MotoAmerica Visits A New Track In The Pacific Northwest
The Ridge Motorsports Park opened to the MotoAmerica road racing series this past weekend, a first for both. Teams rolled in early last week to familiarize themselves with the track, which only a handful of racers had ever ridden on. And it showed. Numerous riders crashed and crunched up their bikes, before even the first green flag on Saturday. The problem wasn’t so much the track itself, which the majority of racers and MotoAmerica personnel said they loved, but their unfamiliarity with it. At 2.47 miles in length, 16 dramatic turns and over 300 feet of elevation change across the track, including a 50 foot plunge down the Ridge Complex of switchbacks, a lap on the Ridge tarmac is filled with high speed straights, sweeping turns, huge compressions, weightless crests and hard esses that challenge and exhaust racers like few tracks in the States.
This is not only the home track for Superbike racer Sam Verderico, this is also our own Ted Edwards’ track, who travels from his home in Wenatchee, WA to ride track days here. Both men know this road course well. And both attest to the challenge and the thrill of this still relatively young track, completed in 2012. Says Ted, “This track will reward you with some of the most exciting riding of any course in the country, but it will also punish you severely for mistakes. The Ridge can eat up bikes and riders, and spit them out broken and busted.” Apt description.
Saturday saw a multi-rider crash on lap one of the Superbike race, up in the very first chicane, as riders tried to all squeeze through, toppling about 6 bikes. The race was red flagged, then restarted, with defending champ Cameron Beaubier running away from the pack for the balance of the race. Bobby Fong and Mathew Scholtz battled for the remaining podium spots, the South African edging out Fong for the 2nd spot at the checkered. Jake Gagne had tire problems, drifting from 2nd to 4th by race end.
Sunday’s Superbike race launched without incident, and while Beaubier ran away again, his teammate Jake Gagne stayed in tow this race, the Yamahas leading the field start to finish. Bobby Fong, struggling through injuries, swapped back and forth with Mathew Scholtz for the 3rd podium, before Fong finally claimed it as he had the day before. Beaubier grabbed his 9th win of the season, a personal best, with a 49 point lead over 2nd place teammate Jake Gagne.
“It was really good to be able to get nine wins in a season and be able to pass my record that was a few years ago,” Beaubier said. “That just feels really good for me…I’m just dialed in on my R1. I’ve been riding this thing for five or six years. Everyone’s working really, really hard at the Monster Attack Performance Yamaha team. It feels so good to put this up on the top of the podium multiple races throughout the year, and also having a great teammate in Jake (Gagne). Being able to go one-two today feels really good to just reward them for all their hard work. It’s just been fun so far this year.”
Saturday’s first race of the day was arguably the best Supersport race of the season thus far. The three frontrunners, HONOS Kawasaki’s Richie Escalante, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Sean Dylan Kelly, and Celtic HSBK Racing Yamaha’s Brandon Paasch had a battle royale with lots of close passing (sometimes even making contact) and swapping positions multiple times within single laps of the event. The Ridge’s twisty and technical configuration favors aggression over subtlety, and the three combatants at the front did not shy from the challenge.
As the laps wound down, Escalante took the lead and, surprisingly, was able to stretch out a significant gap, taking the checkers by nearly three seconds over second-place finisher Kelly, who escaped the clutches of a very determined Paasch, the Yamaha rider completing the podium in third.
After the close racing that occurred in Saturday’s Supersport race one, the expectation was that there would be a repeat performance in Sunday’s race two. However, an incident going into the chicane on the opening lap took out Saturday’s winner Richie Escalante. The HONOS Kawasaki rider and current championship leader was unhurt but unable to rejoin the race. That left the battle for the lead to the other two frontrunners, Sean Dylan Kelly and Brandon Paasch. Then, inexplicably, Paasch appeared to fall off his Celtic HSBK Racing Yamaha, which ended his day.
With both of his fiercest rivals out of the race, that left Kelly with a gaping lead aboard his M4 ECSTAR Suzuki. At the checkers, he won by more than 18 seconds over his teammate Lucas Silva, who celebrated his first-ever podium finish. Third place went to a somewhat somber Aguilar Racing Yamaha rider Jason Aguilar, who appreciated the podium finish but wished that attrition hadn’t played a factor in his result.
Liqui Moly Junior Cup
Young Rocco Landers had quite the Saturday at the Ridge Motorsports Park. For starters, he crashed and destroyed his Liqui Moly Junior Cup bike only hours before the race at over 100 mph during morning practice. Landers’ father and his crew built virtually a whole new bike for the afternoon’s race, and the younger Landers used it to good effect, winning his third race of the season in defense of his 2019 championship.
Sunday’s race was another show of strength by current points leader Landers, who rode a flawless and fast race aboard his Norton Motorsports/Ninja400R/Dr. Farr/Wonder CBD Kawasaki to win by a margin of more than seven seconds over BARTCON Racing Kawasaki rider Dominic Doyle.
Speaking of Doyle, he played a part in the most exciting battle of the race as he and Celtic HSBK Racing Kawasaki’s Sam Lochoff diced for second place, with Doyle barely squeaking by Lochoff at the stripe after passing him in the final corner.
The victory was Landers’ seventh of the season so far and the 21st Junior Cup class victory of his career.
Twins Cup was the final race of the day on Saturday, and the event was red-flagged twice due to on-track incidents, neither of which resulted in serious injuries. Suzuki rider Rocco Landers notched his second victory of the day with the win in Twins Cup.
Landers had an easier time getting the win in the Twins class than he did in the Junior Cup race, the Oregonian taking the checkers by more than seven seconds over Yamaha rider Kaleb De Keyrel. Third place went to Syndicate Racing/Apex Assassins Yamaha’s Jason Madama, who trailed De Keyrel across the finish line by almost the same seven-second gap that Landers had over De Keyrel.
In Sunday’s lone Stock 1000 race of the weekend, Cameron Petersen notched his third win in a row and fourth victory of the season with a dominant performance that gave him a gap of more than 10 seconds over second-place finisher Michael Gilbert aboard his Kawasaki. Ride HVMC Racing’s Corey Alexander rode his Kawasaki to a third-place result.
The race was red-flagged due to an incident on the opening lap when Hunter Dunham took a nasty tumble, but thankfully, he did not sustain any serious injuries. Said Petersen, “This track reminds me of some of the tracks we have back home in South Africa. So, I think that’s why I felt a little bit more comfortable on it. Hats off to the whole team. They’ve done a killer job at making sure that they give me the best.”
So ended a wild weekend for MotoAmerica at the Ridge Motorsports Park. Thrills and spills galore. But according to every rider Ted talked to, and even some time he spent chatting with MotoAmerica Communications Director Paul Carruthers, everyone loved the new track, gained a huge respect for the track staff and personnel, and all want the series to return next year.
MotoAmerica travels back east September 11-13, to New Jersey Motorsports Park. Check out tickets to this and all remaining rounds by clicking the link below-
*Photos by Brian J. Nelson
*Race info provided by Paul Carruthers, MotoAmerica Communications Director
Check out Ted’s Interviews below!