DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 19, 2013) - The GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing competitors are preparing to share the spotlight with the global icons of the MotoGP World Championship this weekend, as the highly-anticipated Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has finally arrived.
While the continued adventures of GP superstars such as Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, and Marc Marquez are certain to attract plenty of attention, the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title fight presents a fascinating storyline in its own right.
Now heading down the stretch with just four stops and six races remaining to determine the 2013 SuperBike champion, the title race was effectively reset last time out at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The three men who have controlled the points lead at various points this season — defending triple champion Josh Hayes (No. 1 Monster Energy Graves Yamaha YZF-R1), Josh Herrin (No. 2 Monster Energy Graves Yamaha YZF-R1), and Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) — are packed tight atop the leaderboard.
Despite just one race in play this weekend, with an outstanding effort any of the three have the potential to leave Monterey holding the points lead regardless of what their opponents manage in response.
Leading the way with 191 points, a win would be enough keep Hayes out front. At 187 points, Herrin would need to win and capture at least one bonus point to guarantee himself the title lead heading to Salt Lake City. And third-ranked Cardenas, at 186 points, can ensure that he returns to the top of the order with a maximum points haul weekend.
All three have some Laguna Seca history on their side.
Hayes, who recently matched his age with an equal number of premier-class race wins (38), took his first Laguna Seca SuperBike victory only last season. However, he did it in style, collecting all available points and breaking away to claim a dominating win.
Even though the ’13 title fight is exceedingly close, in some ways Hayes has been even more dominant in 2013 than he was during his unprecedented 2012 campaign. While the racing has generally been much closer, the Mississippian has yet to be beaten straight up, with his rivals’ combined three wins coming about after Hayes showed victorious form but was hindered by mechanical failure or penalty. The same could be said of the bonus points, with Hayes collecting 10 of 12 to date and only missing out on the other two due to the aforementioned issues.
However, Herrin has been growing in strength in recent weeks. The budding SuperBike star has labored to minimize the weaknesses in his game, which should in turn allow him to capitalize on his supreme natural gifts more frequently.
Herrin earned his first-ever AMA Pro victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, taking the checkered flag in the AMA Supersport class at just 17 years of age in 2007.
Cardenas very nearly earned his first AMA Pro win at that same race a year later. After having led the bulk of the race that would stand as the last-ever contest of the former Supersport era (not to be confused with the modern-day SuperSport category, which has similar rules but different ambitions), Cardenas was knocked off track on the final lap by then-teammate Blake Young, who earned his first and only Supersport win in that contest.
The Colombian came back the following season in 2009 and qualified fastest for the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike race — his first-career pole position in any category, at any level, tracing back through 250GP, Spanish Supersport, and his formative years in South America.
Cardenas followed that up by winning the Daytona SportBike contest at Laguna Seca in 2010.
Roger Hayden (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) suffered through a hugely disappointing weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after entering the event with sky high expectations. And while his title hopes took a beating as a result, the Kentuckian could very well prove to be a super-spoiler from this point on.
Like his older brothers, Nicky and Tommy, Roger Hayden is a Laguna Seca master. He’s impressed at the circuit aboard a factory MotoGP bike, including a top-ten result in his GP debut, while also collecting a pair of Laguna Seca Supersport wins. He’s shown well there on a SuperBike and could be pushing up front once again this weekend.
His Michael Jordan Motorsport teammate, Danny Eslick (No. 23 Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000), continues to bridge the gap to the class’ established podium regulars. And the Oklahoman has a Laguna Seca win of his own, as he claimed the 2011 Daytona SportBike final in Monterey en route to his second class championship.
EBR 1190RS-mounted Geoff May (No. 99 Team Hero EBR 1190RS) and Aaron Yates (No. 20 Team AMSOIL/Hero EBR 1190RS) are licking their chops heading to Laguna Seca. While they tend to suffer on big horsepower tracks, the EBRs are weapons when utilized in trickier, more technical confines. With no real straights in sight and plenty of blind corners and elevation changes, May and Yates may be poised for season’s best results.
The same could be said of KTM/HMC teammates Chris Fillmore (No. 11 KTM/HMC Racing KTM RC8R) and Taylor Knapp (No. 44 KTM/HMC Racing KTM RC8R). Fillmore has yet to be given an opportunity to prove what the nimble RC8R can do around the undulating venue, having missed the last two races at Laguna Seca due to injury.
Larry Pegram (No. 72 Pegram Racing Yamaha YZF-R1) is out for redemption after suffering through a weekend in front of his home fans in Ohio in which everything that could possibly go wrong did.
And the weekend’s race for top-ten regular David Anthony (No. 25 Motosport.com Motul Fly Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) started earlier than expected. As reported by Roadracingworld.com, Anthony is fighting just to arrive as his team’s tractor suffered a mechanical issue while making the trek across the Midwest en route to Monterey, CA.
AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike
At the front of the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike field, a trio of young riders has emerged to lead the field. Cameron Beaubier (#6 Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6), Jake Gagne (#32 RoadRace Factory Yamaha YZF-R6), and JD Beach (#95 RoadRace Factory Yamaha YZF-R6) all have earned the podium multiple times out and at Mid-Ohio, these riders took all six spots.
As you might expect of riders of a similar age, this trio have built connections working their way to the top but it goes a little further These riders have deep ties and know each other well on personal and professional levels.
Beach and Beaubier were teammates in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup in Europe, shared a manager, and spent a lot of time together away from the track. They were also teammates on the Rockwall squad in AMA Pro Motorcycle-SuperStore.com SuperSport. To say they know each other well is an understatement.
Gagne also raced the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and, like Beach, won the championship. Gagne was behind the other two but Beach and Beaubier were around often when Gagne raced the Red Bull AMA US Rookies Cup. Gagne has been Beach’s teammate for the past two seasons.
So the trio is quite familiar with each other and it gives the on-track battles have another dimension. Many times, a situation like this would create some rivalry and often even a little bad blood, but these three riders remain friendly and sometimes spend time away from the track with each other.
Beaubier’s meteoric rise to the top (he’s won 13 DSB races in the last two seasons) might be a bit of a surprise to observers who watched Beach outshine him when the two were teammates. But young riders often grow at different rates and Beaubier was the first of these super-talented riders to put it all together.
If Beaubier can win at Laguna Seca, he’ll tie Josh Herrin for second on the all-time Daytona SportBike wins list.
At Mid-Ohio, Beach had his best Daytona SportBike race yet on Sunday and Beach was able to get up to speed early and carry it through the weekend rather than playing catch-up. That will be the key for Beach to do well at Laguna Seca this weekend and for the rest of the 2013 season.
Gagne first raced on pavement at Barber in 2008 and since then he’s seen a steady rise in competitiveness as he competed in Europe and then to AMA Pro. Gagne’s been on the podium every race since Daytona and, in a world without Beaubier, would be the top dog in AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike. He has a bright future.
At Laguna Seca, the trio will race on a World Stage and there’s no doubt all three have aspirations to get back to Europe one day and continue the rich American tradition in Grand Prix racing.
There are other riders seeking glory at Laguna Seca. The second group at many of the 2013 races has been very competitive. Riders like Garrett Gerloff, (#8 Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6), James Rispoli (#43 National Guard/Celtic Racing Suzuki GSX-R600), Jake Lewis (#85 Meen Motorsports Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) and Dane Westby (#5 GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing Honda CBR600RR) shake it up on a routine basis.
Gerloff has been very steady, finishing every race this year in the top six. It hasn’t been easy for Gerloff as he’s usually been in a tough battle for positions, but the youngster has shown he is a serious talent this year.
Rispoli and Lewis are class rookies, having graduated from AMA Pro Motorcycle-SuperStore.com SuperSport. Both have been closer to the front than many expected, with each having spent some time at the front. Now is the time for these three pilots to turn up the juice and earn a result they can use for momentum in 2014, much like Gagne did when he won in Miami last year.
Westby is in a different situation. As a multiple DSB race winner, “The Wolverine” has been to the top of the mountain and 2013 has been about getting back. A crash at Daytona didn’t help and since then he’s been coming to terms with a motorcycle switch as his team moved to Honda equipment in 2013. But Dane is due for one of his hot streaks and the bike continues to improve each time out.
Another veteran looking to recapture success is Jason DiSalvo (#40 Latus Motors Racing Triumph Daytona 675). DiSalvo has seen a resurgence, earning the podium at Barber and running up front for a time at Mid-Ohio as his team continues to develop the Triumph.
Another Triumph mounted race winner, Bobby Fong #50 D&D Cycles/Castrol/Triumph Daytona 675), is looking to return to the podium for the first time since Daytona.
Benny Solis (#3 M4 Motorcycle Road Racing) has been inside the top ten in each of the last four races.
With just one race on tap this weekend, the racers won’t have the second half of a doubleheader to contend with, making Sunday’s race even more focused.
AMA Pro Motorcycle-SuperStore.com SuperSport
AMA Pro Motorcycle-SuperStore.com SuperSport is a class used to shake-ups in the running order. No less than five riders have won races in 2013. But when Joe Roberts (#2 California Superbike School Roadracingworld.com Honda CBR600RR) led every session and won his first two races at Barber Motorsports Park last month, it was shocking.
Roberts, 16 years old, returns for the second of three planned AMA Pro Motorcycle-SuperStore.com SuperSport events in 2013 this weekend at Laguna Seca. The Californian will have a tough time topping his last event, but he’s up for the challenge.
Roberts, who races in Europe, will ride a Team Hammer-prepared bike again. Team Hammer knows how to prepare 600cc machinery and dominated AMA Pro Go Pro Daytona SportBike championships in recent years, so a top rider on a top bike is a recipe for success.
Although he had little experience racing a 600cc motorcycle, Roberts quickly gained his bearings in Alabama to show what he can do. All eyes are on him for his second time around at Laguna Seca.
One rider who will be very curious is West points leader Tomas Puerta (#12 Roadrace Factory Yamaha YZF-R6). With a 32 point lead and coming off a win at the East round at Mid-Ohio, Puerta will look to expand his lead over David Sadowski, Jr., at Laguna Seca.
Laguna is one of Puerta’s favorite tracks, so the Colombian will seek to show the form that has seen him win pole at the event before.
Puerta used the recent East races to continue improvement and showed good speed at all the events. Now is the time for Tomy to put that to use in gaining points as he attempts to win his first AMA Pro title.
East points leader Corey Alexander (#5 National Guard Celtic Racing Suzuki GSX-R600) gets a bit of a breather this weekend given that the weekend is an West points event only. Alexander rebounded at Mid-Ohio to gain points on Stefano Mesa (#37 Motosport.com RSRacecraft Yamaha YZF-R6), but Hayden Gillim vaulted to second place in the standings after his Sunday win.
Alexander was untouchable at Road America and the New Yorker knows he’ll need to be in top form for the New Jersey finale, so these next West races are a chance to go for it, continue to improve his speed and add some wins to his tally.
Mesa found the last two events to be rough ones, feeling ill at Barber and then failing to finish on Saturday at Mid-Ohio after a late crash. The Colombian rider needs to find his magic again and there’s no better place to do that than on a world stage, racing in support of MotoGP at Laguna Seca. As an emotional and aggressive racer, the big show should bring out the best in Stefano.
Laguna will see David Sadowski, Jr., (#101 Mach Modified Yamaha YZF-R6) back in action. The second place points man in the West has a one-point advantage over Jeffrey Tigert, so it is a simply a race of which rider can finish ahead in California’s Saturday single race.
Perhaps Sebastiao Ferreira (#73 BP Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) will be able to vault them both. He’s just three points behind Sadowski, Jr., in fourth. The fight for position has been evenly matched, with all three riders have earned three top ten results out of the season’s four races.
If there is a theme to AMA Pro Motorcycle-SuperStore.com SuperSport, it is the wide-open nature of the class. With podium finishers like Hayden Gillim (#69 Team 95 Yamaha YZF-R6), Travis Wyman (#24 Harv’s Harley Davidson Suzuki GSX-R600), and Miles Thornton (# 72 CTR Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) concentrating on East events and not pre-registered for Laguna Seca, it should be more wide-open than ever.