If absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, then the men of the 2021 MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike Series are longing more than ever to get back to one of their favorite venues on the calendar – VIRginia International Raceway – after the event was cancelled last year due to COVID-19.
If you ask 20 of the top motorcycle road racers in the country to list their favorite racetracks, VIR would rank in the top two or three for the majority of them. With its vast array of corners, elevation changes and high speed, VIR is always one of the most eagerly anticipated rounds of the season. Especially so with the stars of the series not getting the opportunity to race through the Virginia forest in 2020.
“VIR is the next round and it’s one of my strongest tracks, so I’m looking forward to it.” – Mathew Scholtz
“I’m looking forward to VIR. I really, really love that place and this bike will be rockin’ around there.” – Jake Gagne
With the opening round of the 2021 MotoAmerica Superbike Series in the books, round two is on the horizon this week at VIRginia International Raceway and for a few riders in the HONOS Superbike class it takes on the utmost of importance.
While all or nothing may be a bit extreme, getting a good result at VIR is… well, for Loris Baz anyway, all or nothing. Of all the championship hopefuls, Baz’s opening round was the one most in need of a re-do as he left Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta with a big ol’ goose egg in the championship points tally after a crash and a mechanical took him out of both races.
But let’s remember that it’s always better to trail the championship points leader by 45 points after the first round than with just one remaining. And that’s where Baz and his Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York team finds themselves: 45 points behind championship leader Mathew Scholtz. Time, however, is on Baz’s side and, put it this way, if he rips off nine race wins in a row with Scholtz finishing second in those nine races, the two would be tied. With 18 races and 450 points up for grabs, this thing is far from over.
While Baz’s opener was somewhat flawed, Scholtz’s was near perfect. The Westby Racing rider won the first race and finished second in the second, and that vaulted him to the top of the standings and feeling fine as the series moves to VIR after a one-year hiatus from the popular venue. Scholtz shows up at VIR with 45 out of a possible 50 points in his pocket.
Although it’s not a weekend he’s going to brag about, the two races at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta might be ones that Josh Herrin looks back on fondly at season’s end. Herrin rode his Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha YZF-R1 to a pair of thirds in the opening round and that places him second in the championship heading into VIR. Although he was third both times out, Herrin wasn’t pleased about the distance between him and the race winner – 12.8 seconds in race one, 15 seconds in race two – as he struggles to get comfortable on the new Yamaha. Still, he left with a boatload of points and that’s better than most.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong had a good opening weekend, albeit marred by a race-two jump start that forced him to take a pit-lane ride-through penalty. From there he fought through to finish fifth, a day after finishing second to Scholtz in race one. It was a good piece of damage control and he rolls into VIR third in the points – 14 points adrift of Scholtz.
Speaking of damage control… Jake Gagne qualified on pole position and was the man to beat all weekend. Well, right up to the point where he suffered a blown engine just one lap into the first race of the season. Unlike Baz, however, Gagne was able to rebound and rebound in a big way with a dominating victory in race two on the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha. He sits fifth in the title chase – 20 points behind Scholtz.
Kyle Wyman’s opening weekend was quietly effective. The team owner/racer ripped the covers off his Ducati Panigale V4 R to show his off new sponsor Panera Breads during the week and then went out and finished fifth and sixth in the two races. It was also a weekend where Wyman did double duty as he made his King Of The Baggers debut at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. He will be less busy at VIR and will focus his efforts solely on his HONOS Superbike program.
Quiet best describes Hector Barbera’s MotoAmerica debut with the Spaniard finishing sixth and seventh in the two races in Georgia on his Scheibe Racing BMW. New bike, new track, new tires, unfamiliar series… not a bad effort considering the challenges he faced.
Travis Wyman ended up at the top of the Superbike Cup, which runs within the Superbike class for riders mounted on Stock 1000-spec motorcycles, at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the Travis Wyman BMW rider carding seventh- and-eighth place finishes over the course of the weekend. That bested Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis in his return to MotoAmerica action. Lewis and Geoff May came away from the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta weekend ranked ninth and 10th in the HONOS Superbike title chase.
VIR Superbike Notes
The first-ever AMA Superbike race at VIRginia International Raceway in 2001 was won by the late Nicky Hayden, the 2002 AMA Superbike Champion and 2006 MotoGP World Champion backing that up with a second victory at VIR in 2002.
Five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier, who now competes in the Moto2 World Championship, is the HONOS Superbike lap record holder at VIRginia International Raceway. Beaubier’s best lap is a 1:23.790 set during Superpole in 2018.
With no race at VIR in 2020, we have to bounce back to 2019 to see that JD Beach won his first AMA Superbike race in the second of two races – just a week after the popular racer won bis first career AMA Grand National Flat Track in Arizona. Beach topped his former Supersport Series rival Garrett Gerloff in taking his first career win. The day prior, Cameron Beaubier topped his rival Toni Elias to score the MotoAmerica Superbike win.
Mathew Scholtz scored the third AMA Superbike win of his career on Saturday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta a few weeks ago and that put him into a nine-way tie for 30th on the all-time AMA Superbike win list. Scholtz is tied with some pretty impressive names: Martin Cardenas, Ben Bostrom, Pascal Picotte, Colin Edwards, Troy Corser, Bobby Fong, Steve McLaughlin and Reg Pridmore.
With his victory in race two a few weeks ago at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Jake Gagne became the 61st rider to win an AMA Superbike race.
Scholtz’s and Gagne’s victories at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta were the 146th and 147th career wins for Yamaha as a manufacturer in AMA Superbike racing. Suzuki leads the way with 215 Superbike wins.
The Stock 1000 class again leads the way in entries with 36 riders scheduled to take to the track at VIR. There are 28 HONOS Superbike entries, 26 Supersport entries, 18 SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup entries and 28 Twins Cup entries.
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