If history is to repeat itself in the opening round of the 2022 MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) this weekend, a non-American will win on a Suzuki GSX-R1000 for his first career MotoAmerica victory.
Welcome to the top step on the podium, Richie Escalante.
Okay, not so fast.
Thanks mostly to a certain Spaniard by the name of Toni Elias, foreigners have won seven of the 10 MotoAmerica Superbike races held at COTA with Elias winning six times and South African Mathew Scholtz taking a lone victory in 2018. The Americans who have tasted victory on the circuit located on the outskirts of Austin? That would be Josh Hayes and Cameron Beaubier way back in 2015, the first year of the race, and Josh Herrin, the winner of race two the last time MotoAmerica took part in the event in 2019.
As for manufacturer victories… Suzuki has seven wins with Yamaha winning the other three.
So will Escalante, who hails from Mexico City, Mexico, win his Superbike debut for the Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team this weekend? Well, that depends on if you look at just COTA’s history, or the more recent MotoAmerica results.
If you look only at last year, then it would take a brave soul to bet against 2021 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Jake Gagne. You don’t win 17 of 20 races and not show up as the favorite, and Gagne can boast those results. The Californian, who now calls Colorado home, returns on his Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing YZF-R1 fresh off his dominating 2021 season when he not only won 17 of 20 races, but he also won 16 races in a row dating from the end of April to the middle of September. Yes, it was a record-breaking season for Gagne on many fronts.
Last year, Gagne didn’t get much of a challenge from anyone within his team, but this season might be different with the addition of South African Cameron Petersen to the two-rider Yamaha team. Petersen comes to the squad after finishing third in last year’s Superbike title chase on an M4 ECSTAR Suzuki with his first-career Superbike win coming in the final round of the season at Barber Motorsports Park. He also comes with a 2022 race under his belt with his new team after finishing second in the Daytona 200 on a Yamaha YZF-R6. And Petersen was just .007 of a second from victory.
Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz begins the 2022 season after enjoying his best year to date in 2021. The South African won his third- and fourth-career Superbike races last year (in the season opener at Road Atlanta and the season finale at Barber) and parlayed his 14 total podiums into a runner-up finish to Gagne in the final point standings. Scholtz is hoping to go one better in 2022 and he’ll tackle the season in the cozy atmosphere of the Westby team for the seventh straight year. Scholtz will also hit the COTA track this weekend as the only rider on the MotoAmerica grid to have won a race there.
If there’s a non-America to be leery of in the season opener, it’s Italian Danilo Petrucci. The 31-year-old two-time MotoGP race winner (2019 at Mugello; 2020 at Le Mans) will make his much-heralded MotoAmerica debut at COTA on the ex-Loris Baz Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC Panigale V4 R. Petrucci will face a new team, new bike, new tires, and new tracks, but he’s likely faced bigger challenges (the Dakar Rally, for example). And let’s not forget that Elias won his first-ever MotoAmerica race… and at COTA to boot. While Elias claimed COTA as one of his favorites, Petrucci has said it’s not one of his and his best finish in Texas was sixth in the 2019 Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas on his factory Ducati.
Escalante will also make his MotoAmerica Superbike debut at COTA with the 2020 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion moving up at class to race a GSX-R1000 for the Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team. Escalante will be joined there by 2021 MotoAmerica Stock 1000 Champion and Superbike Cup winner Jake Lewis, with the Kentuckian getting another shot at the Medallia Superbike class.
There’s a new team rolling into Austin for the season opener and it’s the Tytlers Cycle Racing squad and its BMW M 1000 RR led by Hector Barbera, the Spaniard finishing seventh in the 2021 MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship in his debut season in the series. Barbera will be joined by the returning PJ Jacobsen, the New Yorker back in MotoAmerica for the first time since he suffered injuries in the second round of the season at Road America in 2020.
Tytlers will also run a second team, Tytlers Cycle/RideHVMC Racing, with Travis Wyman, Corey Alexander, and Zachary Schumacher. The trio will ride Stock 1000-spec BMWs in both Medallia Superbike and Stock 1000 and will make their debut on the bikes at COTA.
Also, BMW-mounted for the 2022 MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike series is Scheibe Racing’s Ashton Yates with the youngster switching from his Honda to Scheibe’s BMW S 1000 RR. Yates’s first race on the bike and with the team will be at COTA.
Hayden Gillim is a popular returnee to the series with the Philpot, Kentucky, resident set to race a Superbike-spec Disrupt Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000 for a full season in the Superbike series after dabbling in MotoAmerica’s Mission King Of The Baggers Championship last year.
Daytona 200 winner Brandon Paasch will be out to win the MotoAmerica Stock 1000 Championship in 2022 and if he does so it will be the third-straight title in that class for the Altus Motorsports team. Paasch will begin his season on the GSX-R1000 at COTA with the Stock 1000 Championship beginning at Road Atlanta two weeks later.
Michael Gilbert Racing’s Michael Gilbert has made the switch from Kawasaki to Suzuki for his 2022 Superbike and Stock 1000 campaigns and he’ll also begin his season at COTA. Another top Stock 1000 racer who will begin his season at COTA is Geoff May with the veteran committing to a full season of Superbike and Stock 1000 racing on his Vision Wheel/Discount Tire/KWS Honda CBR1000RR-R SP, the only Honda entered for COTA.
Veteran Superbike racer David Anthony will again carry the Australian flag in the Medallia Superbike series when he lines up on his Suzuki GSX-R1000R for the COTA opener. Thrashed Bike Racing’s Max Flinders, meanwhile, will again be aboard his trusty all-yellow Yamaha YZF-R1 as he starts his seventh season in the MotoAmerica Championship.
In total, 30 Superbikes – yes, 30 – have entered the season-opener at Circuit of The Americas.
COTA Pre-Race Notes…
With the opening round of the Medallia Superbike Championship a stand-alone for MotoAmerica at Circuit of The Americas, the Auto Parts 4 Less MotoAmerica Championship begins in earnest with all six of its classes on track at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, April 22-24.
Yamaha leads the way in the number of entries for the opening round of the Medallia MotoAmerica Superbike Championship with 10 riders entered on YZF-R1s. BMW and Suzuki will be represented by seven riders each with Ducati next with three Panigale V4 Rs entered. Just three Kawasakis and a lone Honda complete the 30-strong entries.
Dunlop has announced its “Dunlop Fast Nine” program that will offer one free Q (qualifying) tire to the top-nine finishers in Superbike Q1 at COTA. All Superbike competitors are allowed one qualifier to be used in Q2.
More Petrucci Data: Danilo Petrucci, who will make his MotoAmerica debut at COTA, raced for 10 years in MotoGP, the highlight of which were lone victories in the 2019 and 2020 seasons on a Ducati. In total, Petrucci raced in 169 MotoGP races with 10 podiums and the aforementioned two victories. Prior to his MotoGP career, Petrucci raced in the European Superstock 600 Championship and Superstock 1000 Cup.
Petrucci’s last race prior to COTA was in the Dakar Rally where he became the first MotoGP racer to win a stage of the world-famous rally. Petrucci won the fifth stage on his factory KTM.
MotoAmerica last competed at the Circuit of The Americas in 2019 as the race was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19. In 2021, MotoGP returned to the Texas venue, but MotoAmerica wasn’t a part of the event due to scheduling conflicts.
Six-time COTA MotoAmerica Superbike winner Toni Elias earned pole position in 2019 with his Superpole lap of 2:08.538. The fastest race lap was turned in by race-two winner Josh Herrin with a 2:08.994 on his Yoshimura Suzuki. Elias and Herrin split the two race wins in 2019.
The Superbike lap record on the 3.4-mile, 20-turn Circuit of The Americas, however, is a 2:08.184 set by Roger Hayden in 2017 on his Yoshimura Suzuki. Hayden will be on hand at COTA doing commentary for MotoAmerica Live+, the series’ live and on-demand streaming service.
The first-ever MotoAmerica Superbike races at COTA were held in MotoAmerica’s debut season of 2015. Yamaha’s four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes won race one with teammate Cameron Beaubier, who would go on to win five MotoAmerica Superbike titles, won race two.
American race fans will have three former MotoAmerica racers to cheer for at Circuit of The Americas with 2015 MotoAmerica Superstock 600 Champion Joe Roberts, five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier and 2021 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion Sean Dylan Kelly all currently taking part in the Moto2 World Championship. Beaubier had his career-best Moto2 finish of fifth in last year’s Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas.
There will also be two Beaubiers on hand at COTA this year with Cameron’s little brother Ezra Beaubier set to race in the MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike race on a Motorsport Exotica Orange Cat BST Racing BMW M 1000 RR.
Circuit of The Americas has undergone a repave job since last year’s MotoGP with turns two through 10 and 12 through 16 being re-surfaced to eliminate the bumps that put the track in a negative light last year.