The summer break is over and it's go time again for the men and women of the 2016 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Race Series as the racing resumes, September 9-11, with the series finale - the Yamaha Superbike Challenge of New Jersey at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey.
For some there's more on the table than for others as three of the five championships will be on the line when racing gets rolling on Saturday at NJMP. The closest of the title chases is in the Supersport class where Y.E.S. Yamaha's Garrett Gerloff leads his teammate JD Beach by just 14 points with 50 points up for grabs in the season finale. Both men have won six races, though their seasons have been mirror images with Gerloff dominating the first half of the season and Beach doing likewise in the second half.
Beach comes to NJMP riding a five-race win streak, but he'll need help in the finale as two second-place finishes for Gerloff will earn him the title even if Beach prevails in both. If Beach wins both and Gerloff finishes second and third in the two races, the two will tie in points and the title would go to Beach based on race wins. Beach got the help he needed to stay alive in the previous round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca from Frenchman Valentin Debise, who bested Gerloff in the lone Supersport race in California. So stay tuned.
At least in the days leading up to the event, Gerloff seemed to be in the right frame of mind for what should be a thrilling conclusion to an incredible season.
"I'm excited to be racing again after such a long break, but I'm really happy that I was able to work on some stuff that I wanted to work on," Gerloff said. "I'm ready to get back on my bike, have some fun, and do the best I can do. Whatever happens, happens."
Defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier should have things a bit easier than Gerloff as he goes for a second straight title. Beaubier leads his Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha teammate Josh Hayes by 29 points and Yoshimura Suzuki's Toni Elias by 35 points heading into New Jersey.
If Hayes were to win both races, Beaubier would need to score 21 points over the course of the two races to keep his crown. If Elias wins both, Beaubier would need to accumulate 15 points from the two races. Naturally, there are a zillion other scenarios that could also change the situation and we'll know a lot more after the first of the two races on Sunday.
With Riders Discount/Tuned Racing's Bryce Prince and Meen Motorsports' Josh Herrin having already clinched the Superstock 600 and Bazzaz Superstock 1000 titles, respectively, the final championship up for grabs is in the KTM RC Cup Series. And that will be a battle of New Jersey as AXcess Racing's Brandon Paasch goes into the final two races of the season with a 19-point lead over fellow New Jersey resident Anthony Mazziotto III. Paasch has won five races with Mazziotto taking four wins on his Jimmy Winters Motorsports KTM RC 390. The hottest rider in the series, however, is Yates Racing's Ashton Yates, the son of former AMA Champion Aaron Yates winning the last two races.
Beaubier has seen this movie before. Last year the 24-year-old Californian came to the season finale last September at NJMP with an 18-point lead on his teammate Hayes. Beaubier came out fighting in race one and finished just .016 of a second behind Hayes in second place. In race two, he tiptoed his way to sixth overall and third in the Superbike class to take the title by four points.
This year the points system has been changed in the Superbike class so it forces someone in Beaubier's position to race harder if need be since riders in that class are now scored on their overall race finish and not by class. In other words, Beaubier would have earned sixth-place points in race two and not third-place points.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to New Jersey to try and wrap up the title," Beaubier said. "I'm going to put myself in a position in the first race and see if I can win the race or finish on the podium and make my life easier for the second race.
"Basically, I just want to be smart through the whole weekend. I'm looking forward to getting back on the bike on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday I just need to be focused. I want this second championship more than anything and we have worked hard for it, especially after the rough start to the season. We've been able to fight our way back to the top. I think the two ride days (at Buttonwillow in California) really benefitted us so we're not showing up after not riding for two months."
Looking back at the past season, May 1 at NJMP is a day the Yoshimura Suzuki team will long remember. And not in a good way. Both Hayden and Elias suffered miserably in the wet conditions with Hayden coming out of the two races with only seven points after a crash in race two. Elias was even worse off, taking just four points from the two cold and wet races. Beaubier and Hayes, meanwhile, left New Jersey with a points haul of 50 and 40 points, respectively.
One rider who is probably doing rain dances in the week leading up to the New Jersey finale is HSBK Aprilia's Claudio Corti. The Italian thrived in the wet conditions in round three at NJMP to easily win both Bazzaz Superstock 1000 races while finishing on the Superbike podium with two third-place finishes overall.
Corti will likely be racing in dry conditions as the local weather calls for warm temperatures and sunshine for all three days at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
New Jersey Motorsports Park Notes
The MotoAmerica Series finale and the Yamaha Superbike Challenge of New Jersey at New Jersey Motorsports Park marks the second time the series has visited the popular venue in Millville. Round three of the series was held April 30-May 1 at NJMP with the majority of the racing action held in the rain. Cameron Beaubier was the dominant Superbike rider on the day with the Californian winning both races in cold and wet conditions.
Cameron Beaubier is quickly moving up the all-time win list in Superbike racing. With his 19th win coming prior to the summer break at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, Beaubier is now sixth on the all-time AMA Superbike win list with 19 career victories. A victory in either of the two races here this weekend will move him into a tie for fifth with three-time AMA Superbike Champion Fred Merkel with 20 victories. The next rider above Beaubier on the all-time list is his mentor Ben Spies.
Josh Hayes is the winningest active rider in the MotoAmerica Series. The four-time AMA Superbike Champion has won 60 AMA Superbike races in his career, a mark that places him second on the all-time list behind Australian Mat Mladin. Of those 60 wins, 11 have come at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Hayes was shut out by his teammate Beaubier in April at NJMP, but the veteran won both races during last September's finale. Hayes won his first career Superbike race in May of 2009 at Sonoma Raceway in California.
Beaubier comes into NJMP on the verge of winning his second straight MotoAmerica Superbike crown. The 24 year old has opened up a 29-point lead over Hayes in the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship, but he'll still need to race hard as there are 50 points up for grabs. Hayes, meanwhile, is just six points ahead of Yoshimura Suzuki's Toni Elias. Beaubier has 298 points, Hayes has 269, Elias has 263 and Roger Hayden has 239.
Four riders have won Superbike races in 2016: Beaubier (8), Elias (5), Hayes (2) and Hayden (1). Last year Hayes won 10 races en route to finishing second in the title chase to Beaubier; Beaubier came away with eight race wins in 2015 as those two swept the series with 18 wins between them.
Three titles are still up for grabs going into the Yamaha Superbike Challenge of New Jersey with Beaubier's 29-point lead the largest of the three. Brandon Paasch leads rival Anthony Mazziotto III by 19 points in the KTM RC Cup title chase; Garrett Gerloff is 14 points ahead of JD Beach in their battle for the Supersport Championship. Josh Herrin and Bryce Prince have already wrapped up the Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600 class titles, respectively.
With Elias winning five races and Hayden one in 2016, Suzuki now has 179 victories in the Superbike class. That's well clear of Honda's 116 Superbike class wins.
Yamaha won all 18 races in last year's MotoAmerica Superbike Championship and this year the pairing of Beaubier and Hayes have 10 wins between them. With Hayes' victory in race two at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Yamaha's Superbike win total moved to the century mark with 100 victories, a mark that puts them third in the manufacturer rankings.
Cameron Beaubier qualified on pole position at NJMP earlier this year with a best lap of 1:21.390 during Superpole 2.
JD Beach and Cameron Petersen won the two Supersport races earlier in the year at NJMP. The Superstock 600 class featured two different winners in Bryce Prince and Dakota Mamola, the latter earning his debut MotoAmerica win on the day. Claudio Corti, meanwhile, won both Superstock 1000 races, the Italian thriving in the wet conditions. In the KTM RC Cup, Brandon Paasch and Jody Barry came away with the victories.
Top Image: On May 1, Cameron Beaubier (1) sloshed his way to victory over teammate Josh Hayes (4) in both wet races at NJMP. Now he's aiming for his second Superbike title as the series heads back to New Jersey for the finale. Photography by Brian J. Nelson.