Cameron Beaubier proved the value of self-belief in 2019, turning around what seemed an unassailable deficit into a last-round, last-race championship victory.
Photography by Brian J Nelson
2019 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier Interview
For the fourth time in five years, we find ourselves chatting with Monster Energy Yamaha’s Cameron Beaubier as the premier Superbike racer in the United States.
Four titles put the Californian in rarefied air, as he now ties Yamaha legend Josh Hayes for second in the all-time title tally. And this year had it all—a maturing and sometimes threatening teammate in Garrett Gerloff, an old rival in Toni Elias, and a points deficit to turn around that looked near impossible with three rounds to go.
“This year, it was really good mentally, I feel like,” Beaubier said. “We were kind of struggling, but we just kept digging, we never gave up. It was a good reminder for the future. Things will come around. You just got to keep your head down and keep chipping away. ”
What he had to chip away at was a mammoth 35-point deficit to Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias with just two rounds to go, after the 2017 MotoAmerica Champion had strung together win after win at the beginning of the year and built that sizeable gap.
Following a solid pre-season test program, Beaubier hit the ground running with the first win of the year at round one at Road Atlanta. Yet by the sixth round of the series in Laguna Seca, he was 39 points adrift. What followed was unthinkable—crashing out in race one at his home round of Sonoma, which gave Elias a massive 59-point advantage heading into Sunday’s race two.
“That was the big part of the season for me where I was just like, ‘man, it’s not looking too promising,’ ” Beaubier admits. “To be able to come back after that was going to be tough, especially for how strong Toni was at the beginning and middle of the season. Then Toni went and crashed in race two and gave us those points back after I won. That put us a little bit back in it, at least in sniffing distance.”
Even so, Beaubier didn’t just go out and demolish the opposition for the remainder of the year. A pair of second places at Pittsburgh, the latter of which behind Elias, still had him on the back foot. But a resurgent performance at New Jersey Motorsports Park with a second and first, while Elias could only card a pair of fourths, put him within 16 points of the title heading into the final round of the championship at Barber Motorsports Park in October.
With the tension ratcheted to 11, Beaubier went out and laid the smackdown on the opposition. Pole position, fastest lap, and two race wins, both of which after a come-from-behind charge, put him in the best possible place with regards to the championship. From there, it was up to the racing gods.
“The first day, I felt so good,” Beaubier says, recounting one of those ties where it feels like you’re riding in slow motion, and everything happens easy. “I went faster in the race than I did in Superpole with a qualifying tire, so that was pretty crazy. Then on Sunday, I got a bad start and got run wide by Herrin. I just had to put my head down after that. [Garrett] Gerloff took care of me. He didn’t try to race me or nothing, so that was cool. ”
As it turns out, the gods were smiling on Cameron Beaubier and the Monster Energy Yamaha team. In the final race meeting for Beaubier’s long-time Crew Chief Rick Hobbs before his retirement, Elias could only manage a third in race one and a fourth in race two, as his and Suzuki’s title hopes slipped agonizingly away with a race-two tire that refused to hook up and keep him within podium striking distance. He would lose the championship lead he held since round one at the final race of the year by just five points.
“Everything kind of fell into our hands at Barber,” said Beaubier. “I’m not really sure what happened to Toni because if you look at his resume, he’s been really fast at Barber over the last few years. He won both races there last year. Every year he’s been really competitive at Barber, so it was not like the normal Toni I’ve been used to seeing.”
Winning the title had extra meaning for Beaubier as a going-away present for Hobbs, who has crewed for everyone from Jamie James, Steve Crevier, Eric Bostrom, Kurtis Roberts, Alex and Aaron Gobert, Josh Hayes, and the late Nicky Hayden.
“It was really cool being able to wrap the championship up for Hobbs in his last year because he’s a legend. That was a pretty cool deal for him, me, and the team. He’s been in the pits 25-30 years, so it’s a good way to end his career.”
The 2019 season marked the first time now WorldSBK-bound Garrett Gerloff would show his true potential on a 1000cc machine, but it came too late for the Texan to become a force within the championship standings. It did, however, push Beaubier’s own performance to a new level.
“Garrett started coming on pretty strong in the midseason,” says Beaubier. “I think that was really good for me because we kind of fed off each other. We just kept pushing each other in all the practices and races. We’re on the same bike, and if he’s going a few 10ths faster than me, or if I’m going a few 10ths faster than him, it would elevate our game throughout the season. That was really good going into those last two rounds at New Jersey and Barber.”
A maturing teammate or not, Beaubier admits he turned a corner in his metal approach to the racing season in 2019, looking at the bigger picture of a title rather than just going for race wins each time the lights went out.
“One thing I will say—we struggled a little bit here and there with some stuff—but I am pretty proud that I was able to settle for a second or third, or a fourth at times because, in the past, I would end up in crashing in the gravel trap. I was glad that I was able to say to myself at times, ‘I don’t have it today,’ or ‘my bike doesn’t have it today,’ and bring home a third or something like that. That was a big thing for me.”
Looking on to 2020, it’s all change in Yamaha, as the official factory-run team is no more, putting an end to one of the most dominant outfits in American Superbike history with four titles each for Hayes and Beaubier and one for Josh Herrin. Yamaha Motor USA is now putting its weight behind the Attack Performance squad in much the same fashion as Yamaha Europe does with the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK squad (which is run by British company Cresent Performance and headed by Paul Denning).
Beaubier will thus be running for Attack Performance run by Richard Stanboli out of Huntington Beach, alongside a new teammate in former WorldSBK rider and Superstock 1000 Champion Jake Gagne, as Gerloff heads to Europe as part of the GRT Yamaha squad to partner Italian Federico Caricasulo in World Superbike.
“That Attack bike is freaking good,” Beaubier says with a laugh. “Stanboli has those electronics dialed, plus some other parts like his custom tank and subframe. There will be some changes within our team, but we will always have the same goal.”
That goal will be another Cycle News interview, a by-product of fifth MotoAmerica Superbike Championship in six years, which, if it comes true, is a record only bettered by Mat Mladin, who took six titles in seven years with his seventh and final title coming in his last season of 2009.
And at only 26, Beaubier has more than enough time on his side to stake his claim as the greatest domestic Superbike racer of all time. CN