Although the 2020 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship was done and dusted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway two weeks ago with Cameron Beaubier clinching his fifth title, the racing goes on in the HONOS Superbike class and this weekend’s MotoAmerica GEICO Motorcycle Superbike Speedfest At Monterey may end up being one of the more wide-open and unpredictable rounds of the season.
One thing the round at The Brickyard showed us was that the rest of the HONOS Superbike pack has gained a little ground on Beaubier and the five-time champion winning at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is no longer a foregone conclusion. Although Beaubier wasn’t his normal dominant self at Indy with three crashes, including two in races as he was trying to lock down the title, the others gained a bit of confidence that they were actually able to beat him fair and square. Especially M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong, who put together three strong races at The Brickyard to come away with two wins and a second place. And the other win didn’t go to Beaubier.
Instead, it was Lorenzo Zanetti who scored his maiden MotoAmerica win in race two at Indy, the Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York-backed Italian riding the team’s new Ducati Panigale V4 R to a narrow win over Fong. The win ended a 10-year winless drought for Ducati in AMA Superbike racing with the Italian company’s last victory dating back to 2010 with Larry Pegram taking the win at Auto Club Speedway.
Beaubier, however, with the pressure of capturing his fifth title behind him, has to be considered the favorite going into a race weekend at a track that he has won on four times previously. It’s a case of one weekend a champion does not make and vice versa. We must remember that Beaubier has won 13 of 17 races in 2020. Not that he needs any more incentive, but there’s also the added bonus of a 16-win season if he were to emerge victorious in all three HONOS Superbike races at Laguna – and that would tie him with Josh Hayes for all-time AMA Superbike wins in a single season.
Beaubier’s Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha teammate Jake Gagne had just one podium finish in the three races at Indy, and that allowed Fong to gain 28 points on him in the battle for second in the title chase. Gagne, however, still leads Fong by 30 points heading to Laguna and it would take a bad weekend from the San Diegan for that to happen.
Fong, meanwhile, has a lock on finishing no worse than third overall as he holds a 13-point lead over Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz, who suffered a broken right leg in Indianapolis and won’t be racing at Laguna. The absent Scholtz, in turn, could be caught by M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Toni Elias for fourth in the championship with the Spaniard 55 points behind with three races remaining.
Scheibe Racing BMW’s Josh Herrin could also move up as he trails Elias by just 10 points. He could also move down to seventh, however, as KWR Racing’s Kyle Wyman is only 11 points behind the 2013 AMA Superbike Champion.
And there’s definitely a battle for the final spots in the top 10 with FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony just two points ahead of Altus Motorsports’ Cameron Petersen and 17 ahead of Travis Wyman Racing’s Travis Wyman, who currently rounds out the top 10.
A second rider from Europe will make his MotoAmerica debut this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with Yamaha World Superbike test rider Niccolo Canepa set to take over Scholtz’ Yamaha YZF-R1 for the Westby Racing team. Canepa is vastly experienced and has raced in MotoGP, Moto2, the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup, the Italian Superstock Championship and the Superstock UEM European Championship. Canepa also has raced at Laguna Seca during his World Superbike years and MotoGP years.