Champions put exclamation points on their titles, and V-Twin Performance Baggers take to the track
The titles were pretty much sealed up in each race class before the final MotoAmerica round of the 2020 season was even upon us, but that fact didn’t detract from a thrilling weekend of racing on the fabled Laguna Seca in Monterrey, California. The reigning champions in each class finished the season in dominating fashion, taking every one of their respective races, the only exception being 2020 Supersport champ Richie Escalante, who retired with tech problems from race one, then battled with Sean Dylan Kelly for a 2nd place finish in race two.
2020 Superbike champion Cameron Beaubier absolutely commanded all three class races across the weekend, adding a thick exclamation point to his dominating season, just days after announcing his departure to Moto2 team American Racing for the 2021-22 world championship season. His 16 wins this season in MotoAmerica tie him with Josh Hayes for the most wins in a single season in AMA Superbike history. He ends his stateside career with 5 Superbike titles.
“Truthfully, it’s bittersweet, like I’ve been saying all weekend,” reflected Beaubier on Sunday. “I’m leaving some great people behind here in MotoAmerica. I’m definitely going to look back and cherish these moments, all the good moments we’ve had in the past. I was sitting on the grid today and I was getting a little emotional. I was like, ‘What are you doing? You’ve got to go race. Come on. Pull yourself together.’ I just went out and abused my R1 for a little bit and that made me feel a little better. I’m glad to cap it off with three wins this weekend. Just really looking forward to getting going next year and hope to make you guys proud.”
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Toni Elias also had an emotional weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the Spaniard telling Suzuki that he wouldn’t be returning to their team in 2021 and that he was looking for a brand change to recharge his career. He then went out and finished on the podium in all three races – finishing 2nd in Saturday’s race, 3rd in race two on Sunday and 2nd again in race three behind his long-time rival, Beaubier. A praiseworthy end to his phenomenal 5-year run with Suzuki in MotoAmerica, having racked up a 2017 championship, 32 wins and 60 podiums.
In Supersport, Sean Dylan Kelly did the double on the weekend, winning both races, but newly crowned champ Escalante had already sewn up the title on points by the previous race weekend. That didn’t diminish the on-track drama as Kelly, Escalante duked it out in both races (until Escalante’s aforementioned tech problems in race 1), as well as Brandon Paasch and returning 2x Supersport champ JD Beach for the final round. This class has been the most exciting to watch all season, with intense on-track battles and close finishes all season long.
Young phenom and now 2-class 2020 champion Rocco Landers finished the season with panache in both the Liqui-Moly Junior Cup and the Twins Cup classes, claiming all the wins, all weekend. He’s not run away from the pack very often in either however, like Beaubier so often did in Superbike, the young champ usually being hounded by South African Dominic Doyle, himself running in both classes this season. Thrilling races in these classes all season as well.
Speaking of South Africans, Cameron Petersen had clinched the 2020 Stock 1000 championship at Indy, but finished the season with his 8th win in the class. “What a season. I’m super, super happy,” reflected Petersen. “I’ve been wanting this my whole life. We made it happen. It means a lot to me and my family. We’ve sacrificed our lives pretty much to come to America. I think this means a lot to us. I’m going to cherish this one for a little bit.”
The debut of the Drag Specialties King of the Baggers event didn’t disappoint at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday as those in attendance won’t soon forget the sight and sounds of the big V-twins scratching and clawing their way around the iconic racetrack on the Monterey Peninsula in a manner that most couldn’t have predicted.
The victory went to S&S Indian’s Tyler O’Hara, the pre-race favorite. But it was not without drama as the Challenger-mounted Californian battled back from an off-track excursion in turn two to beat Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson’s Hayden Gillim by 1.9 seconds in the eight-lap introduction to the class at Laguna. Third place went to Indian-mounted Frankie Garcia with the Roland Sands Design-backed rider bouncing back from a painful crash during practice on Friday.
“Three or four laps in, I was going into (turn) two and I didn’t have any moments going into turn two the whole weekend, and just ended up tucking the front,” O’Hara said of the off-track excursion that allowed Gillim to take the lead. “I saved it and then actually went all the way off into turn two. Actually, at the start Frankie (Garcia) was telling me my bike was smoking and I was like, ‘You’re full of it. What are you trying to psych me out?’ But he was serious. I looked at the bike and looked down and I saw a little brake fluid on the pipe. I said, ‘Okay, well, we can figure this out. Don’t pull me out of here. We’re just going to figure it out.’ We didn’t have any rear brakes at all either, so that was a little interesting. We just did our homework and I was very fortunate that I was able to keep it on two wheels in the sand. Hayden was riding really good, and same with Frankie. It’s just so fun, being able to be part of this whole King of the Baggers. I haven’t seen people that excited about motorcycle racing in a long time. People were jumping up and down and hooting and hollering. It was just fun to put on a show with these guys. My hats off to everybody who rode a bagger this weekend because some of the bikes out there didn’t look too fun to be on. So hats off to the team.”
And so ends another fantastic MotoAmerica road racing season- in spite of COVID. With or without fans, the racing has been thrilling, the competition intense, and the champions dominant. What a year.
Road Dirt has been humbled and honored to partner with MotoAmerica this season, to bring you all the action in every race. As we’ve stated before, we love racing, and we look forward to bringing you even more next year. Much thanks to MotoAmerica for their access, and to our crew who covered so many races in person- Ryan Nolan, Ted Edwards, Dean Phelps, and his friend (now ours) Steve Groth, who contributed to the Indy race coverage. It’s been a great season.
*source: Paul Carruthers and Sean Bice of MotoAmerica
*Photography by Brian J. Nelson, Paul Carruthers & Ryan “Ryhno” Nolan
*For more on MotoAmerica, including photos, footage, rider info, race results and more, click here.