables missing from the Steel Commander Superbike class are PJ Jacobsen and Mathew Scholtz. Jacobsen, who finished third in last year’s Superbike title fight, will race in the Supersport class on a Rahal Ducati Moto Panigale V2. Scholtz, who was fifth in the 2023 Superbike Championship, will also move to the Supersport class on a Strack Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 after his Westby Racing team pulled the plug on its Superbike program at the end of last season.

Pre-Road Atlanta Superbike Notes…

This year’s MotoAmerica round at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta will again be the opening round for the Steel Commander Superbike, Supersport and Junior Cup Championships while the Mission King Of The Baggers and BellissiMoto Twins Cup have already had their series openers. In fact, Mission King Of The Baggers teams arrive at Road Atlanta with four races under their belt – two at Daytona and two at Circuit of The Americas. The Twins Cup teams, meanwhile, had two races at Daytona in early March.

While the top Supersport racers (and some from Superbike as well) took part in the Daytona 200, that race isn’t a points-paying race in the MotoAmerica Championship, thus Road Atlanta marks the opening round of the Supersport Championship.

Jake Gagne earned pole position for the two Superbike race at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta with his lap of 1:23.453 to best Cameron Beaubier’s 1:24.381. Overnight rain meant that the Q1 lap times from Friday afternoon weren’t improved upon.

Gagne’s best lap in Q1 wasn’t fast enough to beat his Road Atlanta track record of 1:23.407.

Race one last year was won by Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Cameron Beaubier by just .340 of a second over Jake Gagne as the two fought out front for the duration of the 19-lap race.  Josh Herrin was third, 1.9 seconds adrift.

Race two on Sunday at Road Atlanta will be remembered most by Josh Herrin losing his brakes going into the turn 10A-10B chicane and nearly taking out Cameron Beaubier, who had pushed Herrin wide in the fast right-hand kink at the end of the backstraight. Somehow the top four all made it through the melee with Jake Gagne beating Beaubier to the line by half a second. Mathew Scholtz was third and Herrin recovered for fourth.

Twenty-three riders have entered the two Steel Commander Superbike races at Road Atlanta on five different brands of motorcycles. BMW will have the most entries in the race with seven of the M 1000 RRs set to compete. Next up is Yamaha with six YZF-R1s. Then comes Suzuki with four GSX-R1000s and Ducati with three Panigale V4 Rs and a lone Honda CBR1000RR-R SP. For those of you doing math, that equals 22 bikes as Ezra Beaubier’s entry doesn’t yet have what bike Aftercare Scheibe Racing will be campaigning.

Riders from four different countries have entered the season opener in the Steel Commander Superbike series: USA, Mexico, France and Brazil.

While Australian Mat Mladin sits atop the all-time AMA Superbike win list with his 82 wins, second place might come under fire during the 2023 Superbike season. Currently, that spot is held by four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes with 61 victories, but he’s now just two wins ahead of five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier and his 59 wins. Jake Gagne, meanwhile, has 40 career Superbike wins and he sits fourth all-time.

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