Going into this year’s Liqui Moly Junior Cup Series, not many would have thrown up their hand when asked if they thought Rocco Landers was going to be beaten in 2020. After all, the youngster from Oregon won 14 races a year ago en route to the title.
But then along came Dominic Doyle and suddenly Landers was not only beaten but he was beaten in three straight races to start the 2020 season. Not one to panic, Landers has righted the ship with five straight wins heading into this weekend’s round five at the Ridge Motorsports Park, but he also knows that Doyle is a force to be reckoned with at each and every race and one of the real surprises of the 2020 season.
Doyle, who is originally from South Africa but has called Columbus, Indiana home for the past two years, has the aforementioned three wins thus far in 2020 with four additional podium finishes. The only hiccup in his season was a crash in race one at PittRace, the only race he failed to score points in. Battered and bruised, Doyle bounced back with a second-place finish in race two in Pittsburgh, but now see himself 34 points behind Landers in the race for the Liqui Moly Junior Cup Championship.
Based on what we saw from Doyle at the end of last season when he finished second in the final two races of the season on his BARTCON Kawasaki Ninja 400, we should have known better. Now we all expect it. And so does Doyle. You can see it on his face now when he doesn’t win.
“For sure,” he said when told that his face tells the story of displeasure when he finishes second. “Last year I’d be happy with a second or a third just because I wasn’t finishing up there all the time. When you get that taste of victory, you kind of want to stay there. When you get beaten, it doesn’t feel too good. I’m not extremely happy with a second, but I’ll take it for now. We’re just going to move on to the next race and improve.”
So how did he get here? How does a kid from South Africa end up in Indiana racing MotoAmerica?
“I was racing full-time in South Africa,” Doyle explained. “I started racing when I was five. I started racing motocross around then, and then I got into Supermoto when I was about 10 or 11. Then I got a chance to ride a little NSF100 bike on a go-kart track for a while. After that, I got a KTM 390. It was kind of a spec class. Just a little different to the one over here. It was kind of more stock, like suspension and stuff. So, I was racing that. My mom moved over here because of my stepdad’s job. That’s kind of why we’re in Indiana. I eventually got all my paperwork sorted out and I got over here. We did the last three rounds of the MotoAmerica season (in 2018). Before that, I did do two wildcard rides. John Ulrich got me on the Roadracing World wildcard for the KTM RC Cup (in 2017). That was really great. I can’t thank him enough for getting me over here. So that was kind of the start. When I moved here full-time, we started racing just as a privateer. I raced the 2019 season as a privateer, up until the last three rounds. There was an opening at BARTCON. I went and did the last three rounds for them and got some strong finishes. We’re with them this year again and it’s working really great. I can’t thank them enough for having me on the team this season and all their support and hard work.”
One thing Doyle has struggled with of late is his starts, but he’s been working on it with his crew chief Dustin Apgar. Faced with the unenviable task of having to race Landers, the start is crucial, and it’s also led to some mistakes from Doyle that have put him on his back foot in races.
“I don’t really have the best technique,” Doyle admits. “Dustin’s kind of worked that all out of me and got a good, solid technique that his dad taught him. He said his starts have always been great with that technique that his dad taught him, and he passed it onto me. It’s really been working good ever since I’ve been trying it. So, we’ll try it out next round. It definitely makes things harder when you get a bike in-between you and (Landers) and you’ve got to get around him. I want to be in front of him into the first turn, and definitely not have anybody else blocking my way if he’s in front of me.
“I’ve been making little mistakes in the race. I think actually the start kind of all contributes (to the mistakes). Having a bad start and you’re all flustered and trying to get back up there and close that distance. I tend to make mistakes when I’m a little hot and trying to push. Mistakes have kind of been the downfall these last few rounds. The starts will be better, and I think the mistakes will be minimized.”
Doyle’s team owner is Colin Barton, one of the larger-than-life personalities in the MotoAmerica paddock.
“He makes for fun and interesting weekends,” Doyle says of his team owner. “That’s what I can say. There’s never a dull moment in the pits. He always keeps it entertaining. He’s really in it for the love of racing. He’s just trying to grow the sport and do as much as he can.”
Although it’s too early to announce his plans for 2021, it sounds as though Doyle wants to remain in the MotoAmerica Series and will move up to a different class next year.
“We’ve got some plans for next year that we’re still working on,” Doyle said. “I’m definitely looking at staying in the US. I’m not going to leave you guys just yet.”
As for his class of choice? Supersport? Twins Cup?
“We’re still working through a few things,” he said, playing his cards close to his chest. “I don’t think it will be a Twin, but we’ll see. I’ll keep you guys posted.”
For more on Doyle, give a listen to last week’s Off Track With Carruthers And Bice as Doyle was their guest. You can access the podcast via your favorite method or by visiting https://motoamerica.com/off-track-podcast-dominic-doyle/
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