A Thrilling MotoAmerica season opener at Road Atlanta

The opening round of the 2023 MotoAmerica road racing series got off to an exciting start at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta over the weekend, with thrills, spills, and chills. It was two days of some of the most exciting racing in recent memory.

The big news going into the race weekend was the return of five-time Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier, after racing two years internationally in the Moto2 series. Facing off against his former teammate, two-time Superbike champion Jake Gagne, Beaubier’s return would live up to the hype.

With a full slate of races in all classes across the weekend, the season opener was a packed schedule that played to a packed house at Road Atlanta. The premier Superbike class would see a number of champions battling each other on track, with Gagne and Beaubier also facing the return of Josh Herrin to the Superbike grid after dominating and claiming the Supersport championship in 2022.

A fan favorite and one of the friendliest riders in the paddock, Max Flinders. Photo by Dean Phelps.

In similar fashion to recent years, Gagne lit out away from the pack in the first few laps of race one on Saturday, with Beaubier, Gagne teammate Cameron Petersen, Josh Herrin and Mathew Scholtz clustered behind. But true to his old form, despite now being on a Tytler’s BMW M1000R rather than a familiar Yamaha R1, Beaubier set his sights on his old teammate Gagne and set about reeling him in. By lap 7 of the 19 lap race, Beaubier had caught the defending champ and got past him, igniting a battle between the two that would last the duration of the exciting race. Ultimately, Beaubier nicked Gagne at the finish, besting him by a mere .340 of a second, with Herrin completing the podium on his Warhorse HBSK Racing Ducati.

A BMW, a Yamaha, a Ducati. The AMA Superbike podium hasn’t looked like that for a great many years. In fact, it was discovered that the last time a BMW took the top of the podium in an AMA Superbike race was 1978, when Harry Klinzmann won at Bryar Motorsports Park in New Jersey.

Cameron Beaubier (6) battling Jake Gagne (1) for the lead, with Josh Herrin (6), Cameron Petersen (45), Mathew Scholtz (11) and Richie Escalante (54) giving chase. Photo by Dean Phelps.

Not to be overlooked, a full slate of riders on the grid in Stock 1000 also saw Cameron Beaubier’s kid brother Ezra line up then subsequently rip a page from his big brother’s old playbook by running away from the field to a commanding win in that thrilling-to-watch class. Ezra had never stood atop a MotoAmerica podium on his own before, in the old KTM RC Cup, Supersport nor Stock 1000. His best finish had only ever been a fifth, but a new, improved and inspired Ezra did the Beaubier family proud with his commanding victory on Saturday, then added icing to the cake on Sunday by doing the double and winning again. Racing appears to be in the family genes.

And we should mention Ezra also rides a BMW M1000R, by Orange Cat Racing.

Ezra Beaubier (16) leading the pack in Stock 1000, something he would repeat on Sunday. Photo by Dean Phelps.

Gagne would seek and snag redemption in Sunday’s Superbike race two, going turn for turn with Beaubier again then grabbing the win at the finish. Race two also saw a pair of bike burnings, as Jason Waters ran out in the gravel at turn 10A, and when corner workers moved to help him upright the bike, it suddenly erupted in flames (see title photo). The bike burned out of control for a bit, red flagging the race until it was extinguished and the bike removed. Upon restart, just three laps in, Cameron Petersen’s Yamaha R1M also caught fire climbing the hill after turn 1, forcing Petersen to quickly pull to the side and hop off while corner workers sprayed the bike down to put that fire out.

All that, after Petersen endured a violent highside up under the bridge in Friday qualifying. A rough weekend for the congenial South African.

The Sunday Superbike battle was intense between Beaubier (6), Herrin (2), Gagne (1) and Scholtz (11) the entire race. Gagne would capitalize on a dust-up between the front runners to win in the final corners. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

With Petersen out, the battle to the checkered flag would become what many stated was one of the greatest Superbike races in recent memory. Each of the top three, Gagne, Beaubier and Herrin took the lead across the tight race, the BMW, Ducati and Yamaha constantly battling for position and advantage. On the final lap, with Herrin leading down the back straight, it looked like he and Beaubier made contact coming down the hill, as they both suddenly swerved hard away from each other, opening a gap for Gagne to shoot through before the 10A/B chicane. In a desperate effort to take back his spot, Herrin shot off track into the gravel trap where Waters’ bike had burned up earlier. Herrin powered out back on track, but out of podium contention. Scholtz would slot in behind Beaubier, who was unable to get back in front of Gagne, and the crazy race concluded as the defending champ wheelied across the finish line, Beaubier and Scholtz in tow.

What a race. Check out this MotoAmerica highlights video on their YouTube channel:

All of the weekend classes saw exceptional racing, with four riders taking home double wins- Kyle Wyman dominated the Mission King of the Baggers races on his H-D Screamin’ Eagle Road Glide, Ezra Beaubier in Stock 1000, and in his American debut, former World SBK racer Xavi Forés grabbed a pair of victories in Supersport with his Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati, and Avery Dreher took a pair of wins in the exciting Junior Cup races as well. REV’IT! Twins Cup saw 2022 defending champ Blake Davis take the checkered on Saturday, but was bested by Rocco Landers on Sunday.

Quite an amazing weekend of races.

MotoAmerica Supersport newcomer Xavi Forés (12) leading a train of Tyler Scott (70), Stefano Mesa (37) and the legend himself, Josh Hayes (4). Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

The MotoAmerica road racing series rolls into Barber Motorsports Park next month, so to get in on all the race action, or how to follow online or on TV, click the link here:


*Check out our rider profile of new Junior Cup racer Jasmine Nichols!

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