The Opening Round Of The Series Showed Us That This Year’s Superbike Title Chase Is Wide Open.
In 2021 and 2022, the MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship was dominated by Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing’s Jake Gagne. Forty races were held during those two seasons and Gagne won 29 of those. Thus, 72 percent of the time, Gagne got to the checkered flag first. Naturally, he won the title in those two successive years.
But that was then, and this is now. And the now is round two of the 2023 series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, May 19-21, with the expectations of battles at the front never higher than it is right now – based on what was witnessed in the season opener at Road Atlanta.
Two races do not make a season, but the opening round of the 2023 MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship showed that the new year might just be a bit different than the past two as we head to Barber.
For starters, in the two previous seasons there was never really a battle at the front. Gagne either led off the line and dominated the race, or he led off the line and crashed, or he had a mechanical problem that kept him from finishing. For all practical purposes, he never failed to lead unless he had an issue.
On opening day at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, however, Gagne was in a battle for the duration. He got out to an early lead in the opening two laps, and just when it appeared to be business as usual, the impossible started to happen. Gagne was being caught from behind by Cameron Beaubier, the five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion back from the wars of the Moto2 World Championship and armed with a fast but arduous to ride Tytlers Cycle Racing BMW M 1000 RR. Beaubier forged forward, caught Gagne, battled with Gagne, and ultimately beat the two-time defending champion to the finish line by a scant .340 of a second. And just behind the pair was Josh Herrin, the 2013 AMA Superbike Champion returning to the Superbike class for the same Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati team that he partnered with to win last year’s Supersport title.
On Sunday, the fans were treated to an even better Medallia Superbike race with four men at the front in an all-out battle: Gagne, Beaubier, and Herrin and Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz. And it lasted. To the end. On the final lap, based on his ability to brake later than anyone into Road Atlanta’s 10A and 10B chicane, Beaubier looked to have the edge and path to a second victory. On the last lap, however, things got dodgy with Beaubier running wide in the 180-mph kink and nearly pushing Herrin off track. It created havoc on the way into turn 10 as Herrin arrived without brakes and was fortunate and skilled enough to prevent disaster. The beneficiary of all that was Gagne, who split the two and rode to victory, half a second clear of Beaubier. Herrin, meanwhile, ran through the grass, and couldn’t stop Scholtz from passing for third.
Even with the final-lap melee, the top four were separated by just two seconds at the finish line and people were already salivating at the thought of the upcoming round at Barber.
While the two races at Road Atlanta were thrillers, it’s likely that it could get even better at Barber.
For starters, Gagne’s teammate Cameron Petersen wasn’t at his best in round one. A big crash on Friday left him banged up but he still managed to finish fourth. On Sunday, he likely would have made the fight for the lead a five-rider battle, but his bike suffered a mechanical in the early laps.
There will also likely be some pressure from others on the grid going forward. For starters, the Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki of Richie Escalante (sixth and fifth at Road Atlanta) and Toni Elias (seventh and eighth) will likely improve and much is also expected of Beaubier’s teammate PJ Jacobsen (crash and sixth in the opening round).
Corey Alexander, the third member of the Tytlers Cycle Racing team, had a decent start to his first season as a full-time, Superbike-only rider with eighth- and seventh-place finishes at Road Atlanta, which puts him in a tie for sixth in the title chase with Elias.
Disrupt Racing’s Hayden Gillim is another rider hoping to get things going in a better direction at Barber as he wasn’t pleased with a pair of 10th-place finishes in Georgia. Ditto for Wrench Motorcycles’ David Anthony with the Aussie ninth and 12th in the series opener.
Twenty-eight Superbikes will take to the picturesque Barber Motorsports Park track on Friday morning with the first Medallia Superbike practice session at 10:20 a.m.
The pair of Superbike races have the same start time on both Saturday and Sunday with the 20-lappers taking the green light at 3:10 p.m.
Pre-Barber Superbike Notes…
For the past two years, the Barber Motorsports Park round of the MotoAmerica Championship was the final round of the season. This year, the popular venue on the outskirts of Birmingham moves from September to May and is round two of the championship.
Defending two-time Medallia Superbike Champion Jake Gagne broke Cameron Beaubier’s lap recordfrom 2020 during qualifying last year with the Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing rider lapping at 1:22.035 to better Beaubier’s 1:22.676. Gagne also holds the race lap record with his 1:22.917 coming in race one last year. The three riders – Gagne, Cameron Petersen, and Mathew Scholtz – on the front row for last year’s two Medallia Superbike races all lapped in the 1:22s in qualifying.
Jake Gagne won the first of two Medallia Superbike races last year by 5.433 seconds over Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz with Danilo Petrucci finishing third, some 19 seconds adrift. In race two, Gagne sat behind his teammate Cameron Petersen for the duration and his runner-up finish earned him his second successive Medallia Superbike Championship. PJ Jacobsen, meanwhile, was third for his second podium finish of the season on the Tytlers Cycle Racing BMW M 1000 RR.
Jake Gagne’s race-two win in the opening round of the 2023 Medallia Superbike Championship at Road Atlanta was the 30th Superbike win of his career, a mark that puts him sixth all-time and just two wins behind Miguel Duhamel and Toni Elias, with those two tied on 32 wins apiece.
Cameron Beaubier’s race-one victory at Road Atlanta was the 55th of his career and he sits third on the all-time Superbike win list behind Mat Mladin (82) and Josh Hayes (61).
With Miguel Duhamel and Josh Hayes tied on the all-time AMA wins list (across all classes) at 86, focus is on the Supersport races going forward as Hayes’ next victory will be his 87th and will thus put him atop the list. With his Squid Hunter Racing team announcing that they are doing the entire Supersport season, odds are that Hayes will take that tie-breaking victory in 2023. However, most people haven’t noticed that Cameron Beaubier lurks in fourth on the all-time list with 76 wins – 10 behind Duhamel and Hayes – after his victory in race one at Road Atlanta a few weeks ago.
Australian Mat Mladin has won more Superbike races at Barber Motorsports Park than any other racer with nine victories from 2004 to 2009. Josh Hayes is second on the Barber win list with seven Superbike wins – all in a row from 2012 to 2015. Cameron Beaubier has won five Superbike races in Alabama and will be out to better that number this year. The very first Superbike races held at Barber were in 2003 with Aaron Yates winning race one and Kurtis Roberts taking victory in race two.
For more news check out our dedicated MotoAmerica News page MotoAmerica News
Or visit the official MotoAmerica website motoamerica.com/