A MotoAmerica Mid-Term Report: Part 2, Supersport

JD Beach is in control of the Supersport Series, but Valentin Debise hasn’t missed a beat since coming back from injury. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Make no bones about it, every time JD Beach throws his leg over his Monster Energy/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha R6 he does so with a purpose: To earn himself a Superbike ride in 2018.

So far that effort has put him at the top of the MotoAmerica Supersport Championship as the series readies to start its second half at the Utah Motorsports Complex next weekend. Beach, who missed out on the second factory Monster Yamaha Superbike ride when he finished second to Garrett Gerloff in last year’s Supersport Championship, has won five of the seven races thus far this year. And in the two he didn’t win, he finished second. It all amounts to a 52-point lead in the championship with five rounds (and 10 races) left on the schedule.

“Last year it came down to me and Garrett (Gerloff) to get the ride that Josh (Hayes) left open,” Beach said. “I think I made some mistakes last year that hurt me. Going into this year, of course I want to win the championship, but I wanted to go out and win as many races as I could and be the fastest guy on the grid to really assure that I get a Superbike ride for next season. That’s the goal and that’s what I’m working towards. My goal every weekend is to go out and win every weekend and do quicker lap times than what we were last year. For the most part, we’ve been just as fast or a little bit faster. At Road America, we were a little bit off but that’s one of the tracks where you can tell a big difference with the new rules. At Laguna, our race pace was faster, but the qualifying times were a little bit quicker last year. The schedule at Laguna is a bit weird so we’d have to look at when we were on track compared to last year.”

Beach’s two losses thus far have come at the hands of two different riders: Hayden Gillim and Valentin Debise.

Gillim went first, beating his friend and neighbor Beach to the line in the rain in race two at Road Atlanta, the opening round of the series. The win was Gillim’s first in MotoAmerica and his first road race victory in four years. It was also his first race on the Rickdiculous Racing team, a team that has helped rejuvenate Gillim’s career.

Gillim hasn’t won since Road Atlanta, but he’s been second twice and third twice. The only blip in his season so far was a crash in race two at VIRginia International Raceway. Gillim is second in the points to Beach, 52 points behind.

Hayden Gillim is having a career year in Superport and holds down second in the championship with a victory at Road Atlanta. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Gillim’s second-place finishes turned into third-place finishes with the return to action of Debise. The Frenchman suffered injury in the Daytona 200 in March and it kept him out of action until the first weekend in June at Road America. With his championship aspirations out the window, Debise showed up in Wisconsin relaxed and ready to race. And race he did. The M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider won his first race back, beating Beach in a straight fight in race one at Road America. In race two, Debise finished a close second to Beach. And at the last round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Debise again gave Beach all he could handle before finishing second again. For those not keeping track, that’s a win and two second-place finishes in the three races since he returned to action. Not bad.

Third place in the standings at the halfway mark is held by Cory West, the man who replaced the injured Debise in the first four races. West is a road racing veteran who has shown that he has the speed to still run at the front… and that’s where he’s been. West started his season by finishing third in his first race on the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki. He was caught out a bit in the wet second race at Road Atlanta and could only muster an eighth-place finish. He was fourth in race one at VIR and third in race two. When Debise returned for MotoAmerica, West was without a ride. But he found one at TSE Racing and has made the most of it, finishing fourth in the two races at Road America. West’s only miscue came at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca when he crashed.

Action in the Supersport class has been frantic from top to bottom. Richie Escalante leads Cory West, Bryce Prince, Braeden Ortt and the rest of the pack. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

M4 medAge Suzuki’s Nick McFadden sits fourth in the series standings at the halfway mark, the Kentuckian scoring points in every round with a best of two fourth-place finishes. He’s just nine points behind West.

With his strong return to action, Debise is already up to fifth in the standings, tied for that spot with Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles’ Richie Escalante. Those two are five points behind McFadden.

The next three riders are lumped together: YCRS/Mazziotto Racing’s Anthony Mazziotto III, Tuned Racing’s Braeden Ortt and KWR’s Bryce Prince. Those three are separated by just seven points in the battle for seventh in the standings. Last year’s Superstock 600 Champion Jason Aguilar is 10th in the standings on the Rickdiculous Racing Yamaha R6.