The Teams Talk Laguna Seca

Toni Elias earned three podiums at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The following is from Suzuki…

Suzuki Motor of America, Inc., and Team Hammer closed out a memorable 2020 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing season in just about the most epic way imaginable at Laguna Seca, scoring wins and podiums up and down the order.

The weekend served as the farewell performance for 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike champion Toni Elias with M4 ECSTAR Suzuki, and the Spaniard delivered. After entering the three-race finale with just a single podium under his belt this season, Elias reminded the paddock of his immense talent and drive, notching up a pair of runner-up finishes and a third-place on the weekend.

Elias saved his best for last, slicing his way up through the top five aboard his Suzuki GSX-R1000 to arrive in second in 2020’s final race. That result elevated him to fourth in the final MotoAmerica Superbike standings by a single point.

Afterward, he said, “I’m really happy to finish the season like this. Thank you so much to my M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team to work hard all the way up to the end. Today they gave me the best bike and the best feeling of the entire year. I was able to overtake easily the riders in front of me and once I got into second I was able to make a gap. For us, this is like a victory. I’m very happy. Right now my future is like a question mark. If this is my last ride, I had a blast. I’m happy I was able to give a little present to my team and Suzuki.”

Elias’ final pass for position was on his M4 ECSTAR Suzuki teammate, Bobby Fong, who ended his breakthrough Superbike season with a fourth. The weekend didn’t live up to the Californian’s expectations or potential, as he crashed from second on Friday and struggled to tenth in mixed wet and dry conditions in Sunday morning’s Race 2.

Still, Fong ended his outstanding premier-class campaign ranked third in the championship on the strength of three victories and eight podiums. The Californian backed up his championship season earned last year in Supersport by proving he is also a contender on a Superbike.

Meanwhile, Sean Dylan Kelly came up huge in the MotoAmerica Supersport finale. “SDK” escaped to a breakaway victory on Friday and then won what was likely the race of the year on Sunday courtesy of a final-corner block pass and subsequent sprint to the checkered flag to beat the reigning class champion by 0.073 seconds.

The Floridian’s Laguna Seca double upped his win tally to five for the season to go along with 15 top twos and 16 podiums in all.

The Supersport championship runner-up said, “I wanted to finish off the last race of the season on the best note possible, and getting the double is the way to do that!

“I want to dedicate this race to the entire M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team. The last two years together have been amazing and helped prepare for the future. I’m just really proud of the work we’ve done all season long. We had some tough times, starting the year with a broken leg. But we came back and showed even an injury like that won’t stop us. It was an amazing season — quite a few wins, lots of podiums, and second in the championship. We have a lot to be proud of.”

Kelly’s Supersport teammate, Lucas Silva joined him inside the championship top five. The native Brazilian earned his fifth-place Supersport ranking due to his remarkable season-long consistency. He finished sixth on Saturday and then ended the season in 13th — his only result outside the top ten the entire year.

The prodigious Rocco Landers was yet another rider on a Team Hammer racebike to enjoy his season’s highlight at the finale. The 15-year-old SportbikeTrackGear.com Suzuki ace had already locked up the Twins Cup championship but remained motivated to close out his season with an astonishing eighth straight victory aboard his Suzuki SV650.

It didn’t come easily, as he waged a multi-rider battle for the victory throughout. Ultimately Landers demonstrated his skill, outdueling his rivals to win in the last dash to the stripe by 0.112 seconds.

Landers said, “It was great. The guys kept me honest. Oh man, I can’t thank my SportbikeTrackGear.com Suzuki team enough for working all weekend. We weren’t on top of basically any session all weekend. It’s been pretty hard and we didn’t get the best start, but I just tried to work my way up. I’m stoked.”

South African Cameron Petersen put the finishing touches on what has to go down as the best season of his career to date. The recently crowned Stock 1000 champ guided his Team Hammer-built Altus Motorsports Suzuki GSX-R1000 to the eighth win of his championship-winning season.

He then added the Superbike Cup — which serves as a championship-inside-a-championship that honors the top Stock 1000 rider in the premier-class — to his burgeoning résumé thanks to a trio of premier-class top tens at Laguna Seca, including a fifth-place race in Race 2.

Reflecting on his season, Petersen said, “This is everything — I’ve been working for this my whole life. To win again is such a good feeling. It’s been a great season. I’ve got so many people I need to thank — I won’t be able to thank them all. First of all, my team for believing in me. My family for all the sacrifices they made for me — it’s pretty special and we finally did it. And the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team as well — they played a big role in my success so a massive shout out to them as well.”

M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Alex Dumas again demonstrated that he’s fast returning to full strength after suffering a midseason injury. The young French Canadian was Petersen’s stiffest competitor in the Stock 1000 class at one point in the season aboard his similarly outfitted GSX-R1000. Dumas scored a close fourth in the finale, hinting that he’ll be back in the hunt for race wins and championship victories in 2021.

In addition to the numerous wins and podium finishes, Suzuki Motor of America Inc. was presented with the MotoAmerica Manufacturers Championship trophy for the 2020 season. Thank you to all the riders and teams who helped contribute to Suzuki winning this prestigious award. 

Cameron Beaubier led every lap of the three HONOS Superbike races at Laguna Seca.

The following is from Yamaha…

Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha Racing’s Cameron Beaubier was unbeatable at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last weekend. The five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion scored two dominant victories yesterday in different race conditions at the season finale. Jake Gagne scored a pair of top-five results to secure a Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha Racing 1-2 finish in the points standings.

The day started with some drama as rain before race two of the weekend’s triple-header created a wet but drying track. No matter the conditions, it was a repeat performance for Beaubier, the Californian launching from pole position to lead from start to finish, crossing the line over 10 seconds ahead of the competition for his 15th win of the season.

Teammate Gagne quickly worked his way into third after the start and claimed second on the next lap. He then found himself in a three-rider battle and was passed for third in Turn 5. After the halfway mark, he lost another position going into the corkscrew and maintained fourth to the finish.

In the final race of the season, Beaubier took his third holeshot of the weekend, continuing to set a blistering pace. On Lap 2, he bested his own qualifying time to build another comfortable gap upfront and then cruised to his 16th victory of the season, tying the season win record with his former teammate Josh Hayes. It was a perfect end to a dream season for the five-time premier class champ who added to his Superbike legacy in the U.S. before heading off to the Moto2 Championship next season.

The afternoon race looked like a repeat of Saturday’s race one for Gagne. He slotted in behind his teammate after the start but lost the runner-up position in Turn 2. It was another multi-rider battle for the final podium spots, but unfortunately for Gagne, he was unable to find his flow on the track and eventually finished fifth. Although not the result he was hoping for, Gagne secured the runner-up position in the championship behind his teammate to complete a superb season for the team.

Richard Stanboli – Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha Racing Team Manager

“Today was another example of how well the team and Cameron have gelled to make the R1 unbeatable. His commitment to riding at such a high level allowed us to accelerate our development. He will be missed as he moves on to new challenges in the world championship.

“Securing first and second in the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship is a testament to the R1 and our team to achieve such a result. Hats off to both riders for giving us such a great season. We will immediately go back to work to ensure that we bring the best machines for Jake and his new teammate in 2021.”

Cameron Beaubier – Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha Racing

“It was an emotional day, a bittersweet weekend. I was happy to get everything out of the way and get the announcement out about going to Moto2 and be able to let Yamaha know how thankful I was for these past nine years. There have been so many great moments, some great people. This past year has been one of the most fun years of my life. I’m happy to cap it off with three wins this weekend.”

Jake Gagne – Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha Racing

“It was another crazy day. We had some rain going into race one and made the change to a dry setup on the grid at the last minute. I got off to a good start but unfortunately was struggling with an unfamiliar setup and managed a fourth-place finish. Race two started well, but right away, I was just lacking in some areas on the track and getting the power where we wanted it. All in all, I’m really happy to finish second in the championship and want to give a massive thanks to the whole Attack Yamaha crew!”

The following is from Westby Racing…

Niccolò Canepa made his MotoAmerica debut at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The 2020 MotoAmerica season reached its conclusion on Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with both Westby Racing riders finishing sixth in their respective races.

The team’s fill-in Superbike rider for the weekend, Niccolò Canepa, competed in two races aboard the #59 Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R1 on the final day of the season. After finishing sixth in Saturday’s race one, the team made some setup changes to the bike, and Niccolò planned to alter his riding style to fully exploit the changes. Unfortunately, the morning warmup session was damp, so he was unable to evaluate whether the changes would have a positive effect.

Starting from seventh on the grid in Sunday morning’s still-damp race two, Niccolò rode admirably in the tricky track conditions and also while still getting accustomed to the Dunlop tires. He moved up quickly to sixth place, but he was unable to move any further forward, and sixth was where he finished while collecting valuable data for the team that they can put to good use in setting up the bike for Mathew Scholtz in the 2021 season.

Track conditions were much better for the start of Sunday afternoon’s race three, and Niccolò got a good jump off the line. The Italian moved up from his seventh-place starting position to sixth on lap three and maintained sixth all the way to the finish line to cap off a solid weekend for him and the team, with both enjoying having worked together for the very first time.

“In Sunday’s first race, the conditions were very tricky, but I felt immediately fast, and I was catching the podium places,” Niccolò said. “Unfortunately, we had a problem with the rear tire that slowed me down a lot. In the second race I improved my pace a lot, and the feeling with the bike was better. The result was not amazing, but I’m happy about the improvement we did during the weekend! Thanks to everyone at Westby Racing for the great work and for the great welcome they gave me. I felt immediately at home. I enjoyed every single moment, and I tried my best to give some good feedback to improve the R1. I wish all the best to the Westby team and to Mathew for the next season.”

Cody Wyman, who pilots the #34 Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R3 in the Junior Cup class, began the day by making the decision to sit out the morning warmup session due to damp track conditions. His good judgement paid off because he avoided the melee that resulted when several riders crashed in the same spot on the slippery track.

He started Sunday afternoon’s race two from the third row on the grid and was determined to outrace and outmaneuver the group of riders that he usually has to contend with. And, after withstanding the challenge of riders shuffling back and forth for position, he moved up from eighth place on the penultimate lap and crossed the finish line successfully in sixth to complete his 2020 season.

“I’m glad I didn’t go out in morning warmup because it looked pretty sketchy,” commented Cody. “We didn’t get to try a new setup, though, and we made a bit of a gamble with the front end in the cooler conditions. I got a great start but got pinched off up the hill. Another rider slowed our pace and let a big group catch us. The last three laps were a six-rider battle, and I ended up on top. In the final corner of the season, I passed and parked the group and won the drag race for sixth. It felt good to win that battle for the last race of the year. Overall it was an amazing feeling to be back in the paddock and race in my first full MotoAmerica season. I can’t thank Tryg and Chuck enough for having this program this year and believing in me to race their R3. Now, it’s time to continue training and preparing for what we have in store for 2021!”

The following is from Jason Aguilar Racing…

Jason Aguilar had two strong finishes at Laguna.

Jason Aguilar ended his 2020 MotoAmerica Supersport season with another double points finish, fourth and eighth, round out a front running year in fourth overall in the final points classification.

The journey to even make the final round was eventful, but despite being on the backfoot from the off, the #96 Yamaha rider showed grit and determination to qualify eleventh, before two lightning starts in both races ensured he was in the mix for a decent haul of points once again.
 
Reflecting on a year that saw three podium finishes, Jason has earned himself a new nickname… ‘The King of Cuatro’ after amassing seven P4 results. He only failed to finish twice, an impressive statistic.  

Jason Aguilar: “Honestly it was so crazy just trying to get here for the last round, I’m so happy to have made it. I got hurt at the last round so I wasn’t sure how I would be physically coming into this round. I had to rebuild the bike with not a ton of time from the last round. On top of that our truck broke down so we had to come up in a van rather than our normal truck and trailer setup. First qualifying went ok and I started to feel good on the bike and get the confidence back. My lap timer wasn’t working in second qualifying, so it was hard to judge my pace but all in all it wasn’t too bad. I did the best I could and got my times down to the 1m 28s which was only good enough for P11 and the fourth row. I wasn’t at my best following the Indy crash, but I was determined to give it my all and end the season on a high. I made a great start in Race 1 from eleventh to the top six and had a great run around the outside. I lost a couple of places and ran off track, but I kept my cool and was able to recover. We hit traffic on the last lap and I almost a position, but I was actually stoked to finish fourth after starting so far back. The final race of the year wasn’t too bad. We missed the warm up as it was wet, so my first time on track on Sunday was for the race which was a bit strange. It took me a couple of laps and then I started to find my rhythm. I made another good start, but I got boxed in a bit. The front of the bike felt weird from the start and after the race we found out that the stabilizer had broken. We took P8 and fourth overall in the final points standings. We learned a lot and I am super grateful to all my sponsors and to everyone who has supported me. We will take some time to relax and then start to focus on 2021. I’m not sure what we will do but I want to be back in the MotoAmerica paddock, that’s a no brainer!”