AAAND TAKEOFF! The MotoAmerica season is officially here and I’ve got some good news for you! I’ve crafted a guide for you to make following this season’s races a little easier. As with any sport, the more you know about it, the more fun it is to follow along. When you go to the track to watch, you’ll get a printed schedule and guide, and the races will be announced on the public address system. If you’re following along at home, it can be hard to tell who’s who and what’s what.
Along with my Beginner’s Guide to MotoAmerica, I’ve prepared this guide as a one-stop resource for following along with the action on the track without writing out the whole rulebook. Here’s what you need to know about the different race classes, the bikes and the riders competing in this year’s championship.
This year’s MotoAmerica championship will take place over ten rounds, each running from Friday to Sunday (with the exception of the first weekend at COTA being Thursday-Sunday):
Round 1 – April 20-23
Circuit of The Americas – Austin, TX *
Round 2 – April 28-30
Road Atlanta – Braselton, GA**
Round 3 – May 12-14
Virginia International Raceway – Alton, VA
Round 4 – June 2-4
Road America – Elkhart Lake, WI
Round 5 – June 23-25
Utah Motorsports Campus – Salt Lake City, UT
Round 6 – July 7-9 ***
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – Monterey, CA
Round 7 – August 11-13
Sonoma Raceway – Sonoma, CA
Round 8 – August 25-27
Pittsburgh International Race Complex – Wampum, PA**
Round 9 – September 8-10
New Jersey Motorsports Park – Millville, NJ
Round 10 – September 15-17
Barber Motorsports Park – Birmingham, AL**
I can’t give you the exact schedule because not all race weekends are alike–that’s what those ** are about. Five of the weekends are straight up MotoAmerica, with all classes racing: KTM RC Cup, Supersport and SuperSport 600, and Superbike and Superstock 1000.
However, the KTM RC Cup class will not be participating at the opening round at Circuit of the Americas–that’s the *. Their season kick-off will be the following weekend at Road America in order to make room for the third round of MotoGP racing at the COTA weekend. MotoGP is the premier racing championship in the world. I aspired to be a MotoGP racer in my younger years, and I’m sure all my competitors felt the same way. It will be exciting to watch.
** Means that MotoAmerica will host a WERA support 1000cc Superbike race at these select rounds. WERA Motorcycle Roadracing, Inc. is one of the oldest and largest national sanctioning bodies conducting motorcycle races at road courses across the United States. Since 1974 WERA has enabled thousands of amateur racers at all levels the opportunity to compete across the country. WERA offers rider’s schools and entry level motorcycle racing for anyone with a motorcycle. They will have their own race, separate from the MotoAmerica races, giving local competitors an opportunity to be a part of the big show, and perhaps gain some notoriety.
Race weekends are all consuming for fans, and especially for riders. Typically, every weekend goes something like this…
Thursday: Set-up day. Teams set up their tents (some more elaborate than others), get their motorcycles inspected by the race officials, and prepare for the first day on track.
Friday: Practice and qualifying day. This gives everyone a chance to get used to the track and fine tune their bike for it. Usually only the super fans come out to watch on these days. Saturday: Final Qualifying & Race One For All Classes.
Sunday: Morning warm-up & Race Two For All Classes.
QUALIFYING FOR THE RACE
So how do you qualify? It’s a slightly complicated system based on lap times and percentages thereof, and the premier classes throw in an extra twist. This not only determines whether you’re in the race, but your starting position, which is extremely important. Here’s how it works:
Once entered into a race, a rider must record a lap time in a qualifying session within a certain percentage of the fastest recorded time in that class on that day. So let’s say the fastest rider in a given class recorded a time of 90 seconds during a qualifying session, and the percentage to qualify in that class is 110%. In order to qualify for that race, a rider will need to record a lap time of 99 seconds, also within a qualifying session. Here are the percentage amounts needed to qualify for each race:
Superstock 1000: 107%
Superstock 600: 110%
KTM RC Cup: 110%
There are two qualifying sessions, generally a day apart, so if you don’t have a very good lap time in the first one, as happened to me during my historic race weekend at Daytona, you have another shot. If you don’t qualify you aren’t allowed to compete in the races, but there can be exceptions, which are determined by race control. For example, it may be that you proved to be well within the time allowance in a practice session but something went mechanically wrong in the two qualifying sessions.
Another exception to this rule is for the Superstock 600 class. The riders who didn’t initially qualify have a Last Chance Qualifier race that gives them the opportunity to match or better 110% of the fastest ride time of their session. This race is a minimum of 20 miles and although your finishing position in this race doesn’t matter, the race gives riders a chance to push themselves to do faster laps.
The 1000 classes, Superbike and Superstock 1000, have a second level of qualifying. After they have completed their two qualifying sessions, the top 12 fastest riders from the sessions combined move onto what’s called Superpole. At this point, their previous lap times don’t matter, and these 12 riders have 15 minutes to do laps and to lay down their fastest time. The best times from this session are what sets the starting grid for the race. Positions 13 on back remain as determined by the earlier qualifying session. It adds another element of excitement because your fastest rider from the two earlier qualifying sessions could have a problem or crash and end up starting from 12th position. It could also work the other way, so it’s a bit of a crap shoot.
THE STARTING GRID
The starting grid is determined by the qualifying rounds. The reason why it’s called a “grid” is because the riders are lined up in rows, three riders per, and are staggered until everyone fits. Starting position is crucial because there are no other opportunities in a race like the first lap. If you can get a good start and get out ahead of the rest of the field, your chances of finishing well are far greater than if you were to start in the fifth or sixth row.
The rider who tops qualifying (the pole sitter) will always start on the side of the track that would be on the racing line, or on the opposite side of the track from the first turn. So if the first turn is a right, pole will be on the left, and vice versa. This gives the rider the clearest shot into turn one.
Races vary in length by class as follows:
Superbike/Superstock 1000: Minimum of 40 miles, Maximum of 60 miles
Supersport: Minimum of 35 miles, Maximum of 55 miles
Superstock 600: Minimum of 30 miles, Maximum of 50 miles
KTM RC Cup: Minimum of 20 miles, Maximum of 40 miles
The mileage is translated into laps at each track. At tracks that are long like Circuit of the Americas, the Superbike/Superstock 1000 race will be 15 laps, while at a shorter track like Road Atlanta, the same class will do 21 laps.
What can be confusing about watching the races, even for long time fans, is keeping track of the different riders, because the two 600 classes are on the track at the same time and the 1000 classes are on the track at the same time, even though they’re actually two different races.
With everyone riding at speeds over 150 mph, it can be pretty hard to keep track of who’s who. One way is by the color of their number plates–each class has it’s own color scheme, which I’ve listed in the bike details below–so you can tell who’s in what race.
The other complicating factor is that there are two classes of entries. Season entries are riders who plan to race all ten of the series. Then there are riders who just do a few rounds, and on top of that there are at least four or five drop-ins at each round, maybe more depending on the location. These drop-ins could be up and coming regional stars who want to get their feet wet at the pro level; people who are riding just for fun, maybe to check an item off their bucket list, or maybe pro riders who don’t have the financing to do the whole season.
These riders usually race in one of the stock classes, and while they may only have lap times a few seconds slower than the top riders, over the course of a 20-25 lap race they get passed by the leaders. That creates an element of challenge for both the racers and viewers to know who’s who and what’s what.
In addition to different lengths, each race has a different class of equipment, from the highly customized Superbikes down to the identical KTM RC Cup racers. Here are the specifications:
Over 750cc up to 1000cc: 3 and 4 Cylinders
Over 850cc up to 1200cc: 2 Cylinders
Minimum Weight: 168kg (370.5 lbs)
Engine Modifications Allowed: Cylinder Head Porting and Polishing, Combustion Chamber, Valve Seats, Valve Springs, Shimming in Transmission, Clutch, and more
Other Allowed Modifications: Radiator, Exhaust, ECU up to €8,000 Euro, Flywheel, Wiring Harness, Suspension, Brake Systems, Swingarm, Wheels, Tank, Hand and Foot Controls and more.
Top Speed: Over 200mph
Number Plate: Any Strongly Contrasting Color Combination
Motorcycle Cost Estimate: $40k – $100,000+
Over 750cc up to 1000cc: 3 and 4 Cylinders
Over 850cc up to 1200cc: 2 Cylinders
Minimum Weight: 170kg (374 lbs)
Engine Modifications Allowed: Head Gasket, Cam Timing, Side Covers, Clutch Springs, Clutch Friction and Drive Discs
Other Allowed Modifications: Exhaust, ECU Software or Kit ECU up to 3750 EURO, Wiring Harness, Forks up to €2200 Euro, Shock up to €2000 Euro, Brake Systems, Wheels, Fuel Tank, Hand and Foot Controls and more.
Top Speed: Over 190mph
Number Plate: Red Background with White Numbers
Motorcycle Cost Estimate: $30 – $60,000
Over 400cc up to 600cc: 4 Cylinders
Over 500cc up to 675cc: 3 Cylinders
Over 600cc up to 750cc: 2 Cylinders
Minimum Weight: 161kg (354.2 lbs)
Minimum Weight For Kawasaki ZX-6R (636): 163 kg (358.6lbs)
Engine Modifications Allowed: Cylinder Head Porting and Polishing, Combustion Chamber Polishing, Valve Springs, Shimming in Transmission, Clutch, and more
Other Allowed Modifications: Radiator, Exhaust, ECU software, Data Logger, Kit Wiring Harness, Forks up to €2200 Euro, Shock up to €2000 Euro, Brake Discs and Master Cylinders, Hand and Foot Controls and more.
Top Speed: 180mph
Number Plate: White Background with Blue Numbers
Motorcycle Cost Estimate: $20 – $45,000
Over 401cc up to 600cc: 4 Cylinders
Over 401cc up to 675cc: 3 Cylinders
Minimum Weight: 164kg (360.8 lbs)
Minimum Weight For Kawasaki ZX-6R (636): 166 kg (365.2 lbs)
Engine Modifications Allowed: Head Gasket, Cam Timing, Side Covers, Clutch Assembly
Other Allowed Modifications: Exhaust, ECU Software or Kit ECU up to 2500 EURO, Kit Wiring Harness, Forks up to €2200 Euro, Shock up to €2000 Euro, Brake Discs, Hand and Foot Controls and more.
Top Speed: 170mph
Number Plate: Red Background with Yellow Numbers
Motorcycle Cost Estimate: $18 – $25,000
KTM RC Cup:
All ride the KTM RC390
Allowed Modifications: Akrapovic Exhaust, Side Covers, Clutch, Body Work, Fork Springs, Shock Spring, and Rearsets (foot pegs) and Clip-ons (handlebars)
Top Speed: 110mph
Number Plate: Yellow Background with Black Numbers
Motorcycle Cost Estimate: $10 – $12,000
Last but not least, the riders. Here are the full season lineups, along with my thoughts on how the races are likely to shape up.
Aboard his factory Monster Yamaha YZF-R1, the reigning two-time superbike champion, Cameron Beaubier, will be the guy to beat. He will have some stiff competition this year, including his teammate, four-time superbike champion, Josh Hayes. The factory Yoshimura Suzuki team will field Roger Hayden and Toni Elias, and they will be fierce; especially with the release of the new GSX-R1000. That bike was shown to be very competitive at the Dunlop Tire Test, a pre-season track day for pro-riders.
Josh Herrin is rejoining the Superbike class after spending a year each in Moto2, MotoAmerica Supersport and MotoAmerica Superstock 1000. He’s the 2016 Superstock 1000 champion and will be competing this year aboard his Meen Motorsports Western Service Contract Yamaha YZF-R1.
A few other riders to watch this season: Jake Gagne on his Genuine Broaster Chicken-backed Honda CBR1000RR; Sylvain Barrier, two-time FIM Superstock 1000 Champion on the Scheibe Racing BMW S1000RR, and David Anthony on his Fly Racing/Motul/ADR Motorsports Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Full-Season Rider Lineup:
#1 Cameron Beaubier
#2 Josh Herrin
#4 Josh Hayes
#24 Toni Elias
#25 David Anthony
#28 Sylvain Barrier
#33 Kyle Wyman
#47 Mathew Orange
#95 Roger Hayden
Returning this season in Superstock 1000: Bobby Fong on the Latus Motors Kawasaki ZX-10R; Mathew Schultz on the Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R1; Danny Eslick on the TOBC Racing Yamaha YZF-R1; Jake Lewis on the M4 Ecstar Suzuki GSX-R 1000, and Hayden Gillam on his Suzuki GSX-R1000. Each will be looking to take the championship by storm, but Bobby and Mathew seemed particularly quick at the pre-season test in Austin.
There will be a couple newcomers to the 1000cc class, with Bryce Prince on the Meen Motorsports Western Service Contract Yamaha YZF-R1, and Cameron Petersen who will be on board the Fly Racing/Motul/ADR Motorsports Kawasaki ZX-10R. Both riders were highly competitive in the 600 classes so we will see how they adapt.
Full-Season Rider Lineup:
#11 Mathew Schultz
#45 Cameron Petersen
#46 Roi Holster
#50 Bobby Fong
#63 Anthony Kosinski
#69 Danny Eslick
#74 Bryce Prince
#81 Jeremy Cook
#85 Jake Lewis
#169 Hayden Gillam
#888 Max Flinders
The 2016 champion and Yamaha factory rider, Garrett Gerloff, will certainly have his hands full this season. With his teammate, JD Beach, hot on his coattails, and the M4 Ecstar Suzuki rider, Valentin Debise right in there as well, it’s going to be quite the season. Newcomers Brandon Paasch (2016 KTM RC Cup Champion) and Daytona Anderson showed a lot of promise at the Dunlop Tire Test. Keep an eye out for these young guns this season.
Full-Season Rider Lineup:
#1 Garrett Gerloff
#9 Brandon Paasch
#35 Benny Solis
#53 Valentin Debise
#95 JD Beach
#104 Daytona Anderson
#717 Jody Barry
#773 Mark Rhoades
This class is always one of the most fun to watch. The grids are generally packed with riders from all different backgrounds, including the nation’s up and coming stars. Nick McFadden, Brandon Cleland and Caroline Olsen all looked very fast at the test. It’s always rad to see other girls out there mixing it up with the boys so I’ll definitely be cheering for her and Valentine Welch this year.
This is a more accessible class financially, so the field is bigger to begin with, and the full season riders will be joined by a lot of riders from the regions in which the races are being held. At Virginia International Raceway for example, you’re sure to see a bunch of local expert amateurs who have their professional credential racing in this class, as well as Superstock 1000. They generally do quite well since they’re racing on tracks they’ve done hundreds of laps around.
Full-Season Rider Lineup:
#16 Nick McFadden
#20 CJ LaRoche
#37 Connor Blevins
#43 Caroline Olsen
#52 Nolan Lamkin
#55 Michael Gilbert
#59 Jaret Nassaney
#91 JC Camacho
#96 Jason Aguilar
#100 Andrew Lee
#120 Ashton Yates
#135 Steven Dietz
#144 Valentine Welch
#146 Anthony Rees
#516 Anthony Mazziotto III
#550 Dan McCormack
#555 Braeden Ortt
#975 Brandon Cleland
KTM RC Cup
This class gives the stars of tomorrow a taste of pro racing and an opportunity to hone their skills on and off the track. It allows them to race in front of their potential sponsors and learn how to conduct themselves with fans and in interviews. Let me tell you, I was terrified of having to call a sponsor after a race, or give a live interview. Ultimately it was the best thing for me, as it really brought me out of my shell.
This class will be the most competitive of all, mostly due to the fact that everyone is on dang near identical machinery.
These are all the best kids in their age group, 14-22, and they haul the mail! This season there will be many of the same kids from prior years, but we also have some fresh blood coming in too. I’m personally excited to see how Jamie Astudillo will do, especially since she’s coming from a motocross background. Melissa Paris, who is racing in the World Endurance Championship on the All Girls Racing team, will be there supporting Jamie – Girl Power!
Full-Season Rider Lineup:
#77 Draik Beauchamp
#101 Nate Minster
#106 Setin West
#118 Benjamin Smith
#160 Trevor Standish
#164 Cory Ventura
#176 Gavin Anthony
#469 Jamie Astudillo
#618 Jackson Blackmon
#641 Sergio Rodriguez II
#690 Alex Dumas
#727 Toby Khamsouk
So how do you win this thing? Also complicated. For sure you’re gonna need a fast bike, fast rider and a little bit of luck. Ultimately, the rider with the most points at the end of the year is the champion of their respective class. The points breakdown is below, but they way riders earn them is tricky.
Superbike class championship points awarded for the combined Superbike and Superstock 1000 Race will be awarded based on the finishing position listed on the scale below, irrespective of class. What that means is, points in this class are awarded based on where the rider places in the combined Superbike/Superstock 1000 field.
For example, let’s say a Superbike rider crosses the checkers first, followed by two Superstock 1000 riders, and fourth place goes to a Superbike rider. The Superbike rider who came in first gets 25 points for a first place finish, and the one who came in fourth only gets 13 points, even though he got second in class.
Supersport class scoring works the same way: Points are awarded based on where you finish in the combined class. Since riders in the stock bike classes at times place ahead of riders on the more customized bike, this introduces an interesting element to the competition. You need to beat riders in your own class, but also the best riders in the class below to rack up season points. If too many stock riders get in front of you and you place further back than 15th, you would get no points at all.
In the stock classes, Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600, championship points for the combined races are awarded based on the finishing position listed on the scale but only for that class. So, in the above example, the Superstock 1000 riders who finished second and third in the group overall would actually be awarded 25 points for winning the Superstock 1000, and 20 points for coming in second in that race respectively. If a Superstock 1000 rider were to come in fifth in the race overall, following the fourth place Superbike rider, the Superstock 1000 rider would get 16 points for coming in third. Got it?
In contrast, KTM RC Cup championship scoring is straighforward: Points will be awarded on the finishing position listed on the scale below.
1st: 25 points
2nd: 20 points
3rd: 16 points
4th: 13 points
5th: 11 points
6th 10 points
7th: 9 points
8th: 8 points
9th: 7 points
10th: 6 points
11th: 5 points
12th: 4 points
13th: 3 points
14th: 2 points
If you can’t come out to the track, there are a ton of places to watch the races.
WATCH on TV
The MotoAmerica races will be broadcast on BeIN Sports Network. Check with your provider for the channel number.
Cable Providers for BeIN Sports:
Advanced Cable Communication
Time Warner Cable
THAT’S A WRAP
This season I’ll be at COTA, Laguna Seca, Sonoma Raceway, and Barber Motorsports Park. Be sure to stop by the Meen Motorsports tent to say hello – and maybe win some freebies. Follow me and McGraw Powersports on Facebook and Twitter to follow the action. I can’t wait to see you all – have a fast season!