American road racing is back with a vengeance, in the capable hands of Wayne Rainey and MotoAmerica.
Rainey, 2-time AMA and 3-time GP 500 world champion, founded MotoAmerica and acquired the rights to Supersport and Superbike racing from AMA five years ago. The sport that saw Americans dominate the grid and the podium for over three decades (remember Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Kevin Schwantz?), had fallen into disrepair across the 2000s, fielding as few as five race rounds for its final AMA season in 2014. Today, with ten race rounds, multiple classes, (Liqui Moly Junior Cup, Supersport 600, EBC Brakes Superbike 1000, Stock 1000 and Twins), MotoAmerica is attracting some of the best racers from around the world, and with entire weekends filled with qualifying and racing, a MotoAmerica event is truly a full sensory celebration of speed, sound and motorcycle racing fury.
Phil and I attended the opening 2019 Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta round, and it’s always one of the most exciting weekends of my spring and summer. A MotoAmerica event has something for the whole family. Along with the heart-pounding racing, fans have multiple opportunities to meet the riders and teams, to experience two-up rides on course with race professionals, and purchase all kinds of fan gear and souvenirs. This weekend featured motorcycle stunt shows, the “Globe of Death” Thrill Show, a Mini-Moto racing demo, a British vintage bike show, a Carnival & Family Fun Zone, and plenty of good local food fare.
Saturday, I had the unique opportunity to participate in the Dunlop Suzuki M4 Two-Seater Ride, in which fans suit up, throw a leg over, and ride a “hot lap” or two around the track with retired racer and team leader of Suzuki M4 ECSTAR Racing, Chris Ulrich. This is a thrilling way to experience what racing really feels like, and though I’ve rolled on Road Atlanta during track day weekends, hanging on to Chris while he blasted full throttle around this wild circuit was, as Tony Hawk expressed to me last year after he did it, ““the best customized rollercoaster ride, ever! When Chris pinned it across the front stretch, hitting 160 mph, it was a level of adrenaline rush and fear that I’ve never experienced before. Incredible.” I don’t think I could say it better. Check out our POV footage of the ride-
The racing was thrilling as well. In the Liqui Moly Junior Cup, MotoAmerica newcomer Rocco Landers shocked the competition, the fans, the race officials, and apparently even himself, by delivering a command performance both days with dominating wins.
Supersport 600 witnessed a new rivalry emerge, with former Superstock 1000 Bobby Fong of M4 ECSTAR Suzuki swapping paint and swapping wins both days with Hayden Gillem of Rickdiculous Racing. The celebrated return of international star Patrick “PJ” Jacobsen did not disappoint either, with PJ taking a top 5 finish day 1, then a 2nd place on day 2. Fans are glad PJ is back racing in the States.
EBC Brakes Superbike saw the renewal of the yearly rivalry between defending and 3-time champion Cameron Beaubier and former international Moto2 and 2017 MotoAmerica champ Toni Elias. Cameron took the battle on day 1, and Toni snatched the win on day 2. Of particular interest was the Superbike debut of former 2018 Supersport champ JD Beach, claiming a 3rd place podium on day 1. With Josh Herrin joining the Suzuki paddock, Jake Gagne returning from racing in World Superbike, as well as Garrett Gerloff and Mathew Scholtz stepping up their game this opening round, the Superbike class is going to be very interesting to follow.
The Twins and Stock 1000 classes fielded larger grids than either have before, and provided exciting racing all weekend as well. With five race classes, two full days of racing, not to mention qualifying heats and a new-for-2019 SuperPole sprint race for the Superbike class, a weekend at the track with MotoAmerica will “fill your cup to overflowing” with racing caffeine. It certainly does for us here at Road Dirt, every race weekend we can attend. The howl of uncorked motorcycle engines, the rush of triple digit speeds screaming by, and the drama of racers battling for position across the track course- a weekend of MotoAmerica racing is indeed an adrenaline rush in every respect, for fans and competitors alike.
World class American road racing is back, thanks to the vision and leadership of Wayne Rainey and company. For the season schedule, results, standings, highlights, and where/how to view races on livestream, visit MotoAmerica.com.