Racers Battle Heat & Humidity As Well As Each Other In the Deep South
The “Dog Days of Summer” here in the Deep South can be utterly stifling, with temps in the upper 90s and humidity equally as high. Combine those with harsh sunlight above and cooking tarmac below, and you’ve got difficult conditions to race in, if not outright dangerous. Hydration and shade are a must. And that was exactly what the MotoAmerica contenders dealt with all weekend at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Dean Phelps came down from Ohio to help cover the race weekend for Road Dirt, and what a weekend it was. Riders were describing the track surface as “hot and greasy,” with midday surface temps well over 100 degrees. But the racers suited up, fired up, and rode their hearts out both days, before thousands of very enthusiastic race fans across the motorsports park.
In the premier Superbike class, defending champ Cameron Beaubier dominated both days once again, his fifth win in six races so far this year, and his seventh career Superbike win at Road Atlanta. Additionally, the wins now add up to 43 total in the premier class for the 4-time MotoAmerica champion. Honestly, those of us following American motorcycle road racing assert Beaubier has never looked so solid and in-sync with a race bike in all his years. He and teammate Jake Gagne both are riding as if they are “on rails”, their Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha R1 bikes running away from the pack both days. In fact, both Superbike races across the weekend saw a Yamaha podium, with South African Mathew Scholz rounding out on his Westby Racing R1.
“I definitely feel really good on this thing,” quipped Beaubier following race two. “It’s confidence-inspiring the way Richard (Stanboli) has the electronics set up, and just the way the bike works for me. I’m just really enjoying riding right now.” Gagne expressed similar sentiments to me as well, stating, “I feel so good on this bike. They keep making small adjustments for me each race, and we keep getting faster and faster. I’m thrilled to be here.”
The Supersport class saw thrilling battles out front between HONOS Kawasaki rider Richie Escalante, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki Sean Dylan Kelly and Celtic HSBK Racing Yamaha Brandon Paasch. Kelly broke Escalante’s 4-race winning streak on Saturday, only to be bested by Escalante reclaiming the top podium on Sunday. Paasch grabbed the third spot both days, giving hard chase to the two front runners all weekend. Like Beaubier in Superbike, Escalante is now 5 for 6 in the Supersport class so far this season. The battles in this class were really among the most thrilling of the weekend, with all three riders dicing for dominance both days.
In the Stock 1000 class, HVMC Racing Kawasaki rider Corey Alexander snagged his first two wins of the season, defeating Altus Motorsports Tucker Hagerty Suzuki rider Cameron Petersen and 2018 Junior Cup champ/2019 Twins Cup champ Alex Dumas in race one, then Alex Dumas and Georgia’s own Geoff May on day two. “Obviously, every weekend you come into you want to win,” stated Alexander, “but I didn’t expect to have it go this well, though… We made a lot of changes between Road America and this round to just make the bike work a little better for me. Overall, we’re very happy.”
Twins Cup only ran once over the weekend on Saturday, and Texan Kaleb De Keyrel took the checkered on his Yamaha MT-07 in a dramatic race. De Keyrel battled Hayden Schultz, also astride a Yamaha, and polesitter Rocco Landers on a Suzuki SV650 in the 12-lap race. Landers, his first year in Twins, is also the reigning Junior Cup champ, and gave De Keyrel a serious challenge until Landers attempted an aggressive move to pass De Keyrel, yet nearly crashed out, made a crazy save, and ended up finishing third.
The Liqui Moly Junior Cup action is always exciting to watch, with the young, hungry teen racers throwing caution to the wind in order to grab glory. But all the glory was hoarded by defending champ Rocco Landers, who expressly dominated both days of racing, defeating Samuel Lochoff and current points leader Dominic Doyle, all three riding Kawasaki Ninja 400s. Landers started from pole, took the holeshot, then ran away from the pack both days, the Oregonian crossing with a nearly 5-second gap over South Africans Doyle and Lochoff by the finish in both races. I talked briefly with Rocco’s dad following Sunday’s race, who quipped, “I joke that Rocco is good at three things- racing, his studies, and always being happy! We’re very proud of him.”
Dean and I also enjoyed taking in all the festivities MotoAmerica puts on when the races roll into town. There were vintage motorcycle shows, moto stunt exhibitions, a Fan Zone with plenty of fun and games for kids, two-up rides sponsored by Road Racing World and M4 ECSTAR Suzuki (did that last year-a thrill ride!), and tasty food vendors across the motorsports park. A MotoAmerica weekend is truly a full-family entertainment event, as well as the best racing in North America.
We also had the opportunity to interview several racers, such as the affable Max Flinders in Superbike, the calm but focused Ben Smith in Supersport, and the expressive Alexis Olivera in Junior Cup. All three really capture the spirit of MotoAmerica road racing, and the sheer joy of the sport. The fans are also special, as Walt Sipp in Stock 1000 told my friend Kevin Baxter, “The fans cheer for everyone, not just their favorites. I love this track, but race fans are the best.”
MotoAmerica rolls into Pittsburgh International Race Complex (PittRace) this coming weekend, with 6 classes of thrilling racing- HONOS Superbikes, Supersport, Stock 1000, Twins Cup, Liqui Moly Junior Cup, and Mini Cup by Motul.
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*photos by Dean Phelps and Rob Brooks