Bobby Fong won two, Lorenzo Zanetti won one, and Cameron Beaubier won his fifth championship—and that just describes the HONOS Superbike tally on a busy MotoAmerica weekend October 9-11 on the 16-turn, 2.591-mile road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Californian Fong’s wins on his No. 50 M4 ECSTAR Suzuki bookended the rare three-Superbike race weekend, with Italian rider Zanetti’s Celtic Warhorse HSBK Racing New York Ducati finding its sweet spot in the comparatively cool Sunday morning race. And with Beaubier sealing his third-straight championship on the No. 1 Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha, the manufacturer love was spread far and wide.
But it was a different story on Saturday as Beaubier hit the pavement twice in one race. That was just the second time in 15 races this season that Beaubier didn’t win, as Fong also triumphed June 28 at Road America when Beaubier hit a bump in Turn 1 and crashed there.
“This whole weekend definitely wasn’t easy on us,” said Beaubier. “They were up at midnight fixing my bike after a few crashes. I went pretty much all year with one crash and threw the bike down three times this weekend. It was definitely testing us.”
Zanetti had two offs over the course of the weekend, which cost him only positions. One was through the gravel at the north end of the track in race one, the other was around turn one of the oval after overcooking turn one of the road course in race two. In other words, when Zanetti stayed on course, he was on course to the winners’ circle.
Saturday’s race was halted twice by red flags for accidents (a theme for the weekend), with subsequent restarts putting extra miles on tires and extra strain on clutches and riders’ nerves.
Fong rode to his second victory of the season in race 1 on Saturday, holding off Jake Gagne by .228 of a second at the finish. Zanetti rounded out the podium finishers, 11.391 seconds behind Fong.
Drama unfolded almost immediately in the race, which was scheduled for 17 laps. Beaubier, starting fourth, charged from the second row to the lead midway through the first lap, diving under Fong in the infield section.
But Kyle Wyman was flung off his No. 33 Excelsus Solutions/KWR Ducati Team Ducati exiting Turn 16 onto the front straightaway of the IMS oval. His stopped bike was marooned in the middle of track, forcing the first red flag and restart.
Beaubier appeared to have a problem with his Yamaha on pit lane during the red flag and was late to the grid for the sighting lap, so regulations forced him to start last on the restart of the race, which was shortened to 15 laps.
Pole sitter Toni Elias led on the restart into turn 1 with Fong right behind. Fong dove under Elias for the lead in turn 1 on lap 2, with Beaubier on a charge and already into sixth place after starting from the rear.
But then Mathew Scholtz on the No. 11 Westby Racing Yamaha fell in turn 9 on lap 3 while running fifth. Beaubier, running right behind Scholtz, also fell. The incident triggered the second red flag and restart.
Beaubier caught a break because his bike wasn’t severely damaged in the crash, and he was able to make the grid in time to occupy his original fourth starting spot for the second restart.
Beaubier wasted no time showing his speed, climbing from fourth to second in turn 1 behind Elias on the restart. He then passed Elias for the lead in turn 5 on the first lap of the restart.
Meanwhile, Fong passed teammate Elias for second on lap 2 and tried to stay close to Beaubier.
Then the unthinkable happened—again. Beaubier slid out of the lead in turn 16, entering the front straightaway of the oval, on lap 4 and handed the lead to Fong.
Meanwhile, Zanetti had climbed to second and began to hound Fong for the top spot, with Gagne running a distant but closing third.
On lap 9, Zanetti dove under Fong for the lead in turn 1. But one lap later, Zanetti missed a shift in Turn 13 and ran wide into the gravel, handing the lead to Fong and dropping to fourth.
Gagne, who started sixth, closed to within one second of Fong and started to turn up the pressure on his fellow California rider. Gagne appeared faster in the second sector of the track, but Fong was flawless in the important third sector, which includes the exit of turn 16 and the front straightaway to the Yard of Bricks start-finish line.
Fong held off the closing Gagne over the final laps of the 15-lap race to earn his second win and sixth podium finish of the season.
“Three starts on a day—that’s a lot of craziness,” Gagne said. “My start wasn’t good, and Bobby (Fong) went hard right away and Luca (Zanetti) was right there, and it took me awhile to reel those guys in.
“But man, I just couldn’t get quite close enough to Bobby. He was riding really good. There were some sections he was going, some sections I would bring him back. Hat’s off to Bobby.”
Pole sitter Elias ended up fourth.
“It was tough at the end, with all of the heat cycles on those tires,” Fong said. “I felt like we did about 30 laps on those tires, with all of the warm-up laps. But we managed, and the bike ran good.”
Travis Wyman scored the best Superbike finish of his career in race 2. Wyman moved up the running order from 12th place to 11th after the first restart and made the most of the second restart, climbing to ninth place by the end of the first lap. Wyman powered his way past three more riders in the remaining 14 laps to finish sixth.
On Sunday morning, Zanetti earned his first career MotoAmerica Superbike victory by .196 of a second over Fong in a tense, 17-lap race that began at 11:00 am—still relatively cool on a morning that started with thick fog.
Fong, who started third, got a strong drive off the line at the start and wasted no time passing teammate and polesitter Toni Elias for the lead, riding around Elias in Turn 10 on Lap 1.
Zanetti dove under Elias in Turn 1 on Lap 3 to set up a head-to-head duel with Fong. Within two laps, Zanetti had pulled on the rear wheel of Fong and applied constant pressure.
But Zanetti went a bit wide in turn 1 on lap 7, letting Elias slip under for second. Zanetti returned the favor two laps later in turn 2, passing Elias to regain second.
Zanetti clawed his way back to Fong’s rear wheel, and the tandem started to pull away from Elias, Gagne, Josh Herrin and Beaubier.
Zanetti continued to develop his rhythm on the fly and used setup changes on his bike after Saturday’s race to post a race-record lap of 1:36.825 on Lap 13—a quicker lap than Elias’ pole time of 1:36.929 on Friday.
That pace helped Zanetti pull to within one-tenth of a second of Fong at the start of Lap 15. Then Zanetti pounced for the top spot, diving under Fong in Turn 10 on for a lead he would not surrender.
Beaubier, who dropped back to seventh at the start, completed his climb to the podium by passing teammate Gagne in turn 1 on the final lap. He tried to close on Zanetti and Fong to create a three-bike train to the finish, but a bobble midway through the last lap ended any hope of racing for the victory.
Beaubier started the day with an electrical gremlin during the morning warm-up, which came after his team worked after midnight to rebuild his Yamaha after it was heavily damaged in his two Saturday crashes.
Former World Superbike racer/current Ducati Corse test rider Zanetti came to the series in August as a replacement rider for the injured PJ Jacobsen, and became the first Ducati rider to win an AMA/MotoAmerica Superbike race since Larry Pegram in 2010.
“Compared to yesterday, I just tried to keep calm,” Zanetti said. “I managed the tire well, but in the end, I just compared to Bobby, so I just tried to go in front and get my rhythm because I struggled a bit in some corners. But that’s all right. I’m so happy for all.”
After skipping the damp Sunday morning warm-up session, T. Wyman had another good outing in Sunday’s first Superbike race. Starting the race 15th on the grid, Wyman moved up the running order three places in opening four laps. Later in the race, Wyman advanced past four more riders on Laps 7-10 and finished the race in eighth place.
Fong cruised to a huge 9.831-second victory over Beaubier in the final Superbike race of the weekend, shortened to just 12 laps due to an early red flag. Pole sitter Toni Elias lost the front end of his No. 24 M4 ECSTAR Suzuki exiting turn 15 on lap 2. Fong, running second, just missed hitting the sliding Suzuki, which leaked oil on the track during the crash and triggered a red flag. Zanetti also just missed the bike, taking the wide line up towards the wall.
Elias wasn’t able to restart, so Fong led the field into turn 1 from his second starting spot and never trailed. Gagne bumped past Zanetti for second with an aggressive turn 2 pass on lap 2 and set sail for Fong.
Zanetti’s chances for a podium finish looked dashed two laps later when he ran straight past turn 1 and rejoined the course in fifth, behind Fong, Gagne, Herrin and Beaubier.
Beaubier passed Herrin for third on lap 7, with Zanetti later passing Herrin for fourth.
Beaubier’s teammate Gagne kept Fong under pressure, pulling to within eight-tenths of a second on lap 8 when disaster struck in Turn 10. Gagne lost grip from his front tire and slid into the gravel trap. He climbed back on the bike and resumed, finishing seventh.
Gagne’s fall deflated the pressure on Fong, who cruised to his third checkered flag of the year. Zanetti closed to the rear wheel of Beaubier on the last lap, but Beaubier held him off to keep second by just .068 of a second at the finish.
“It’s good to be back up here,” Fong said. “It’s been a long year. I didn’t really have a game plan coming into the race. I talked to my coach, Josh Hayes, and he was like, ‘Man, you’ve just got to be relentless out there.’ I didn’t want to lead the whole thing again, but I just plugged away and put in my laps. The bike felt good. Kudos to everybody on the team.”
“I was just riding so timid,” Beaubier said. “I just wanted to bring this thing home for the crew. Hat’s off to Bobby, he was riding his butt off. And Zanetti, he caught me pretty good there at the end.
“I owe so much to my entire Monster Attack Yamaha crew. It was purely such a fun year being able to rack up as many wins as we did.”
Travis Wyman got a good start from 13th on the grid and was running in 11th place when the race was red flagged. After the race restarted, Wyman began quickly working his way up the running order. In the span of five laps, he advanced from 12th place to eighth.
In support class action, Wyman won Saturday’s Stock 1000 race on his No. 10 Travis Wyman Racing BMW. Cameron Petersen finished second but clinched the season championship on the No. 45 Altus Motorsports Suzuki. Petersen crossed the finish line first, .307 of a second ahead of Wyman, but was penalized four-tenths of a second after the checkered flag for exceeding track limits during the race.
The victory—Wyman’s first aboard the 2020 edition of BMW’s flagship sportbike—marked his first time on the top step of the Stock 1000 podium since the VIRginia International Raceway round in May 2018, and is the sixth win of Wyman’s pro road racing career.
Wyman first raced on the IMS road course in 2008 as part of his participation in the Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup. He also competed in the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Class races in 2012-2014 and the MotoAmerica Supersport race in 2015 at the historic venue.
Wyman had a strong start to the event, placing second in both Friday Stock 1000 qualifying practice sessions and securing second place on the Stock 1000 grid—his fourth front-row starting spot of the season.
Wyman’s victory moved him up to third place in that class’ championship standings, and he is one of two riders who remain in contention for the inaugural MotoAmerica Superbike Cup title.
“This weekend has been one of my best racing weekends in a really long time,” said Wyman. “I really enjoy racing here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it was great to get my first win of the season here. The win didn’t come the way we hoped it would, but we’ll take it and move on from here.
“We’ve been working really hard at developing this new BMW package, and this was the weekend that things really came together for us. My crew chief, Steve Weir, had our BMW dialed-in for all four races, and this was the best I’ve felt on the new bike all year.
“My best Superbike finish before Indianapolis was a ninth place, so I couldn’t be happier leaving here with a sixth place and two eighth-place finishes in the series’ top class.”
Richie Escalante swept both Supersport races this weekend, dominating Saturday’s race on his No. 54 HONOS Kawasaki, winning by 15.523 seconds over the No. 37 MESA37 Racing Kawasaki of Stefano Mesa.
Sunday’s race was much closer, with Escalante winning by 1.198 seconds over the No. 40 M4 ECSTAR Suzuki of Sean Dylan Kelly.
It was the 13th victory of the season for 2020 Supersport champion Escalante.
Rocco Landers swept the Twins Cup and Liqui Moly Junior Cup races on Saturday. He won by 5.822 seconds in Twins on his No. 97 Suzuki and triumphed by 2.057 seconds in Junior Cup on his No. 1 Norton Motorsports/Ninja400R/Dr. Farr/Wonder CBD Kawasaki.
Landers earned his third victory of the weekend with another Liqui Moly Junior Cup win on Sunday. Landers rode Kawasaki to victory by .157 of a second over the No. 25 BARTCON/Orient Express Racing Kawasaki of Dominic Doyle.
story by Tim Hailey and IMS, photos by Hailey