Cameron Beaubier silenced the critics in 2018, taking back the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship crown by dominating the second half of the season. It was a champion’s performance by the Northern Californian.
You can tell a lot about a man when he’s down. Some never get back up, resigned to their fate of second place from here on, knowing their best is behind them.
Others find that same fire again and accept the challenge put before them. They dig deeper, work harder, and elevate their game to a new level.
That’s what Cameron Beaubier did in 2018. Already a two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion, Beaubier was outclassed by Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias in 2017 but used that defeat as motivation to come back stronger in 2018, walking away with the title with a round to spare after crushing the field in the second half of the year.
“We started on the back foot, kind of like we have the last few years,” Beaubier says. “We were able to fight our way back into it and I went on a good streak by mid-season, just reeling off win after win. That’s a really good feeling when you’re struggling, struggling, and then something clicks.”
Photography by Brian J Nelson
Making it Work in 2018
Beaubier’s record was a model of consistency in 2018. When he knew he couldn’t win, he’d at least make sure he was on the podium, only missing the dais three times in the season. But when he could win, he did. Double victories at Road America and Laguna Seca set him up for the end of year push, a single win at Utah confirmed it, then another double (Sonoma), and a title-sealing first place at New Jersey in the rain sealed the deal for 2018.
“We were contending for wins at the beginning of the season, but I was crashing a little bit,” Beaubier says. But at VIR [round two], we led the whole first race and then the second race but Toni [Elias] got us both races, which was a bummer.”
It wasn’t until round four at Road America he picked up his first win in race one after Dunlop introduced a new larger rear tire and super-soft front that worked for his style and motorcycle, gaining another win in race two and setting his course for the title.
“We tested the super-soft in the off-season and had a really good feel with it,” Beaubier said. “I feel like that softer front tire unlocked the chassis a lot more. You can make up time on the side of the tire, and I feel like right away the Yamaha adapted to the rear tire a little bit better than our competition.
“That’s what we got at Road America. From there, I feel like the pen clicked. I got a little more aggressive in the race and from there on out, we just started clicking off wins. It was a great feeling.
“My best part, or parts of the season, was winning at places we traditionally struggled at, like Laguna Seca and Utah Motorsports Campus. Being competitive and winning races at those tracks that we know are going to be tough on us. That was a big game-changer for us.”
The Challenge Ahead in 2019
The 2018 season saw the re-arrival of Josh Herrin as a consistent race-winning challenger, along with new faces like teammate Garrett Gerloff step up to the plate. Beaubier knows the 2019 season will be no different, as there’re no rookies in the two top teams with now potentially five race winners lining up each time the red light goes out.
“No matter what bike Herrin’s on, he’s going to be a threat,” Beaubier says. “Obviously, Toni will be right there. “Toni is an incredible rider. He’s a world champion for a reason. I definitely think him coming over to the series definitely elevated the series and I don’t think I’d be the rider I am right now if he didn’t come. Even though we’ve butted heads at times, I still respect the guy. I think Mathew Schultz is going to be strong next year. He’s getting our electronics system for next year, so I know that will elevate his level. And I think my teammate, Garrett Gerloff, is going to be strong with one year under his belt in Superbike.”
The State of the Championship
Beaubier is on one of four factory superbikes on the MotoAmerica grid and one of the best placed to comment on the state of the championship. As the current champion, we asked him what he thought about Danny Walker’s Road Race Factory team closing and the fact current Supersport Champion JD Beach can’t lock down a competitive superbike ride.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” Beaubier started. “I try and stay positive about the sport moving forward, but it is tough when you’ve got manufacturers cutting budgets and a bigger team like Road Race Factory pulling out. It’s a bummer. I hope that it turns around and keeps climbing like it has the last couple years, because I think MotoAmerica as a championship has got a lot better.
“I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s great what Wayne [Rainey] and his team and Chuck Aksland have done for MotoAmerica and American racing. I just hope it keeps climbing and budgets come back for the manufacturers and stuff like that. It’s tough times. There’s a lot of good talent in our paddock but there’s not enough bikes to put the talent on.
“That’s always the hard part, and trying to get sponsors outside of the industry to pay attention has always been a bit of a problem. But I think it’s [the sport] is kind of struggling across the board right now—overseas and here. I don’t think it’s just our championship.”
Chasing the Overseas Racing Dream
Beaubier has already competed in the 125cc World Championship (as teammate to Marc Marquez, no less), and enjoyed a solid wildcard outing with the Pata Yamaha team in 2016. He still harbors a burning desire to get onto the world stage, and at 25 is still young enough to do so, but is wise enough to know there’s no point in going unless you have the right equipment underneath you.
“I really do want to get overseas and have a dab on the world stage in WorldSBK, or something like that. But I want a good package over there, a solid package, something that I could grow into and be successful on. I know it wouldn’t be easy. Those guys are world-class riders racing on the world stage. But that’s my goal. I want to get there. I want to dice it up with those guys and elevate my game.
“I just don’t want to give up what I have here right now. I’m making good money. I get to come home after every race. I’m close with my family. I’m close with my friends here and stuff like that. But if the opportunity does present itself, I’d have to take the chance over there. I think it would be amazing to race on the world stage.”
Keeping Match Fit Away From The Track
Beaubier spends a huge amount of time just making sure he’s match fit but it’s not a case of spinning laps on his superbike. It’s more about pedal power.
“In the last few years I rode a lot of bicycles, a lot of mountain bikes,” he says. “I live in a good area for it. Auburn’s right up the road. It’s 25 minutes away from me. You can go drop down into Auburn Canyon and there’s some cool mountain bike trails up there. I really enjoy that.
“Last off-season and this year, I just rode way more motocross than I ever have, really. I think that really, really helped me. Normally, I would ride motocross in the off-season the last few years and then stop leading into the season, just because I was afraid of injury because it’s easy to get hurt in motocross. But I just kept riding. I rode all year and I just tried to be as safe as I could as I could and go on days when it’s a little bit more mellow at the tracks around home.
“I think that was a huge game-changer for me, staying on the motocross bike, and just being on a motorcycle. I think that really helped me physically-wise on the superbike. There’s just nothing like riding shape. Then a little gym work, but I think the key for me this year was riding a lot of motocross. That really helped me.”CN