On The Record: Taylor Knapp, MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 Racer

Taylor Knapp TOBC Yamaha action

MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 racer Taylor Knapp is looking forward to competing in front of an international crowd at Indianapolis. “There is always added excitement and pressure racing with MotoGP or World Superbike,” he said. “MotoGP will be a fun weekend.”

I’ve been racing motorcycles most of my life. My dad used to flat track and road race, and I started flat tracking when I was a little kid.

A lot of my friends raced motocross. I was more excited about that, but I got hurt too much and decided to try road racing. I started racing a 125 when I was 13 or 14 years old and did my first pro race at Barber Motorsports Park at 16.

I was racing mostly older guys, but I had a teammate, Nick Cummings, who gave me the drive—the competitiveness. Racing with Nick really sparked my interest in road racing. Over the years, I began to take it more seriously.

My first 600 was a 2003 Yamaha YZF-R6. I also rode a Kawasaki ZX-6R for a couple years. In 2008, I bought a Suzuki GSX-R1000 from John Ulrich, and I stayed on Suzukis through 2012.

In 2013, I rode for KTM. I enjoyed riding for Mitch Hansen and his guys. KTM is an awesome company. That was a good year for me to focus on riding the bike. I like twins—that torquey feel and the way they put power to the ground.

The new Yamaha YZF-R1 is different. In my opinion, this cross-plane engine is the best one yet. I have ridden a lot of bikes, including an older version of the R1. I could feel a lot more chassis flex in that bike. The GSX-R was stiffer, and the new R1 is stiffer than both of them. It gives you a good feeling.

Taylor Knapp TOBC Yamaha leg out

Knapp has been riding this way for a few years but he says more people have noticed it this season. “I’m tall, so I run my footpegs pretty far down for comfort,” he said. “When I go into a corner, my right boot sometimes slips off the peg. Moving my foot back to the peg can upset the bike.”

From the beginning, the R1 electronics have been pretty good. We have done a lot of fine-tuning over the course of the season and recently added “auto-blip,” which is something I never had on any other bike. I normally don’t blip the throttle during downshifts, and I didn’t realize how much that was hurting me. It’s like quick shifter: You don’t realize how much it helps until you don’t have it.

I thought my direction this season was going to be different. Some things fell through, and I did the first two races on my own. We had some sponsorship money but not enough to do the whole season. I felt I could win the Superstock 1000 championship, so I did everything I could to get to those first couple rounds.

At Road Atlanta, I talked with Michelle Lindsay from TOBC Racing. She said Yamaha was interested in helping the team. I didn’t know if it was going to take off, but we decided to try it. I’m happy to be on the podium every weekend and second in points. I don’t have anything on paper, but the way things are going, hopefully we can be here next year.

I like that Superbike and Superstock 1000 race together but are scored separately. Before, if I did really well and got a fifth-place finish, I never received any recognition. Now, I get that recognition. In the future, it would be nice for a Superstock 1000 rider to be recognized for an overall podium. Jake Gagne has done that a few times.

I’m happy with MotoAmerica. I think they are progressively getting better. A few of my sponsors wanted to feel it out this first year, but at the same time, there are others that are really excited. I think the series will only get better.

I’ve never been to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Some guys have been there, including Gagne. That’s a little bit of a disadvantage, but at the end of the day, it’s just another racetrack. Jake has been setting the bar. I really need to find some speed and beat him the next two rounds.

My strategy is simple: Do what I’ve been doing. I’ve been consistent, and that’s put me where I am now. There have been times when I’ve rode conservatively. I’d like to push harder, but at the same time, I need to finish races and, ultimately, be ahead of Gagne.

Taylor Knapp TOBC Yamaha Laguna grid

Team photo on the grid at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca: “For the most part, I’m pretty calm,” Knapp said. “I let my racing do the talking. The guys who work closely with me may not agree. Sometimes I get a little worked up.”

Taylor Knapp TOBC Yamaha action

MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 racer Taylor Knapp is looking forward to competing in front of an international crowd at Indianapolis. “There is always added excitement and pressure racing with MotoGP or World Superbike,” he said. “MotoGP will be a fun weekend.”

I’ve been racing motorcycles most of my life. My dad used to flat track and road race, and I started flat tracking when I was a little kid.

A lot of my friends raced motocross. I was more excited about that, but I got hurt too much and decided to try road racing. I started racing a 125 when I was 13 or 14 years old and did my first pro race at Barber Motorsports Park at 16.

I was racing mostly older guys, but I had a teammate, Nick Cummings, who gave me the drive—the competitiveness. Racing with Nick really sparked my interest in road racing. Over the years, I began to take it more seriously.

My first 600 was a 2003 Yamaha YZF-R6. I also rode a Kawasaki ZX-6R for a couple years. In 2008, I bought a Suzuki GSX-R1000 from John Ulrich, and I stayed on Suzukis through 2012.

In 2013, I rode for KTM. I enjoyed riding for Mitch Hansen and his guys. KTM is an awesome company. That was a good year for me to focus on riding the bike. I like twins—that torquey feel and the way they put power to the ground.

The new Yamaha YZF-R1 is different. In my opinion, this cross-plane engine is the best one yet. I have ridden a lot of bikes, including an older version of the R1. I could feel a lot more chassis flex in that bike. The GSX-R was stiffer, and the new R1 is stiffer than both of them. It gives you a good feeling.

Taylor Knapp TOBC Yamaha leg out

Knapp has been riding this way for a few years but he says more people have noticed it this season. “I’m tall, so I run my footpegs pretty far down for comfort,” he said. “When I go into a corner, my right boot sometimes slips off the peg. Moving my foot back to the peg can upset the bike.”

From the beginning, the R1 electronics have been pretty good. We have done a lot of fine-tuning over the course of the season and recently added “auto-blip,” which is something I never had on any other bike. I normally don’t blip the throttle during downshifts, and I didn’t realize how much that was hurting me. It’s like quick shifter: You don’t realize how much it helps until you don’t have it.

I thought my direction this season was going to be different. Some things fell through, and I did the first two races on my own. We had some sponsorship money but not enough to do the whole season. I felt I could win the Superstock 1000 championship, so I did everything I could to get to those first couple rounds.

At Road Atlanta, I talked with Michelle Lindsay from TOBC Racing. She said Yamaha was interested in helping the team. I didn’t know if it was going to take off, but we decided to try it. I’m happy to be on the podium every weekend and second in points. I don’t have anything on paper, but the way things are going, hopefully we can be here next year.

I like that Superbike and Superstock 1000 race together but are scored separately. Before, if I did really well and got a fifth-place finish, I never received any recognition. Now, I get that recognition. In the future, it would be nice for a Superstock 1000 rider to be recognized for an overall podium. Jake Gagne has done that a few times.

I’m happy with MotoAmerica. I think they are progressively getting better. A few of my sponsors wanted to feel it out this first year, but at the same time, there are others that are really excited. I think the series will only get better.

I’ve never been to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Some guys have been there, including Gagne. That’s a little bit of a disadvantage, but at the end of the day, it’s just another racetrack. Jake has been setting the bar. I really need to find some speed and beat him the next two rounds.

My strategy is simple: Do what I’ve been doing. I’ve been consistent, and that’s put me where I am now. There have been times when I’ve rode conservatively. I’d like to push harder, but at the same time, I need to finish races and, ultimately, be ahead of Gagne.

Taylor Knapp TOBC Yamaha Laguna grid

Team photo on the grid at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca: “For the most part, I’m pretty calm,” Knapp said. “I let my racing do the talking. The guys who work closely with me may not agree. Sometimes I get a little worked up.”