Going into the 2020 MotoAmerica season, most of the talk centered around the two biggest teams in the paddock changing hands. The Yoshimura Suzuki team switched to the Team Hammer-run M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team and the in-house factory Yamaha team moved to Attack Performance, retaining its Monster Energy sponsorship.
So far, all that talk has amounted to much ado about nothing. If round one at Road America showed us anything it was that for the most part everyone just got faster.
Obviously, the fastest of the fast ended up being Cameron Beaubier, the Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha rider starting fast and getting faster. He ripped off a 2:12 lap on just his second go-around of the four-mile Road America circuit and from there he never looked back.
Beaubier’s best 2020 lap came in qualifying practice 2, the Californian breaking the lap record with a 2:11.145 – a lap that was 1.294 seconds faster than his best from the season prior (set in Superbike race two). In the name of fairness, it should be pointed out that two sessions – practice three and Superpole – were held in the wet in 2019.
Beaubier’s teammate Jake Gagne also broke into the 2:11s, the former Scheibe BMW rider did a 2:11.689 en route to second place in race two at the end of May. A solid effort considering it was Gagne’s debut on the team and his first weekend on a Yamaha YZF-R1 since 2015.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s debut as the Suzuki’s main entry in the Superbike class wasn’t an easy one, but it wasn’t because the team lacked speed. Toni Elias, the 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion on a Yoshimura Suzuki, ended the season opener without any points, but he was faster than a year ago. Elias lapped at 2:11.692 prior to his crash in race two, which was .675 of a second faster than his best lap in 2019 at Road America.
Elias’ teammate Bobby Fong went faster than this teammate Elias and actually had something to show for it at the end of the weekend. Fong ended up fourth in his debut for the team on a Superbike (he won the 2019 Supersport Championship for the same M4 ECSTAR Suzuki squad) in race one but crashed out of race two. His race two best was his best of the weekend with a lap of 2:11.485 – .207 of a second quicker than his teammate.
The man who gained the most from the top men, lap time wise, was South African Mathew Scholtz and his Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R1. In 2019, Scholtz finished fifth in both races with a best lap of 2:13.103. This year he finished second in race one and was in the hunt for a similar result in race two when he was involved in a crash with Fong that took both riders out of the race. His best lap prior to that, however, was a 2:11.773 – or 1.330 seconds faster than a year ago. Same team, same rider.
Another rider with the same team is rider/team owner Kyle Wyman. Wyman’s best lap on his Ducati Panigale V4 R in 2019 was a 2:14.477. In round one of the current season, Wyman lapped at a best of 2:13.037 en route to a fourth-place finish in race two. That’s a 1.44-second improvement.
With almost a month between races to fine tune themselves and their machines, it will be interesting to see if there is continued improvement in the HONOS Superbike class as we move to round two this coming weekend at Road America.
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