The battle in the MotoAmerica Superbike class heats up in Monterey
For the past two race seasons, Jake Gagne and the Attack Performance Yamaha team have run away from the pack for back to back MotoAmerica Superbike national championships. The Yamaha rider has been so dominant that race wins were a foregone conclusion, and it came down to guessing how far out in front and by how many seconds ahead he would usually win by.
All that has changed this season, with the return of Jake’s former teammate Cameron Beaubier. After a couple of difficult years abroad in Moto2, Beaubier came back to the MotoAmerica paddock this year on a Tytler’s Cycle Racing BMW M1000RR, which apparently suits the former and five-time MotoAm Superbike champ quite well. He’s challenging Gagne on track and in the points, and the weekend in the Monterey sun heated up the championship battle even more.
Diving through the fabled Corkscrew, Jake Gagne took the day on Saturday, besting Josh Herrin and the field by some 5+ seconds. Classic Gagne. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.
On a completely resurfaced track at the legendary Laguna Seca Raceway, on which riders in every class struggled to find and hold grip as well as the race lines all weekend, Gagne and Beaubier battled for points and position across an unusual three-race weekend, with Gagne taking race 1 on Saturday, but Beaubier doing the double on Sunday. Six race rounds into the season, the “MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest At Monterey” was a thriller in every way. Crashes, lead swaps, photo finishes, and a former champ tightening the screws on a current champ came to define the weekend in coastal central Cali.
The first Superbike race on Saturday looked entirely different, from the outset. A scary crash on the exit of turn 2 on the opening lap had taken out pole sitter Beaubier and Gagne’s teammate Cameron Petersen, resulting in a red flag restart. Prior to the restart, Richie Escalante, the third fastest qualifier, had a brake issue and missed the sighting lap and was put to the back of the grid. So a lone Gagne was the only rider on the front row at the restart while the second row also lacked Petersen who, like Beaubier, was unable to make the restart. Gagne would do what Gagne has so often done the past two seasons- he ran away from the thundering herd, taking and hiding the lead the entire 19 laps of race 1. Josh Herrin on his Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati Panigale V4R and Tytler’s Cycle Racing PJ Jacobsen on his BMW M1000RR took 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Then came Sunday, with its scheduled two Superbike races.
Day two saw a resurgent Beaubier, who would dominate both Superbike races across the day. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.
A revitalized and determined Beaubier stormed forward in Sunday’s first Superbike race of the day, in hot pursuit of the reigning champ and former teammate Gagne, hounding him for 15 of 20 laps before making a key pass and pulling away for a 2.4 second win. Josh Herrin, still smarting from a painful and injurious Q2 crash back at The Ridge round, rounded out the podium in Sunday’s first race.
Three hours later, in the second Superbike race of the day, race 3 for the weekend, Beaubier did it again only this time it was Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati’s Josh Herrin leading until the very last lap only to get passed by Beaubier, who won his second race on the day and the weekend, this time by .620 of a second. Gagne finished third, after being penalized for “exceeding track limits”.
So Beaubier took two of three races at Laguna Seca, and served notice to his former teammate that he was coming for the 2023 crown.
Cameron Beaubier doing the double on Sunday, knocking off Gagne and Herrin across both races. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.
The points margin has tightened up, with Gagne still in the lead at 217, Beaubier giving chase with 183, and Josh Herrin in the thick of it with 178. Four race rounds remain, with eight races to decide the Superbike champion for 2023. At this stage, it looks like a three-way Superbike slugfest to the finish. The class has needed this level of competition, and finally has it with these titans battling each other and racing for glory.
There’s so much action in all the MotoAmerica race classes, it would be hard to contain it all in one story of the weekend. So for more info on what’s happening in each series, find out more here:
*Photos by Brian J. Nelson / MotoAmerica
Beaubier crossing the finish line with his second win of the day and the weekend, ahead of Gagne who would be bumped to third with a penalty accessed after the race. Photo by Briain J. Nelson.