Last year the MotoAmerica paddock showed up for the 2020 season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in October and it was a bit underwhelming. After all, the MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike Championship was already wrapped up and COVID-19 restrictions meant that the racing went on without fanfare as the normally packed hills and grandstands were, for the most part, empty.
Not this year.
The 2021 GEICO Motorcycle Superbike Speedfest At Monterey is going to be everything but underwhelming as a record number of teams and riders arrive on the Monterey Peninsula in the heat of championship battles in every class. And those title fights will take place in front of a massive crowd as pre-event ticket sales are at a record high as the series rolls in for on-track action, July 9-11.
Leading the way to Monterey in the HONOS Superbike class is the man everyone is shooting for – Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Jake Gagne, the winner of seven of the first eight races and seven in a row. Thus far, Gagne has looked unbeatable, and his only loss was in race one of the season opener at Road Atlanta when his Yamaha YZF-R1 failed him. Otherwise, the Californian who now calls Colorado home would likely be undefeated in 2021.
Can someone beat Gagne at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca? That remains to be seen but he’ll be facing stiff competition as everybody gets a bit more fired up when MotoAmerica shows up at the iconic racetrack in the hills of Monterey that has hosted both MotoGP and World Superbike in the past.
Although Gagne shows up at Laguna with a 44-point lead in the championship, anything is possible and there are a lot of points still on the table with five rounds (12 races) remaining.
The leading challenger in the championship chase thus far is Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz, the only other rider to win a HONOS Superbike race this year as he won the opening race at Road Atlanta when Gagne had his lone DNF. Scholtz has finished every race and has been on the podium five times.
Gagne’s teammate Josh Herrin has also had a consistent start to the season and he’s coming into Laguna hot off two second-place finishes a few weeks ago at Ridge Motorsports Park in Washington. Herrin has been on the podium five times so far in 2021 and he’s just eight points behind Scholtz after pulling back 16 points on the South African at Ridge.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen is another who has gotten off to a good start with three podiums and strong finishes in every round. The South African is fourth in the title chase and 15 points behind Herrin.
Petersen’s teammate Bobby Fong is fifth in the title chase and not where he was expected to be after eight races. Fong has visited the podium just once when he finished second to Scholtz in race one at Road Atlanta as niggling mechanical issues and miscues have derailed his season early. He is 86 points behind Gagne.
Other than Gagne, ironically enough, everyone in the top five has finished every race thus far.
That changes in a hurry when you arrive at the sixth man in the championship, Loris Baz. The Frenchman has three podium finishes in his debut season of MotoAmerica, but his progress has been thwarted by three non-finishes. Still, the Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York rider is considered a threat every time he throws his leg over the team’s Ducati Panigale V4 R and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is the one track on the schedule where he’s previously competed.
Another European and another series rookie sits seventh in the championship in the form of Hector Barbera, the Spaniard coming off his best finish (a fifth) of the season in race two in the Pacific Northwest on the Scheibe Racing BMW S 1000 R.
Barbera is 16 points behind Baz and 17 ahead of Panera Bread Ducati’s Kyle Wyman, though Wyman won’t be competing in the HONOS Superbike races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Wyman, who is coming back from elbow surgery after his Superbike crash at Road America, will focus his efforts on trying to wrap up the Mission King Of The Baggers Championship at Laguna.
And that’s good news for fans of Toni Elias as the 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion is set to make his first appearance in 2021 with the Spaniard entered to race the Panera Bread Ducati Panigale V4 R as a replacement rider for the injured Wyman.
Elias has an outstanding record at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with three Superbike wins on the 2.23-mile racetrack. In addition to those three wins, Elias has seven podiums at Laguna – including two second-place finishes and a third in last year’s tripleheader, which was the last time Elias raced a motorcycle after sitting out the 2021 season thus far.
Travis Wyman Racing’s Travis Wyman sits ninth in the HONOS Superbike point standings, just five behind his brother, one ahead of HONOS HVMC Racing’s Corey Alexander and two ahead of Altus Motorsports Jake Lewis with those three in a tight battle for the Superbike Cup title, which is for those riding Stock 1000-spec motorcycles in the HONOS Superbike class.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Superbike Notes…
Five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier won all three races in last year’s season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the last three wins of a 16-win season for the Californian.
Beaubier’s three wins last year at Laguna moved him ahead of Josh Hayes on the win list. Beaubier now has seven MotoAmerica Superbike wins in Monterey and Hayes has six. Beaubier won 16 of 20 races last year in taking the title and that matched Hayes’ season total when he won the title in 2012. Beaubier will be on hand this weekend at Laguna as he’s on a break from the Moto2 World Championship.
At the rate Jake Gagne is going, he could end up as the all-time leader in season victories in the MotoAmerica Superbike class. Gagne has seven wins now and there are 12 races remaining.
Gagne now has seven career AMA Superbike wins and that moves him into a tie with Roger Hayden for 24th on the all-time win list. Two wins this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Gagne would have nine wins, which would put him in a tie for 19th with Aaron Yates and Kevin Schwantz.
The first-ever AMA Superbike race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca was on August 1, 1975, with Reg Pridmore taking the win on his BMW.
Josh Herrin currently holds the outright MotoAmerica Superbike lap record at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with his 1:22.908 lap coming during Superpole in 2018. Beaubier holds the race lap record with his 1:23.186 coming in last year’s race three. Beaubier earned pole position for last year’s race with his 1:23.194, besting his teammate Gagne and his 1:24.615.