Reflections on a typically wild & crazy opening race round


March and April in north Georgia is always a study of contrasts and contradictions. One day could feel like midsummer with 80° temps and high humidity, followed by a day of driving rain and 55°. Sometimes we even get the occasional freak snowstorm from the midwest or Great Lakes area, and find ourselves blanketed in snow or ice for a few days. Such is springtime in the southeast.

For years now, the MotoAmerica motorcycle road racing series has opened its season at Road Atlanta, with unpredictable, sketchy conditions always a possibility. This year‘s season opener was no different, with a hot and humid Friday for practicing and qualifying, followed by a near perfect day on Saturday with gentle breezes, partly cloudy skies and temps comfortably settling in the 70s, then Sunday brought chilly rain and temperatures hovering in the low 50s.

The only thing predictable about our weather this time of year, is it’s unpredictability.

What is also predictably unpredictable every year for the Road Atlanta round is the drama and thrilling racing that takes place, including the slate of surprise victors and podium finishers. The pre-race pundits almost never get it right. With few exceptions, that premise defined the MotoAmerica season opener once again.

Rocco Landers (97) won the BellissiMoto Twins Cup race Saturday, giving the Suzuki GSX-8R its first victory.

Sunny Saturday brought out thousands upon thousands of race fans to the “North Georgia rollercoaster” as some have dubbed it, to take in the start of the 2024 MotoAmerica road racing series. And fans were not disappointed, even if a bit surprised as usual. That’s what makes this round so much fun.

It was also a weekend of many firsts.

With five classes of racing all weekend, day one led off with a King of the Baggers Challenge 3-lap sprint for cash, and Australian newcomer and MotoAmerica rookie S&S Indian Motorcycle Troy Herfoss not only won the Challenge, he would go on to win the KotB race one over Harley-Davidson Factory Racing Kyle Wyman by a mere .615 of a second.

S&S Indian Motorcycle’s Troy Herfoss leads a train of Baggers up toward the Esses. The rookie Aussie would dominate the weekend.

Junior Cup hit the track with another rookie rider, BARTCON Racing’s Matthew Chapin taking the top podium in race one, after 2023 defending champion Avery Dreher crashed out. Chapin squeeked out a victory by .072 of a second over race pole sitter Ryan Wolfe.

Twins Cup witnessed yet another first with a new Suzuki GSX-8R piloted by Rocco Landers taking the top trophy in race one. Again, another close race won by fractions of a second, Landers took the win over Aprilia riders Gus Rodio and teammate Alessandro Di Mario.

Supersport is always a thrill to watch, and race one was no different. Stacked with 44 riders, several of which were former Superbike and international riders, the class saw arguably the most exciting race of the day. Rahal Ducati Moto got their first win of the year and as a new team to the paddock, bringing their decades of race experience to bear with veteran rider PJ Jacobsen at the bars. Again, another close “photo finish” with Jacobsen edging out Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider Blake Davis to the line. In a pleasant surprise, former Superbike veteran Mathew Scholtz knifed his way through the pack from 11th to finish 3rd, after only being able to take a few qualifying laps on the Yamaha YZF-R6 prior to the race, his first time racing a 600cc in over ten years.

Defending champ Jake Gagne leads Bobby Fong, Cam Beaubier and the field through turns 10A & 10B. Beaubier would pull out the win.

Superbike saw a heated battle unfold initially between early leader Josh Herrin astride his Warhorse Racing Ducati V4 and Bobby Fong on his Wrench Motorcycles Yamaha YZF-R1, with a train of five world-class riders in tow. 3-time (and current) champ Jake Gagne, 5-time champ Cameron Beaubier, returning former Supersport champ Sean Dylan Kelly, JD Beach in his return to the pavement, and WSBK racer Loris Baz all fought for position from the launch behind the two frontrunners, until an inside pass by Fong forced Herrin wide into the grass, costing him multiple positions upon returning to the asphalt. Herrin battled back the rest of the race, but the podium finalized with the former champ Cam Beaubier taking the checkered just ahead of Gagne and Fong.

Day one was a glorious thrill ride, all day. Then came the clouds, the cold and the rain.

Yandel Medina (39) led every lap of the rain-soaked Junior Cup race, taking his first MotoAmerica victory.

The Sunday forecast called for rain much of the day, with much colder temps. Rain tires were the order of the day, with racers also layering up underneath and over their race suits. It felt like a completely different track at a completely different time of the year.

Junior Cup led off with a 2-lap shortened race due to track conditions, and race one’s 3rd place finisher Yandel Medina got what he wished for- a wet ride and a victory, the youngster being one of the few who felt comfortable in the conditions. It was his first-ever MotoAmerica win.

Twins Cup got under way in the wet, and South African Dominic Doyle crossed the soaked finish line first astride his Giaccomo Racing Yamaha YZF-R7. Brit/Candian rider Jack Roach took 2nd, and Gus Rodio got back on the platform again in 3rd.

Jack Roach (112) leads eventual Twins Cup race 2 winner Dominic Doyle (25), Rocco Landers (97), and the rest of the pack.

Supersport launched in the continuing rain, and Rahal Ducati Moto’s PJ Jacobsen put on a clinic, leading the entire 15 lap race and giving the new team their second victory. His teammate Corey Alexander crossed the line right behind him for a 1-2 Rahal podium, with Altus Motorsports Suzuki Jake Lewis taking 3rd.

What a race.

Superbike also dealt with the ongoing precipitation, with defending champ Jake Gagne, always comfortable in the wet, keeping it upright and on track to take a close win over Tytler’s Cycle Cam Beaubier on his BMW R1000RR. Jake’s teammate Cameron Petersen took a hard-won and emotional 3rd place finish, after a painful off-season rehabilitation from near career-ending injuries in 2023. A well-earned return.

S&S Indian Motorcycle Troy Herfoss was unstoppable all weekend, in all conditions and races. 2023 defending champion Kyle Wyman (1) would be passed by Max Flinders (88) and eventually Herfoss’ teammate Tyler O’Hara. 

King of the Baggers saw Aussie Troy Herfoss once again prove his meddle, besting the field this time in (finally) some drying conditions on the track. And the field wasn’t even close. Herfoss ran away from the pack on his S&S Indian Challenger, with the closest competitor coming in the form of his teammate Tyler O’Hara, a distant 13.887 seconds behind. In a thrilling moment for rider, team and fans, Mad Monkey Motorsports rider Max Flinders, still rolling rain tires, snatched 3rd on his Indian Challenger, making an all-Indian Motorcycle podium. We should mention that Max achieved this with a hip fracture, incurred in a crash just prior in the superbike race.

These motorcycle racers are another breed.

Thus wrapped up the MotoAmerica 2024 season opener at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Drastic changes in weather and track conditions, but thrilling racing. Predictably unpredictable.

Photos by MotoAmerica/Brian J. Nelson

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PJ Jacobsen (15) leads Rahal Ducati Moto teammate Corey Alexander (23) and Blake Davis (22), the Rahal boys taking a 1-2 podium by rain-soaked race end. Davis would crash out of contention.


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